Wednesday, September 28, 2005


In Which We Take a Deep Breath...

I'll say this for my son: that kid can run. He practically left smoking shoe prints in the asphalt of that empty parking lot. By the time I had shut off my car and ran around the front, he was already tearing ass up to the wooded embankment that separated the nearby housing development from the closed office complex where I'd parked to tell him that our trip to the dentist's office was a ruse. That he wasn't going to have his teeth examined. That in fact he was going to have one yanked out his head (I sold it a little bit better than that, but the net result was the same).

Now he was on the lam, a 6-year-old boy who really didn't want to go to the dentist. I booked after him--I didn't want him running into some street in a blind panic--but I wasn't mad or even annoyed. Mostly I admired his decision-making ability. Her Lovely Self and the Brownie are terrible deliberators. They will stand in a long line at a fast-food place, with plenty of time to scan the menu. And when they get to the cashier, they still hem and haw about what they want. Whereas I was brought up by a mom whose favorite saying was, "Just DO something, even if it's wrong." In my house, you learned to make quick decisions. You learned to trust your gut and think on your feet.

Clearly, Thomas had inherited that tendency. Because he sure as hell was thinking on his feet.

At the embankment, Thomas turned and saw that I was following him. He screamed bloody murder and ran back, making a wide arc away from me across the parking lot, crying "I won't go! I won't go!" the whole way (where was he finding the oxygen to sprint and scream?). I cut across the lot and intercepted him right at the corner of one of the old office buildings, a scant 100 feet from the road we'd been on.

"No! no! NOOOOOOO!!!" he screamed as I caught his t-shirt. His forward momentum yanked us around the corner of the building.

Anyone who reads this blog and understands the forces that shape my life will not be surprised at all to learn that, just around that corner, there sat a police car.

The officer inside had been training his RADAR gun on the busy road in front of us, but he was willing to interrupt this activity to regard--with what I am sure could only have been keen interest--the sight of a screaming little boy being held by the collar of his shirt by a crazed-looking man, in the middle of an abandoned office complex.

I hadn't really even seen the cop, nor comprehended that he was out of his vehicle and moving rather rapidly towards me, hand on the butt of his pistol, until Thomas screamed. "No, Dad, no! Please don't make me go to the dentist! Please! Please Puh-lease! No dentist, noooooo!"

The officer scuffed to a sudden halt and that's when I noticed him, just as his face was melting from the hard kick-your-ass cop face to the more sympathetic I'm-a-dad-too face.

"Dentist?" he asked, not unkindly.

"Bad tooth," I replied above Thomas' screams.

"Well, you're in the wrong complex. Dentist's office is in the complex down the end of the street." He looked down at Thomas, who was red and panting from all the screaming, and who was now trying to draw breath.

"Don't worry kiddo," he said. "You listen to your dad and it'll be over before you know it."

I have no doubt that if he'd been just a couple years older, Thomas would have had the presence of mind to yell "He's not my Dad. HELP!" or anything to get out of going to the dentist. But being addressed by the law had a calming effect on him. He relaxed ever so slightly, and then hugged my leg. A great swell of pity filled me and I picked him up, like I used to when he was a toddler. While he cried on my shoulder, I nodded my thanks to the officer (I could have sworn I heard him mutter "Poor bastard" as he walked, head shaking, back to his patrol car) and carried Thomas back to our car.

It was a lucky thing we had distracted the cop from his speed patrol duties as we had, because I drove like Richard Petty with his pants on fire the remaining few blocks to the dentist's office. I carried Thomas in, who by this time had gathered a fresh lungful of air and was beginning to sob rather loudly about his impending dental doom.

I had yet to meet my son's dentist, but I liked him already. At least, I admired his choices when it came to hiring staff. Because waiting for us at the front desk was a dishy young dental assistant who flashed Thomas and me a winning smile.

"What's a big boy like you doing looking so upset?" she asked in a soft, cooing voice.

