Photo: I’m teaching a short story class through Community Ed and I was looking for some flash fiction to share with the class. This beautiful sentence from Joy Williams’ Ninety-Nine Stories of God made me laugh out loud when I read it. Joy is a genius.
What a week. Right? Has it been a week for you, too? It’s been a full, full week. One of those cover-to-cover, wall-to-wall, head-to-toe, can’t say it wasn’t full kind of weeks. I was never bored. I was never wanting. I was rarely overwhelmed, and that’s good news, but I certainly could have stood for a bit more breathing room. But here we are, all together, settling in for some Quiet Thoughts. I thought to myself, what in the world can I write about today? What was the lesson? Then I remembered yesterday afternoon.
Ursa Major got sealants on his molars yesterday. “Standard practice” I was told by the hygienist at our dental office. You’ve probably had this done, or maybe you haven’t, but it was explained to me as a little cap over the molars to prevent cavities. Reasonable, yes? Nobody wants their kid to get cavities. I was told about this when the first molar permanent came in. During Major’s last cleaning (we go in there twice a year like clockwork), I was told it was probably time to get things done. Don’t worry, we’ll call insurance and make sure everything is covered. Probably is. Again, standard practice.
Cool, cool, I said.
I’m pretty easy-going when it comes to the medical stuff. The boys are vaccinated because I’m more afraid of polio and measles than I am anything else on earth. Also, I’m a responsible citizen. I am educated enough to ask the right questions, keep up on the general thinking about childcare and such. I’m also educated enough to know that I am by no means a medical professional and I respect the years upon years of experience they have. So when my pediatrician tells me to do something, I think about it (for due diligence) and then get that shit done. (To be fair, my pediatrician is phenomenal, so… that helps. 🙂 ) Same goes with the dentist. I don’t know teeth. I just know that teeth hurt when they’re broken and expensive to fix. Preventative care is a wonderful thing.
So yesterday afternoon, my head full of all sorts of other things, I drove the boys to the dentist, signed Major in, and waited with Minor in the lobby while the sealing was happening. Twenty minutes later, he came out with a smile on his face and a toy in his hand. The hygienist pulled down her little facemask and handed me a piece of paper with instructions. “Give him some milk to help him get the taste out of his mouth. He can eat whenever. His teeth may feel uneven, but that will fix itself in a day or two. No hard candies or gummies.”
The hygienist watched me read the paper. “Cool, thanks,” I said. “The restriction is for a day or two, I take it.”
“No. He can’t have hard candies or really gummy candy.”
“So, like…what are we talking about? What’s a hard candy? Jolly Ranchers? Skittles?”
The woman nodded. “Yes.”
Me, still feeling reasonable: “Ok, well, fine. For how long?”
“For as long as he has the sealants.”
“Well, it’s his permanent teeth, so…what? Forever?”
The woman nodded.
Now, I want to pause and say that we’re all a little lucky. If I had been in a different state of mind, I would have dropped my voice an octave and done a full blown “the hayell you mean?” Instead it was the more acceptable, entitled suburban, high-octave “are you serious?” followed up with, “if you had told me that before, I would have said no to this entire thing! He’s 8. How can you tell an 8 year-old he can’t eat candy forever?”
The hygienist started talking about number-one causes of cavities and the anatomy of a molar and yadda yadda. I listened, incredulous. Pissed, even. What a ridiculous consequence for what as billed as a simple, safe thing. What an infuriating bait-and-switch. She kept talking and I looked at my child, who was remarkably calm given the news.
“And just to be clear, if they come off in 6 months because they broke on some jolly rancher or were sucked off by a gummy bear, insurance won’t cover it,” the woman said, non-threatening, but stern. I wanted to tilt my head and keep on my suburban anger and start in on some, “don’t you tell me what they will and will not pay for” or an even better “I’ll pay for it if it needs to be done.” (which would be a hilarious joke because hahahaha we’ll pay for the boiler forever!) But I didn’t because that’s not really me and it wasn’t worth it. It was a moment in time, longer than it needed to be, but quick relative to the rest of me week.
My Quiet Thoughts are about the moments since. Me apologizing to my kid for the unintended consequences of my seemingly innocuous decision. Me totally regretting not asking enough questions, just going with the flow, and wondering what other decisions I’ve made thoughtlessly and what that’s probably done to him. Me, over the course of multiple conversations (some including his father), explaining to my child that yes, candy will still be a part of your life and, no, the things probably won’t come off and, yes, if they do, we will deal with it and baby, your health is really important to me and that’s why we did this. Me, having to explain that cavities hurt and they are more inconvenient than this, and yes, I recognize that this is inconvenient. Me, without disparaging the woman, calling bullshit for what it is, explaining to my son that there was likely some exaggeration in order to ensure that the dental work remains for a long time. Me, looking at my youngest child and really thinking about whether or not it’s a good idea for him to get the sealants. Me, feeling a little bit tired like, damn, wouldn’t it be nice if just one thing was easy?
I started this week by commenting on the diminishing capacity for decision-making throughout a day. Here is it is powerfully demonstrated. My Lordy. May no more come back to bite me in the butt… at least, not for a little while, anyway.
A cold rain is falling here in MetroWest. Doesn’t matter because the season is what it is. My yard is lush and green. The trees are trying desperately to cover themselves. The birds are singing. The flowers stretch themselves to stretch to glorify the season and creation itself. A cold rain can’t stop the beat. A cold rain can only make it better.
I wish you leafy greens this Friday, Dear Reader. Time to find fresh-grown stuff. I’ll bet you can find something. If you can’t find produce, try for eggs. I’m starting to see lots of fresh eggs at the local farms. There is nothing.better.anywhere.anytime. For real. Matter of fact, go get you some real farm fresh eggs and some fresh green onions if you can, and then make you some Loco Moco for dinner. I made this last night and the entire family was filled with happy happy joy joy. I wish you time snuggled up with a book. Summer reading season is coming! Isn’t that crazy? Get a head start now! I wish you a little time in your body this weekend: perhaps a workout or at least a walk. What does your body need right now? What is it telling you? Give it a little love this weekend. I wish a happy phone call with a dearly beloved person in your life. Fill it with laughter and a good story from your week. I wish you the opportunity to tell someone you love them. Don’t do it in passing. Say it with pause and meaning. “I see you. I love you. I’m grateful for your presence in my life.” Share a moment with someone. Ground them in the knowing that they are purposefully seen and known and loved.
The seasons change, the days come and go, successes and failures pass by in a wink…the Earth spins on its axis as it is supposed to. It might all feel so big and therefore you so small, so inconsequential. That’s why I try to remind you every week that you have an outsized presence in existence: you were created with joy. Your life has purpose and meaning. You are breathtakingly, unfathomably, undeniably beautiful down past your bones and beyond to your soul. Your light, sparked with the very atoms present at the moment of the Big Bang, holds back the darkness of doubt, of fear, of anxiety, and of helplessness for someone in your life. The light of your life provides beautiful hope and courage for the people who see it, who love you, who follow you. Shine brightly, Dear Reader, even when you think nobody is watching. Do it because they are. Do it because you are needed. Do it because you are loved, irrationally, profoundly. Do it because you are one of the answers to the world’s many, many problems.
I’m so grateful for your time and care and your visits to my little corner of the internet, Dear Reader. Thank you for coming here and reading my words and sharing them with others. Thank you for sharing a little of your light with me and for letting me share a little bit of my light with you. It means more than you know.
Until Monday, take good care.