I was making final plans for the Nevada trip with Mom and Dad just a week later. A friend described it as my plan to drag two old people across the continent and back. I ordered a waterproof travel bag big enough to hold three Kindles, extra Depends, three bottles of water, snacks, cough drops, and my medicines. Mom would take another large bag to hold their medicines. Actually, mine was a red print diaper bag, plastic-lined pockets all around. I took both parents for pedicures. Dave took Dad for a new pair of shoes. I took Mom shopping for paint–her sister-in-law had agreed to paint the kitchen while we were gone, cabinets included.
When I noticed that I had a dental cleaning scheduled on one of the days that we were to be gone, I called to postpone the appointment. Val surprised me when she said she had a cancellation for the next day.
“Are you having any problems?” my tiny hygienist asked.
“Just this one tooth.” I pecked on it. “It’s the same one I was having trouble with last time.”
“Getting worse? Hot? Cold? What hurts it?”
“Heat. And pressure. Pressure hurts, but since it’s where it is, I don’t get a lot of pressure there.”
After I was all shined up and x-rayed, Dr. Williams said I needed a root canal.
“Fine,” I said. “That’s the tooth that anchors my bridge. I surely don’t want to lose it.”
“No, no, I don’t either. Let’s send you to the endodontist. Don’t you already have somebody you like to see?”
“Terryl Propper,” I said. “I’ll call her.”
So on Monday, while Dave took the folks for flu shots, I got a root canal. Dr. Propper is always entertaining. I’ve enjoyed–yes, actually enjoyed–all four visits with the woman who reams out the roots of a tooth while cracking inappropriate jokes or relating embarrassing personal stories. She looks like a cross between Roseann Barr and my hilarious ex-sister-in-law Sheila, so my expectations are always high.The best story involved a cruise on the USS Maasdam, wherein Dr. Propper got to visit the morgue. Her stories may be funnier because of the gas, which could be the reason I can never remember the whole story later.
Dr. Propper expects give-and-take as she carries on a conversaton while working and, in spite of the load of rubber and cotton she’s shoved into my mouth, she understands every grunt I make as my side of the dialogue. I remember that she was a bit sedate this time. We talked mostly about these new-fangled shoes that are actually slippers with removable soles. When you need to go outside for your newspaper or the mail, you just pop those soles on your indoor slippers, trip down the driveway, and then flip them off once you’re back on cleaner ground.
“I hearda dem,” I said. “Moo-ble toles. Foles.”
Neither one of us could remember the names of the slippers. I knew the name started with an M.
“Tart wif ehn,” I told her.
“Starts with M. Yes, it does.”
“Lite hah…lite dah hah rah.”
She said, ” Oh, I just bought a pair. They’re not cheap–ninety-nine dollars–but I think I like them. I’ll email you the name when I get home.”
She patted me on the shoulder. “Okay, I’m done here, honey. We’re just going to do a couple x-rays to make sure we got it.”
She breezed back into the room to view the pictures just displayed. “Well, looka here. What is that? Huh. I missed a branch. You’ve got a branch that’s behind a tooth that is lying on the roof of your mouth. Did you know you have a tooth up there? It’s an eye-tooth.”
“Oh weah,” I said. ” ‘s been dere frebbuh.”
“I’m surprised some dentist didn’t try to take that out.”
“And you wouldn’t let him?”
“Well, I don’t blame you.”
She pressed around the rubber to re-isolate the tooth. “You know, these days we could just band that tooth and bring it right down into its proper place.”
“Uh-huh. Dat fwah he ted.”
“Well, hang on, don’t talk, I have to clear this one little branch.”
She chided the newly discovered root, “….hiding from me, you Now I’m going to fill in the hole, okay?”
She pressed filling into the tiny hole drilled through the crown of #12. The assistant cleaned up. Dr. Propper’s face appeared in front of me again.
“Okay, dear, we’re about to turn on the oxygen and clear all that good stuff out of your head. You want some pain pills for tonight?”
I shook my head. She loosened all the props and pulled the materials from my mouth. “Now I’ll prescribe some Vicodin or something like that if you think you’ll need it…”
“No need. I dot pwenty dat tuff. Probbwy dust tate suh i-b-frofen.”
“Tell Dr. Williams thank you for sending you over to me. I’ve been meaning to get by to meet him.”
“He dent thend me. I tame my own fwee will.”
“Are you okay to leave?” the assistant asked.
Dr. Propper joined in. “Are you sure?”
“Wep. Dust tan’t talt pwain.”
Dr. Propper called the next morning to tell me that the name of those slippers. “Mahabis.”
I said, “Oh, yeah, I knew that.”
She laughed. “You kept trying to convince me that they were maharashis.”
“I don’t remember that.”
“You don’t remember me saying that a maharaja was like a king or something?”
“No. I remember talking about that tooth on the roof of my mouth.”
“Right. How is your tooth, anyway? That’s what I really called about.”
“It’s still there.”
“Not the one on the roof of your mouth, the one I worked on.”