refugeingrief

The root of the problem

To understand why today was funny and sad and weird, you'd have to know how much I hate the dentist. I mean, not the people themselves, but the whole experience. It's a long several stories involving knocking out my baby front teeth, elementary school brace face encountering a metal pole, an anxiety attack while on nitrous oxide for the only time, and a root canal where the root was removed before it was totally numb and while I was in the throes of postpartum hormones. Even the short version is long.

To understand why today was funny and sad and weird, you'd have to know that my dad, a pharmacist, was my go-to for any health-related situation. I talked to him about the weirdest stuff -- and the most mundane -- and when I was panicky about something (like, say, the dentist), he was good at calming me down.

So today I ended up with a decision: Get an appointment for a much-needed root canal in a month or literally RIGHT NOW. Given how distressed people had looked after seeing me get hit with a pain wave after a cold drink or a hot dinner, I knew the latter was the right choice. That was good for another reason: less time to get worked up about it.

I got there as fast as I could and got processed and got started with the appointment. After getting through the anesthesia process*, the doctor got down to business. I soon realized that things had changed since my last root canal: The doctor isolated the tooth he was working on with a dental dam (which I had only heard about prior in a VERY different context), which kept all the spray and materials and uhhh tooth pieces? away from the rest of my mouth, which made me realize much of my dental anxiety is claustrophobia caused by trying to keep all that away from my throat. The point being: I actually relaxed. 

They had music playing, and unable to talk or even really grunt to participate in a one-sided conversation, I closed my eyes and focused on the tunes instead. About two-thirds of the way through, I heard a riff, and my eyes went wide and began to well up. It was the beginning of Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here." Immediately, I thought, this is not going to end well. They'd skipped a couple of other songs (including "Welcome to the Jungle," to my dismay), so I knew that was an option. 

I started gesticulating. 

"Everything OK?"

Me: *pointing toward speaker* "TONG"

Them: "Oh, the music? Uhhhh, louder?"

Me: "No! ... *twirls finger* "KIP? NEX TONG?"

Them: "Uhhhh, oh! Skip this song?"

Me: *nods*

Them: ...

Me: "THAD!"

Also me: *tears leaking out of the corners of my eyes*

The doctor, kind of realizing what's going on and wanting to break the tension, cracked a joke: "[Assistant] gets like that too, but it's when she hears Pitbull."

I guffawed, as much as a person can guffaw with a doctor elbow-deep in her mouth along with a bite guard and a sheet of plastic. It was about this moment that I realized that because of the angle of my head, the tears that had leaked out of the corners of my eyes were collecting in my ears. Everything suddenly felt so absurd, I started cracking up. They thought I was crying again and then realized I was laughing. They were so confused, which made it more absurd, which made me want to tell my dad about it, which made me sad again, which made me tear up again, which landed more tears collecting in my ears, which made me laugh again. 

So you see, funny and sad and weird. 

I eventually got myself together, and they completed the procedure (some of the least painful, most extensive work I've ever had, truly), and once I could talk again, I explained. Not all this, but some of it. "My dad died a few months ago, and that song ..." *choking up* They got it.

Also, they gave me freshly picked blueberries. 

So today was an experience. I can't tell Dad, so I'm telling you.

Wish you were here.


(*Note: Am I the only one who was 40 and had undergone countless dental procedures before I learned that my heart was racing at all those appointments because of the epinephrine in the shots? Until last year, I thought that was my anxiety. I actually felt better this time knowing that what was happening was chemical and would pass shortly even though it hit me harder than it ever has before.)