I almost answered her, then realized she was talking to Thomas, who was falling under her spell as well. He dropped out of my arms and took her hand as she led him back to one of the exam rooms. The fifth wheel on this date, I trotted along behind.

In the exam room, the dishy DA produced a nose mask hooked up to the nitrous oxide and oxygen bottles. Thomas balked, fearing that anything in the room was likely to hurt him.

"This will make you feel better, sweetie," the dishy DA said.

"Yeah," I chipped in. "In fact, I'll even take a few puffs so you can see for yourself."

Alas, I wasn't permitted to sample the laughing gas, but under the assistant's patient coaxing, Thomas at last climbed into the chair and began snorting the gas.

The effect was almost instantaneous. He relaxed into the chair as though someone had let the air out of him. His eyes got wide and he began looking around the room, an absent smile on his face. His gaze lingered on me for a moment, as if he didn’t quite know who I was, then he turned and gave his full attention to the dishy assistant.

"This is pretty good," he said. "I could lay here all my whole life." He paused, sniffing in some more of his good mood. "My last tooth came out on its own and I told about it on my Web site," he babbled. "My dad has one too. But it's a secret. He's the Magazine Man, so don't tell anyone."

Oh thanks a pantload, buddy, I thought. But of course, I've been hiding in plain sight long enough to realize I had nothing to worry about. And so Thomas babbled on, revealing all sorts of family secrets, until the dentist came in and shook my hand.

Thomas eyed him with a certain curiosity. "Hey. You're gonna pull my tooth out," he said evenly. This threw the dentist, who no doubt had his routine all worked out: the fake exam, the feigned surprise, followed by the announcement that it looked like that tooth might have to come out. The dentist gave me a look and I shrugged.

"Well, let's not worry about that, Thomas--" he started.

"Worried?" Thomas interrupted. "I'm not worried. I feel guh-reat," he said, doing an unintentional yet remarkable imitation of Tony the Tiger.

And then it all went straight back to hell.

As soon as Thomas opened his mouth to let the dentist check him out, he stopped breathing through his nose. By the time the dentist produced a novocaine needle--with the intention of numbing his gums for the tooth-pulling--the laughing gas had worn right off. Thomas took one look at the needle and was up like a shot.

Luckily, the nose-mask kept him from making a complete escape and the dishy DA and I were able to hold him down in the chair while the dentist went in to, er, make the shot.

Man, there is nothing worse than holding your kid down while someone else inflicts pain upon him. The dentist delivered three of the shortest, quickest little jabs of the needle, but you'd have thought he was removing Thomas' whole lower jaw without the benefit of anesthesia. The screaming was so loud that exam room doors throughout the office closed with great speed and force. Other kids in distant rooms began wailing in sympathy. Back home, my wife's head exploded.

And then it was over and the nose mask was back in place and the dentist was turning the dial on the nitrous tank way the hell up and telling Thomas to breathe, breathe, breathe. He looked at me. "It'll take a few minutes for the local to kick in. But between that and the laughing gas, he won't feel a thing. I'll be right back to do the extraction." And as he left, I found myself praying, please God, don't let Thomas be immune to novocaine.

Well, it turns out he wasn't. Nor was he immune to the effects of the dishy dental assistant, because once the stronger laughing gas kicked in, my son began hitting on her.

"You're really pretty, lady," he slurred at her. "You have a pretty, pretty face. You're as nice as my mom. Do you work here everyday? Because I will come back only on the days you come here too. When my tooth comes out, I'm going to give it to you because you're so nice. You make my toes feel all scrunchy."

That's my boy!

The dishy DA just giggled and patted his arm, but this only encouraged my dizzy little Romeo. "I will draw you a picture when I go home. You should see my pictures. They are pretty good, some of them. I will send you some. You are the best lady I ever saw. I like it here."

I turned to her. "So I bet this is just like going to a bar and getting hit on by drunk college guys."

