Lifestyle

Molly Fisk: My Own Special Kind of Hysterics

It’s 6 a.m. It’s dark. I’m still in my nightgown, but I’ve brushed my teeth, which I do before everything else. I can’t stand that feeling of having little sweaters on my teeth, as a friend likes to describe it. One of these teeth, #14, which is on the top left, second from the end, I’ve just brushed for the last time. At noon today, it’s coming out. The bone around its roots is disintegrating, apparently, and if they cut it off at the gum-line and put a special membrane across the cut, the bone may grow back, which would be a good thing for #13 and #15, as well as my jaw.

To look at me, here on the couch in front of the fire, writing in a notebook, you wouldn’t think I was in hysterics. But I am. My own special kind, which is so muted no one but me can see it.

My periodontist is a cheerful guy, immensely capable and kind, who likes poetry. If anyone’s going to take out #14, I want it to be him. But when he told me, cheerfully, that it had to come out, I nearly lost my lunch. He thinks #30 will have to come out too, because it’s so loose. I’m thinking of using Gorilla Glue to keep it in place and not telling him.

After I left his office I burst into tears. Who knew I was so attached to a tooth? But of course, it’s not just the tooth, per se, it’s what the tooth represents. First of all, it’s my tooth, and I don’t want to lose anything that’s mine — I want to be intact. Second, it opens that creaking door to old age and death. First a tooth, then pretty soon I won’t be able to drive at night or walk into town on my own two feet. Rest homes and feeding tubes are sure to follow.

As I drove home, I thought about all the cancer patients I teach, half of whom have had mastectomies, and how clueless I’ve been, nodding sagely when they described their feelings. How did they learn to bear it? If I’m this distraught over one tooth, how can I look them in the eye at our next class, much less have the gall to offer them solace?

I felt the swirl of emotions that arises when something bad happens: Oh, no! Could I have caused this? Why is this happening to me? I haven’t done anything wrong! This isn’t fair! How will I ever stand it? I can’t stand it. All the stages of grief passed through my head, including bargaining: I promise I’ll floss three times a day if you’ll just let me keep this tooth.

Maybe if I’d flossed three times a day, #14 would not be in this fix, but I didn’t. I just can’t do all the things I’m supposed to do. And maybe nothing would have helped these Anglo-Saxon teeth, which have crumbled in the mouths of my forebears for centuries.

The sky is getting light now, and I have to get going. I’m giving #14 what she wants for breakfast, her last meal: scrambled eggs with mushrooms and parmesan. I’m grateful she’s been with me all these years. Once she’s out, I’m bringing her home for a burial under the sour cherry tree, next to Max, Seamus, and Red Jack, my beloved cats.

 

Join the conversation

  • Melanie Lee November 11, 2017 at 10:31 am

    Molly, mee tooo with the teeth. U’ve been avoiding going,

    Reply
  • WENDL in Manhattan November 4, 2017 at 1:41 pm

    The burial is a nice touch, Molly. I met a woman who kept her kidney stone in a jar by her bed so she could yell at it whenever she felt vindictive. I found that, um, a trifle disturbing. Your relationship with 14 is sweet and respectful.

    Reply
  • Karen Donaldson November 4, 2017 at 12:40 pm

    Oh, Molly. I feel your pain and loss and I am sorry for your experience. As usual, you have described a common enough occurrence in such a way that I feel I could have written it myself. Thank you for your gift of conveying your feelings that connect us to our shared humanity. I don’t know what I expected, but I continually find myself surprised by the journey of being in a body on this planet. I conjure my grandfather who seemed to embody grace in living, grace in aging, and grace in passing on to help me on my way. Blessings to you on yours.

    Reply
  • Julia November 4, 2017 at 11:13 am

    Good, now I can gripe too. I just came back from learning my right wrist has a bone chip in it and I have a disability that means I need to use a right arm crutch. I’ve already made an appt with my “shoulder/hand” guy for Monday and looked up that there are arm-supporting crutches. Feeling very sorry for myself and upset that my husband may not be able to go on a long-planned trip to India inDecember.

    Reply
  • Julia November 4, 2017 at 11:12 am

    Good! I can gripe too. I just came back from learning my right wrist has a bone chip in it and I have a disability that means I need to use a right arm crutch. I’ve already made an appt with my “shoulder/hand” guy for Monday and looked up that there are arm-supporting crutches. Feeling very sorry for myself and upset that my husband may not be able to go on a long-planned trip to India inDecember.

    Reply
  • Barbara Thornbrouogh November 4, 2017 at 11:08 am

    This is dentistry trauma is a perfect article. I had an olive pit break my back tooth and had to have a bridge put in. Not only one tooth but the 2 on either side – perfect teeth had to go. It has been over a year and I am still in shock over this . I pride myself on my teeth. They are lovely. But the attack on my mouth from the extractor man and the dentist was and still is something I can not seem to get over. Now I get it. Thanks for the article and chomp chomp away on the fake tooth. I guess we should be happy modern dentistry can help us at all. Onward and down. BT

    Reply
  • LK November 4, 2017 at 8:57 am

    Not strange at all. I felt the same way about my right trapezium bone before they took it out to treat arthritis. They wouldn’t give it to me. 🙁

    Reply