Dental Dismay

I always look forward to seeing the house on the lake, my dad and my son, Brad. My son is a wonderful guy. He swept up all the leaves; turned on the water, lights, and heat; and in general got things ready for my arrival to Alabama. A cold front sent temperatures down to 22 degrees the night I arrived, quite the shock from the 75 degree, sunny weather I left behind in L.A. Unbeknownst to my son Brad and I, the heating blower in the house had broken. The central heating in Dad’s house takes forever to warm the house because there is no duct work system. Warm air is blown into the crawl space requiring the large area underneath the house to get warm before air rises into the house. I turned on a space heater and climbed under a pile of blankets, hoping the house would be warm by morning.

However, the thermostat registered 50 degrees, which was the lowest temperature it could register, probably a more generous indication than the actual temperature. There was no heat. I had heating company representatives come out, and they quickly found and fixed the source of the heating problem.

Even with the heating problem, overall, the trip went smoothly. Plane flights came in early. Traffic was not congested. And as I drove down the freeway and the sun was setting, a tinge of pastel blue and pink framed the most beautiful rising white moon I had ever seen. The full moon was as large as a setting sun, and its pearly white glow was  stunning–other worldly.

Dad recognized me and was happy to see me, greeting me with a big smile. Mind you, I spent the prior 10 days mentioning in my daily phone calls that I was arriving for a visit. I figured with enough repetition, he might know me this time.

The planned highlight of my visit was taking dad to the dentist for teeth cleaning. I teased him about going to the dentist. In the past, he enjoyed his dental visits because one of the dental hygienists just loved my dad. Her affection was reciprocated by him calling her “his girlfriend.” She said that dad was her favorite patient, and he would kid her that he was working on cavities so he could see her more often.

Because past dental visits always added a little spice to otherwise dull times, I was not concerned about dad’s forthcoming adventure at the dentist. He liked to get out for a drive, and the actual teeth cleaning procedures had always taken a backseat to the fun he had with the dental staff.

So, I wheeled him into the dentist’s office. Our first intimation that this dental visit would be different was when his regular hygienist had been replaced. The replacement hygienist’s demeanor was very professional, and courteous; however, she wasn’t admiring my dad and joking with him. We helped him shift from the wheel chair to the dental chair. He complained about the paper towel she fastened with clips around his neck. When she wanted him to open his mouth, he refused, pulling his lips tight so she had to pry them open. You would have thought she was giving a four-year-old his first teeth cleaning. About two scrapes of the teeth was all he would tolerate, so she skipped straight into the polishing stage.

He kept pushing her hand away from his mouth and asking her, “Are you done yet?” He told me several times, “I don’t like this,” and that it was time to go home. She gave him water to rinse his mouth from a cup and tried to use the suction device to remove water. But he would have none of that and spit the water onto the floor.

When she tried to floss between his teeth to get rid of the cleaning grit, he resumed pushing her hand away, asking if she was done yet, and informing her that he was leaving now.

I started laughing. Soon the dental hygienist was laughing too. My dad had a little smirk on his face, and at last we were done with his teeth cleaning episode.

Not much of anything was accomplished as far as getting his teeth cleaned. When the gal at the front desk asked if we would re-schedule another cleaning in 6 months, I told her I did not think my dad would stand for it. My dad, who is hard of hearing and had turned deafness to his advantage, suddenly asked what we had both said. I spoke loudly repeating, “I don’t think he would stand for it.” He smiled approvingly with a slight twinkle in his eye.

There is a saying in Alabama, “Once a man, twice a boy.” This dental visit brought new meaning to the saying. We can both applaud the fact that unless he is in dire pain, my dad–and the few teeth he has left in his mouth–will escape future dental excursions.

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8 Responses to “Dental Dismay”

  1. writerchick Says:

    LOL! That Jack is a pistol. Glad the glimmer still comes to his eyes sometimes and you get to see it.
    WC

  2. Popsgirl Says:

    Yea, me too. He’s still got the spark and is still quite the character. Gotta love him.

    ~ PG

  3. Mona Johnson Says:

    Well, at least you see the humor in it. But of course the problem is when people with dementia have serious health problems that need attention, it can be hard to get through diagnosis and treatment.

  4. Christopher Wondra Says:

    Another great post Lyn.

    I particularly liked your opening descriptions. Vivid. Nice.

    Being from Wisconsin, I am obsessed with heating my house. This fall we even installed a geo-exchange furnace. Now, we take heat from the ground and move it to the house. It’s pretty cool . . . I mean hot . . . um, I think you know what I mean.

    Your “girlfriend” comment reminded me how my grandpa used to tell us about all of the “girlfriends” he aquired after dementia set in. Oh the adventures he had. And all of the different professions and places he traveled!

    Hope all is (relatively) well with you and your family. Have a good holiday season!

    Chris

  5. Popsgirl Says:

    Mona,

    I agree with your comment. Dad’s teeth at this point are not a serious complication, but when Dad was having his gall bladder removed there were serious complications, and he was not at all cooperative in working with the doctors and medical assistants. He was at times quite the curmudgeon and very difficult to deal with. He has always been an independent, free spirit. The danger lies in the fact that his ideas are now often very twisted, and he is unable to differentiate between the expression of his free will and when his actions are geared toward his own demise. Nevertheless, I have to admire his strength and tenacity as well as the fact he has never submitted to being a “sheep,” just mindlessly doing whatever the rest of the flock are doing. He seems to be hanging onto that spark of life through which he defines his own individuality. So, at least he still has that.

    ~ PG

  6. Popsgirl Says:

    Chris,

    That’s really interesting, a geo-furnace. I can imagine it’s vital to get heat any way you can during cold Wisconsin winters. Having more than one heating system is also important in case the power were to go out.

    Yes, the old folks’ imaginations swing into full gear, don’t they? I can appreciate your comment about your grandpa’s many fabricated travels and professions. In so many ways the elderly with dementia reflect the unbridled imaginations of youth before kids learn the difference between what they dream up and what is real. I just love an active imagination as long as you can keep reality in perspective. Since there is no setting these oldster’s straight, all you can do is admire the creativity of their imagination. My dad did make a funny comment in a lucid moment to one of the nursing home attendants. He told her that everyone there was crazy, just some more so than others.

    ~ PG

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  8. Dentist Thailand Says:

    What a great story – your dad sounds hilarious. It can make a dull day at the dental office so much more fun.

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