She liked that. "Yeah," she agreed. "Sometimes they even use the same lines."

And so we all had a good chuckle--although one of us didn't know what he was laughing about--until the dentist came back in. I saw a brief look of alarm sweep across Thomas' face, but under the influence of the laughing gas, you could almost hear his mind saying, aw fuggedaboudit and he relaxed back into his seat.

The actual removal of the tooth was a breeze. Thomas really didn't feel a thing--in fact, as I would discover later, he didn't even realize he'd been parted from his tooth until we got home. But jeez, it was a big tooth. I couldn’t help myself and watched with disgusted awe as the dentist pulled that sucker out...and just kept pulling and pulling. The root of the tooth seemed to go on forever. When it was finally out, it looked more like some primitive fish hook made of bone, such as you might see in a museum display about Stone Age man. And then the tooth was deposited in a cunning little green box in the shape of a tiny treasure chest. The dentist handed it to me--it was then that I realized just how white and trembling my hands were--and we discussed one or two things he'd seen in the X-rays. Meanwhile the dishy DA blotted my son. Blood was everywhere.

Once he was fairly well sopped up, I drove him home packed with gauze, stopping first to pick out a few comics at our local shop (Batman and Teen Titans, in case you were wondering). By the time we reached our driveway, the gas had long since worn off. Gone was the loopy Lothario, charmer of dental assistants. He stared at me sullenly.

"What is it?" I asked, knowing full well what it was. This was my moment of reckoning, when I'd catch it full in the face for luring him to the dentist under false pretenses.

But I was wrong again. "Dad," he said. "Why didn't he take my tooth out like you said he would? Now I have to go back."

I was confused for a second, then realized. "You--what makes you think he didn't take your tooth out?"

He looked at me like I was crazy. "It woulda hurt like anything. You said he was gonna take it out, but he didn't." His eyes were getting all big and teary just then. Coincidentally enough, so were the eyes of Her Lovely Self, who suddenly appeared at the door to the car, ready to offer comfort aplenty now that the deed had been done.

Well, that was enough drama for me for one day, so I brought out the little green treasure box and shook it. "You mean THIS tooth right here?"

Even when I opened the box and showed him, Thomas still couldn't believe it. I had to take him into the bathroom and make him look in the mirror to see the giant gap in his bottom row of teeth. He gave me the look of shock he normally reserves for really good magic tricks. He was so surprised, he almost swallowed all the gauze packed in his mouth.

And so we ended the afternoon on rather a high note. Right after dinner, Thomas made out a letter to the Tooth Fairy and sealed his second tooth in an envelope. Good thing, because within five minutes of going upstairs, he was comatose in his bed, no doubt worn from his day of stress.

I was feeling a bit fatigued myself. And later, as I sat on the sofa with Her Lovely Self, sipping a little liquid gum-numbing agent, I regaled her with our exploits and she sat shaking her head.

"See," she said, trying not to sound smug, but failing. "He was better off not knowing."

"Yeah, you're right. I'm sure as hell not going to tell him next time."

Her Lovely Self paused in mid-swallow of her drink. "Next time?"

And then I told her what the dentist told me: that the X-rays had revealed another fused tooth. Once again, it wasn't likely to come out on its own. Her Lovely Self slowly went white.

"So we're going to have to go through this all over again?" she asked.

I smiled my most charming smile. "We? Oh honey, I don't think so. It's your turn next time. Have fun. And make sure he gets the dishy dental assistant. She really helped me--us--through the ordeal."

Her Lovely Self made a face.

"Bite me," she said.

From Somewhere on the Masthead

Gee, MM, bet you can't wait until Thomas needs braces, huh?
I'm surprised you didn't get tased, MM.

Bet THAT would have made for an interesting post.
Braces are not that bad...just hope his adult teeth come down on their own, like they're supposed to. (Two of mine didn't and my mouth looked like that awful braces of doom scene from Poltergeist!)

