Saturday, October 31, 2015

When The Car Breaks Down And Other Fears

When The Car Breaks Down And Other Fears
            Few things bring fear or dread into my life. When my car breaks down, I admit to approaching a state of near panic. This is mostly imaginary. When I was twenty-three, a truck plowed into the side of my pick-up while I was driving east of Highway US 2. I went into shock. I nearly lost my life. I have absolutely no memory of fear.

            And in actuality I cannot bring up one instance of car trouble, in which I didn’t know help was nearby or AAA would gallop to my rescue. My car problems were minor. My fears, unfounded, stem from ignorance. Motors are a mystery to me. I always had a mechanic willing to treat my car like a husband would; he didn’t want me to break down on lonely Montana roads.

            I admit I have never experienced a major catastrophe. My life, like yours, has had its share of sadness, deaths, and worries. In equal measure I’ve known joy and contentment and beauty.

            However, when my mouth breaks down, I panic, real fear; I bury my head in the sand, clamp my jaws, avoid seeking help. About three months ago, while eating a frozen Snicker’s candy, I felt the crown lift off my back left molar.

For me, a major catastrophe. I make my own private Hell.

Without even brushing my teeth I walked ten blocks to Dr. Paty’s office. She glued the crown back, patted my hand, and tricked me into making an appointment for an exam and cleaning after my holiday in the States. That wasn’t so bad, was it? 

A month later, at the Miner’s Bar and Grill in Zortman, while chomping a cheeseburger, I bit down on something hard. I was with friends so I unobtrusively extracted the chip from my mouth. Looked like a sliver of bone. Or piece of tooth. Who can tell the difference? With a shrug, I finished my burger.

Mind you, I’m putting this story together in retrospect. This is my best guess. At the back of my newly glued capped tooth, my tongue found a ragged edge. Without consulting me, it did what tongues naturally do. It spent a portion of each day examining that rough place, prodding, playing and poking, questioning. I could not make my unruly tongue behave.

I knew. In my un-psychic heart of hearts, I knew. Somehow a piece of my tooth had broken, had worked its way through or under the crown, the only gold I own, and emerged in my cheeseburger. Even I know gold is a soft metal. I would have to see my dentist.

Saturday, my third day back in Mazatlan, while mopping my floors, without the aid of Snicker’s, my gold crown loosened. Simply floated off my molar. My tongue immediately mined around the unprotected surface. I felt definite evidence of a missing chip, about the size of Mammoth Cave.

Monday morning, filled with fear and trembling, I leaned back in the chair in Dr. Paty’s office and opened my mouth. Yes, she told me. A tiny chip had broken off. And my crown had a miniscule hole toward that back edge. I don’t grind my teeth, except metaphorically. I clench my jaws. I knew what caused the hole and the chip.

The minute Dr. Paty inserted the needle into my topically numbed mouth, my jaw began trembling. Uncontrollably. While waiting for my jaw to go numb, she asked me about my first dentist. I blanched. My eyes grew large with memory. “It was horrible. He was mean. He jabbed me and drilled immediately. When I told him I wasn’t numb, he said, yes, you are, shut up and sit still and continued drilling. When I jumped from pain, he smacked me.”

Dr. Paty patted my shoulder. “I thought so. The mind lets the experience go but the body never does.” In my book, this woman is golden. She understands.

While Dr. Paty worked slowly, giving me rest stops between each short grind, I made a startling discovery. If I keep breathing, my jaw doesn’t tremble so much.

Don’t get the wrong idea. Since that first fiasco, I’ve had some great dentists, excellent dental care. Doesn’t matter. I’m still afraid.

In ten days I’ll return for my new crown. My jaw will tremble. My eyes will water. I’ll be afraid. Hopefully I’ll breathe. I’ll be okay.

Sondra Ashton
HDN: Looking out my back door

September 24, 2015

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