“Smile,” I told my son Samson, “and show us your teeth!”
We were in a recovery room. At a pediatric dentist’s office.
Katie, Samson, and I spent nearly four hours in this clinic on Thursday. In tiny waiting rooms. Listening to the ventilation system squeak and spit. Hoping that squeaking and spitting ventilation system wasn’t mainlining Covid droplets into our lungs. State College remains one of the top outbreaks of Covid in the country.
We got to the clinic early. The appointment before ours took longer than expected. So we waited anxiously for an extra hour. In a tiny, tiny room. Finally, the anesthesiologist came in. Samson was put to sleep. Intubated. Had a pulpotomy. Had another one. And there were four other deep cavities to knock out. I put the new Fleet Foxes album on as Katie and I kept waiting in a tiny, tiny room. Did I mention the room was tiny?
“This is like flying for me,” I told Katie as we waited. “I’m anxious leading up to it. Delays drive me crazy. And when it is actually happening, there is nothing to do but wait for it to be over.”
And then it was over. And we were in a recovery room. And Samson looked like he’d been hit by a bus. But his eyes were starting to open.
The dentist told us the procedure was smooth. And he was very proud of his work on Samson’s front teeth.
“Samson will wake up in a few minutes,” the masked anesthesiologist assured us before leaving the tiny recovery room. “Everything went great.”
“We did it, Samson,” Katie held Samson. “It’s all over!”
“Show us your teeth, bud!”
Samson smiled and opened his mouth. Two enormous, white buckteeth emerged. Our eyes got wide.
“They look great, Samson.”
Samson’s front teeth have always been a little funny looking. Small little nubs with a gap between them. This gap cultivated two of the cavities our dentist took care of. The dentist filled the gap. Now, Samson had two beautiful, large front teeth. White teeth. Very, very white teeth. Did I mention they were white? Like, the kind wealthy celebrities in their 80’s might have installed? Add the metal caps in the back, and the boy’s mouth looked different.
“Why are your teeth so big?” Solomon asked Samson as soon as he got home.
“I don’t know,” Samson said. Then he asked for more Tylenol. And we sat on the couch and played video games. Recuperated from quite an ordeal.
I have some experience with buckteeth. In middle school, I was convinced my front teeth dragged on the ground when I walked by a cute girl. It took years (and braces) for me to become secure in my teeth, let alone myself. Now? Man, coffee has stained my teeth yellow. And there’s a little chip in my front tooth. Years ago, I took an elbow while playing defense in the post. During staff and student basketball at Roseville High School. An 11th grader posted me up. Because I’m short. He was clumsy, and elbowed me in my mouth. I may have bled, but the kid didn’t score. Go Sam. So my teeth, like this forty-year old body, have scars. But I’m not as insecure as I used to be. I’m beautiful, damn it. And so are you. That’s my self-help line for the week.
Anyway, I’m sure all of us will grow accustomed to Samson’s new mouth. And the metal caps will eventually fall out. So will the enormous white teeth that dangle in front of his mouth. And we’ll survive the unexpected, traumatic financial hit. And, most importantly, Samson won’t have to worry about any of his cavities turning into infections.
It’s been quite a week. Took Samson to the doctor. To the dentist. Met a colleague on a patio for lunch. Who knew these little things could be such an effort? These excursions into the State College outbreak are bad enough, but add onto that work and school and parenting and the state of the world and it can leave a poor boy with a chipped tooth reeling.
So I reeled a little. It really wasn’t that bad. It was nice to talk with Samson’s doctor. It was a relief to fix his teeth. And it was so nice to sit and talk with my friend on a patio. And drink a Bloody Mary. And eat oysters.
And the week is over. And if I ever need a reminder of this week? This moment? There’s two, enormous white teeth to serve as monuments in my son’s mouth.
“Smile, Samson, and show dad your teeth!”