It was the late 90’s, early in my recovery, when I first heard the statement. “Give me a few minutes,” said Joe H, “And I can boil every problem down to ego”.

Like seats at Ebbets Field, four teeth, right behind home plate, anchored the lower boxes of my mouth. Four pillars they were, having emerged in the late 50’s, just as Walter O’Malley was breaking east coast hearts moving the Dodgers west. (Ed. Note: Ben Selzer, patron saint of decency, never forgave O’Malley and in fact, spent his next forty years calling the owner “a bum”).

Ah, but I digress. This is not a story of baseball nor a look at betrayal. It is, rather, a tale of teeth: mine. And of ego: mine. The world will always have O’Malleys and always have Modells; I get that. What I thought though—-what I truly believed—-was that I’d always have teeth.

I’m an idiot. I see that now. The only thing I’ll always have is ego.

I sat Wednesday, in the office of Dr. Sasha Ross. A fish out of water, filled with fear and colored by resignation, all I could think of was what a schmuck I’d been. Who the hell did I think I was that I could flit through life like Superman, gently disregard my body, and walk unscathed? How big was my ego?

Sometimes, indeed, spit happens; I get that. Bad things do happen to good people. Still, me sitting in the on-deck circle at the periodontist: this was not one of them. This, I well knew, was on me. I was the idiot.

I was also lucky.

There I was, getting topnotch care…supported by Carrie in the waiting room and family by phone, with, oddly, a secure feeling that all would be ok….and that like so much in life and love, I’d get a second chance.

So she yanked (excuse the expression) my teeth. Within minutes…the field boxes: gone.

And she put in the bridge—four shiny new seats …in a row: like Grandma Cele had.

And it didn’t hurt at all, like I thought it would. (Ed. Note 2: Frankly, it was a lot like the second Clay-Liston fight. You know— the one in Lewiston, Maine). There I was polite on the outside but frantic inside, wondering if the novicaine would last when…mitten dirrenna: “All done,” she announced. Truth be known, in an odd sort of George Costanza way I was disappointed. Was that all there was?

I’m an idiot.

So I sat in post-op, enjoying respite before the lecture on after-care… WHEN…

—-Enter Christina, for what I can only term was a “debriefing”. (She was a nice lady, well-versed. Still, that look in her eye and the warmth of her voice said she felt like she was teaching me hygiene as a second language).

“Rinse your mouth with this,” she instructed,” Immediately after brushing your teeth”
“How soon is immediate?” I asked.
“Right afterward”.
“But I brush my teeth in the shower. Can it wait?”
“…And don’t swallow it like you did before. It’s not a beverage.”

“Avoid strenuous exercise for one week,” she noted.
“That won’t be an issue.”

“A certain amount of discomfort can be expected,” she said.
“Have you MET my ex-wife?”

And then I could go.

Bounding from the chair with a passion last seen May 12, 1972, (my separation from active military duty), I shot to the waiting room.

“How do you feel?” asked Carrie.
“The doctor hated ‘The War Horse’ too!” I proclaimed.

We walked to the car, hand-in-hand. The long national nightmare, it appeared, was finally over.

Carrie made soup last night, and I gummed some grilled cheese. Drained as I was, I fell asleep —get this—minutes before the end of an hour-long show.

Oh, and family called—Aunt Helen twice—and my world went on…without teeth perhaps, but with lessons learned:

I’m going to take care of myself, starting NOW. And I’m going to walk when the weather breaks. And eat better.

Still, as Grandma Bogart used to say: “Warsaw wasn’t built in a day”. And so it was that at some point last evening I’d turned to Carrie, exhilarated by the ease of the day, and confided: “You know,” I told her, “Seeing how it wasn’t so bad and all…I would almost ignore my teeth another twenty years and do it again!”

She didn’t think it was funny. (Chances are she thought I was an idiot).

2 Responses to “QUARTET”

  1. Gabby Hayes says:

    Be true to your teeth, or they will be false to you.

  2. Stuart says:

    I am sorry for your loss.

Leave a Reply