Sunday, September 02, 2012

you are what you eat with

The day started out as usual, the baby calling to me from his crib, swaying and babbling like a drunkard, falling over and then climbing up again with a smile and a wave. There was the relay of the cereal boxes to the table and the discovery of the dead mouse in the dining room, though Emily, having vanished under the bed for the morning was not willing to take credit.

But on this day, all this normalcy couldn't stave off the weight of knowing: we'd be going to the dentist. Isaac had a check up and cleaning scheduled and like all our other appointments – eye exams, physicals for school – we were trying to get them all up-to-date before the end of the year when Mike's job and, thus, our insurance coverage runs out.

I didn't have any particular reason to dread the dentist really, on my behalf or Isaac's, except for the fact that like with most any visit to a western “specialist,” we'd be temporarily sucked into their world where, overwrought with everything dental, we'd thrash and spin until they released us again to the larger world unscathed to the naked eye.

I miss our pediatric dentist in Monterey. He had a son Isaac's age. He spoke quietly and often said things I almost agreed with.

On this day, that started out so typically, we find ourselves at a place where the staff speaks in the forced and predictable cadence of people who are trying to sound kid-friendly, but really have no interest in anyone shorter than their shoulder. Everything that is said to Isaac, naturally, is actually for my benefit and comes out in patronizing tones that imply we have not done everything humanly possibly to optimize our son's oral health and by extension that we are horrid, horrid people and even worse parents.

The hygenist continues to interrupt me while I try to read the annual issue on whether MFA programs are affective in the writer's magazine that gets all its advertising money from MFA programs, to show me a tiny dark spot on my son's molar. “That's a tooth to watch!” she says more than once. And, after I try again to return to my magazine (Can writing be taught??), “I'm just going to show mom one more thing on this side.” It's my cue to get the hell up and look – look at what I've let happen!

“Mmm-hmm,” I try as a show of concern. And Isaac with his perfect public demeanor, says nothing, just opens and closes obediently.

If it is under these conditions that I must write, then so be it. And so, I am drafting this essay real time as the passive-agressive hygenist berates me with her sighs and hums.

Chipper, faux kid-friendly hygenists' names are required to be things like Maricella, Kayla, and Leanna. The final “a” is important. Like the upturn in a smile, the circles over the I's when you are writing your name and the last name of the boy you have a crush on over and over again on your folder in high school chemistry class.

Isaac lost the two teeth that flank his upper front teeth ages ago and the replacements have not yet seen fit to grow in. This situation, as you might imagine, is impossible to bear – if you are Maricella or Kayla or Sienna or Vivianna. I might find it impossible to bear wearing scrubs with Tweety Bird on them, but there you have it.

She convinces me to do x-rays (that damn finite stretch of insurance) to see what's going on up in the gum line. Before she goes to take them though, she spells out all the tragic ways in which my son's teeth will ruin his mouth and his life. She recommends (strongly) what I've come to think of as preemptive braces to “help the teeth come down.” If, in fact, they are even there (gasp). When I ask for more information on the real implications of such a situation and the option of waiting as opposed to vomiting big bucks to spell out to my seven-year-old in orthodontia just how unacceptable and imperfect he is, she offers “He's going to look like he's missing two teeth.” To which I reply, very slowly, “That's because. He's. Missing. Two teeth.”

“I have a referral right here for you. We'll email over the digital x-ray today,” she says by way of response.

Release me, oh great goddess of orthodontia (who is married, by pure coincidence, of course, to our dental deity), out into my sordid world of dead mice and cereal. I have nothing for your altar.

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