May 30, 2013
Whatever Doesn’t Kill You…
I went grocery shopping with my wife the other night, an unusual occurrence in itself, but the experience was not pleasant. The store was crowded, and the people were rude. Not like when I was growing up. I made a few comments to that effect. My wife laughed, and said, “You need to get out more.”
I ignored her, and we continued shopping. A couple, with a teenage boy, plodded along in front of us. I heard the boy whining about having to get his teeth cleaned the next day. He was trying to get out of going because he said it hurt to have his teeth cleaned. The parents coddled him and told him it would be all right.
I almost said something, but then my wife pinched my arm and brought me to my senses. I turned to her and said, “Did you hear that? He’s a damn sissy.”
Perhaps I Should Back Up
About six months after I got married I found myself in a situation where I had to go to the dentist. Despite my aversion to having my teeth worked on, I went, and I got a couple of cavities filled in my front teeth.
When I got home, my wife said—rather casually, “How’d it go?”
“Nothing new,” I said. “It hurt like hell.”
“You sissy. You can’t feel anything once you get the needle.”
I almost responded but something she said got my attention. Needle? “What needle?”
She looked at me as if I were batty. “The Novacaine.”
“What’s Novacaine?” I asked.
(Keep in mind we were only seventeen years old at this time.)
Let’s Back Up Some More
When I was a kid we didn’t have a lot of money. We never wanted for anything. Always had food. Got presents on Christmas Day. But when it came time for dental work, I think…sacrifices were made. And the sacrifices were made by those who had to get the work done. I won’t mention the dentist’s name, mostly for fear that he might still be alive. Perhaps outside my window, right now. So let’s forget the name. Suffice it to say, that my brothers and I called him Dr. Butcher. And we felt sure he had been a close associate of a certain Dr. Josef Mengele.
We had plenty of time to arrive at this theory because it was a 12-block walk to get to his office, and all the while our minds conjured up new tortures he’d be subjecting us to, dreading what was about to be inflicted on us. If that weren’t enough, we had to sneak past a vicious dog, and we weren’t always successful. Twice I was bitten. Later in life I wondered if the Butcher actually owned that dog. Maybe he planted him along the route so kids would be eager to get to the relative safety of the Butcher’s office. If you could call it an office.
Dr. Butcher’s office was actually his living room. And his wife—a woman with an Eastern European name and a permanent smile etched on her face—played the organ. The music she chose was eerily similar to the music from old Vincent Price movies, the music that played when you knew something bad was going to happen—soon.
We could usually hear the music as we turned the corner on the last leg of the journey. Several times I almost turned back, but I knew the dog would be waiting. I never took the coward’s way out, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t want to. Especially when I was strapped into sitting in the chair in his dining room office, and watching him sharpen his instruments.
Getting Back To The Music…
Mrs. Butcher played music in the “living room.” I have come to believe she did this so other patients didn’t hear us scream.
I jest. We never screamed. We were too afraid to scream, knowing that the repercussions of screaming would far surpass what we’d already experienced. So for years we suffered, and we walked those twelve blocks like condemned men on their way to the gallows. And once in “the chair,” we had unimaginable horrors done, including drilling front teeth—without pain relief.
Back To The Future…Or The Present
I reminded my wife of this past experience as we unpacked the groceries. She chewed me out for being “an old man,” and then I poured a glass of wine and we sat down to watch Game of Thrones.
It was during the show, while a soldier’s leg was being cut off—without anesthesia—that I felt my wife’s piercing stare. After a moment—a long moment—I realized she wasn’t turning away, so I looked at her. As soon as our eyes met, she said, “Damn sissy!”
All I could do was nod.
Time changes everything.
Ciao, and thanks for stopping by,