Thursday, August 8, 2013


The picture, sent without explanation, caused my son to call the hospital.

A half century ago my front tooth came into direct and forceful contact with a curb. The sledding accident left me, an 11 year old boy, with a bloodied face and a cap that would forever hide the error of my ways. Or more precisely, almost forever.

I do recall that I was not in the least self conscious about my mishap at the time. There was however one classmate of mine who seemed particularly uncomfortable whenever she saw my healing wounds and misaligned smile. Her issue I thought, not mine.

I guess I never told that story to my children, although it is hard to believe since I seem to relate almost anything about me to anyone and everyone, like it or not (I know what you are now thinking, and I am more than slightly offended by it).

On the way over to our friend's house for dinner last Saturday, I casually mentioned to my wife that the cap felt a little loose, and that an imminent visit to the dentist would be necessary. That statement puts into clear perspective what I was about to do.

Among the choices before me that evening for my consideration was a piece of corn on the cob. It was not as if I contemplated the possibilities and weighed the consequences before taking that deep bite relying on the wiggling fake tooth.

Do you know how much a missing front tooth changes other people's perspective of you? Would you honestly take with the same seriousness someone who presented cogent arguments while lisping his "th" sounds and looking a little like someone you recently gave a dollar to on a street corner?

At first, my hosts tried to politely ignore the 800 pound gorilla sitting on my lap. But, as my wife giggled (and this is not a term that I use often to describe her actions) almost uncontrollably every time I opened my mouth, eventually everyone joined in finding the humor in my stupidity.

I pressed my wife to memorialize this event with a photo. Maybe me staring angrily at the cob that punched me in the face. Maybe even trying to take another bite of it. But she would have none of it.

The next morning, over 100 miles from the scene of the crime, I sat in a dentist's chair, waiting for life, and my face, to return to normal.  "Robert wants me to take a picture of this."  I can see how one might be a little confused by the image, as various  medical equipment looms in the background of a  photo of a wildly smiling person. The setting suggests something is amiss.

The words "good morning" did not give my son any context as he viewed the grainy photo. It did not help him that we did not hear, or respond to the cell phone calls, there was no answer at the house, and his sister had no clue of our whereabouts or what he was talking about. The emergency room at the hospital had no report of a man fitting the description of that picture.

It turns out that my little miscalculation had snapped the post that connected fake and real together. The reconstruction of my smile would be more complicated than just finding some good glue.

Without seeing  me sitting in that chair, I know I am not able to properly convey this tale. I don't know whether what I have written is 1000 words, but I do understand that 1 picture would be worth much, much more than anything I could relate to you. However, I am constrained by people with far more common sense and an understanding of boundaries to keep you from viewing that picture. And maybe that is the way it should be, for a writer should allow the readers the opportunity to create their own images and thoughts from the words on the page. Or maybe not, at least this one time.


Pam said...

Thanks goodness for Dr. Tom Hom.. to the rescue...

Robert said...

the painless dentist