Last Exit to Springfield

I apologize for not keeping up with the blog lately. I’ve been grouchy.

To clarify: more grouchy than usual.

I was watching March Madness Sunday night, and at a critical point in the game a player dribbled the ball off his foot, sending it out of bounds and into the possession of the other team.

This is not what I’ve been grouchy about. But it got me thinking.

Have you ever spent most of your life believing you were good at something only to suddenly come face to face with the reality that you’re not? That has happened to me twice now.

The first time was in high school. I always knew I was destined to be a great athlete. See, back when I was in fifth grade, Mr. George made me a starter on the kickball team and put me at left shortstop, the second most critical position after pitcher. Game after game he talked up how important I was, and game after game I backed it up by making crucial outs. For two years I kicked butt (and ball) and took names, and I rolled into junior high knowing I was something special.

Then I got cut from the eighth-grade basketball team. I figured it had to be some kind of favoritism thing because I was good! (Such is the thinking of a 13-year-old.) I practiced at home, determined to make the freshman squad in high school, and I did. I rolled into JV the next year, and varsity as a junior, which may lead some of you to think that I actually *was* good at basketball. It led me to think so — for a time.

But the thing is, when you go to a high school where girls’ basketball has lower status than the Academic Pentathlon, it can be tough to get enough warm bodies to field a team. As it was, we had seven players. We weren’t very good, and I was perhaps the worst of all of us. I still had the great catching and throwing skills that I demonstrated in kickball, which translated to great passing and a wicked outside shot. But I couldn’t move with the ball. I tended to dribble off my foot. That made getting an open shot — or even keeping possession — extremely difficult.

Sometime in my junior year I came face to face with the reality that I was not a great athlete. The realization had come on so gradually that it was more of a relief than a shock to finally acknowledge it. I finished out the season, retired from basketball, and went on to enjoy senior year and a social life unencumbered by losing 20 hours a week to a sport. It worked out pretty well, actually.

But now comes facing reality, part two.

My whole life I’ve had perfect teeth. They’re beautiful — pearly white, naturally straight, cavity-free. Every dentist visit was a pat on the back. As a teenager, I tried to sympathize with my friends who complained of pain from newly tightened braces or who had to search through the cafeteria garbage can for a retainer mistakenly thrown away. But always in the back of my mind was a feeling of relief that this was not something I ever would have to worry about.

So much for that.

I’m scheduled tomorrow for my 20-somethingth dentist visit in the past three years. After blowing through most of my 2010 health savings account to save my third cracked tooth, including root canal and crown, it’s looking more and more like I’ll have to have it pulled. The pain will just not go away.

That’s hardly the worst of it. The worst is that the other side of my mouth is now hurting, the side opposite the three cracked and crowned molars, and I’m beginning to wonder if this will ever end.

Logically it must. I have a finite number of teeth — only 28, thanks to having the wisdom teeth pulled. (Perhaps I should be extra grateful for that!) But the pain, the inconvenience, the horrible drilling, the mushy food, the numb, half-working mouth, more horrible drilling — it’s all just so draining. The high spot is the nitrous experience at the endodontist, where I float on a river of fumes that mimics knocking back a couple of margaritas out on the deck — an apropos experience given that I could visit Cancun on what I have to pay Dr. Bill. And that all ends once they take the mask off.

I always think of the scene in The Simpsons where Lisa gets braces. Here are some screen shots of her dentist experience:

Getting gassed:

The reveal:

Yeah, that pretty well describes it. Lord, help me, I’m grouchy. I’d better get the equivalent of a fun senior year out of all of this.

Categories: Uncategorized

2 replies

  1. Two comments:
    1. I was the kid who always got picked last for any team during P.E. and never dared to try out for any real sport. So I can’t even really grasp what it meant to actually be good enough to get as far as you did. Still, I do understand the death of dreams.

    2. You have my full and absolute empathy about your teeth. That is just the worst luck. The only bright side is that you actually have access to decent dentistry and the money to pay for the repairs. Those are both blessings that the vast majority of the world’s population past and present don’t enjoy. Regardless, it sucks!

    • No, you’re right about the access to dental care. That’s one thing I’ve been really thankful for throughout. I keep thinking about poor George Washington and his wooden teeth and the fact that 18th century dentists/surgeons didn’t use anesthetic, but only pliers. I’m doubly grateful given that even today others around the world don’t have access to decent care. So I know I’m fortunate.

      But I’m whiny. It’s one of my faults. I’m working on it.

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