Hope Thomas gets the same DA. *g*
Somehow the assistants just don't have the same effect on me. Maybe it's because they nearly choked me with that dumb x-ray panel after 8 "mess-ups".

Nice to know it ended okay. :D
good to hear that things went well for the boy...
How awful and yet hilarious.

When I had my wisdom teeth out, my dentist suggested packing my gums with a used tea bag (i.e., brew a pot of tea and squeeze most of the liquid out of the bag). I think it was the tannins that were supposed to any case, it tasted better than blood.

Hopefully next time will be easier.
I should have seen the cops coming on this one. It's all a conspiracy, cops and dentists.

I think for Thomas, it all turned out dreamy, what with the dishy DA and laughing gas and superdad to lend his emotional support. The DA I got was a middle-aged lady who could use some dental work herself, and the only gas I got was that putrid blast that came out of her mouth each time she yelled "cAAAAHlm down, cAAAAHlm down boy!"

My money's on grown-up Thomas marrying a girl with a soft, cooing voice and a winning smile who works in the medical line. :)
Nice use of "Bite Me" at the end...that did not go unnoticed. :)

Poor Thomas. I had to get 4 teeth pulled when I was 13 so that I could then get braces. That was the most traumatizing experience (well, dental experience) of my life as well.

Congratulations to you and Thomas for making it through. :)

I can almost see it now - Thomas in high school/college - the arty, sensitive guy who the ladies love for his emotional openness...
I must say this may be my favorite tale so far. That a story can make you laugh so hard one minute and tear-up the next (I can so relate to the anguish of holding down your child while allowing someone else to inflict pain on them). I see you weren't so fazed as to not notice the dishy DA. Typical man ;)
she had me on "bite me". :)
Pass on a "pauvre bébé" to Thomas from Katy & I

And keep one for you, too.
Great story! Poor Thomas.

I have to say, there is something wrong with this dentist! My dentist numbs the surface of the gums with a topical anaesthetic on a Q-tip then uses the needle to fully numb the gums. You don't feel a thing!
Poor kiddo. I can't believe he actually ran away! Glad it all turned out ok.

I started to say, "Now it's his turn to tell an embarrassing story about you," but I think you've pretty much got him scooped. :)
Wow. You think it was hard holding him down for that. If he has your tendency for head injuries you will be doing the same while they stitch him up. When I was 5 years old I had to get stitches in my chin (where I could see the doctor coming with that needle) and it took 5 people to hold me down for both the needle and the stiching.
A dishy DA is enough motivation for me to go to the dentist.

In fact, I actually got a date out of my DA once. That's like getting a phone number from a stripper!

Isn't it?
As always, thanks for making my day. Best to Master Thomas and HLS on the next excursion.
Serves you right for trying to do the right thing...Next time, lie like a rug! The whole plan was worked out and the Dentist would have been the bad guy. Seriously MM, you really need to learn how to lie & manipulate if you're gonna get through this parenting thing alive. Stop being such a good guy!

It would seem that Thomas inherited something much better than your immunity to novocaine, No?(A collective "WHEW" to that). Note to self: Act hysterical at dentist to obtain laughing gas next time!

I'm liking HLS even more. My parents actually gave me a hat that has "Bite Me!" across the front, because it is one of my fav quips.

PS - Fess up, you already used Thomas' line on HLS didn't you? "You make my toes feel all scrunchy"
"We? Oh honey, I don't think so. It's your turn next time. Have fun."

Ah, sweet revenge :>

This story was many good lines. And the part with the cop! I about died, I was so tense.

I'm glad that "dishy" (what a great word!) dental assistant was there. I saw the picture Thomas drew for her :)
Hey, I have enjoyed...your blog is informative - even entertaining.

I have a halloween sites. They pretty much covers costumes and masks related stuff.

Thanks again and I'll be sure to bookmark you.
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