My Dad’s Teeth

Alexis - Van Nuys, California
Entered on November 4, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: death, family
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I believe in my dad’s teeth. Actually, they’re mine too, because I inherited his strong, straight teeth. At 41, I’ve never had a cavity, and although I now have a night guard to prevent me from grinding my teeth, that’s been the worst of it.

I look forward to going to the dentist. It’s the one place where I get ooh’d and aah’ed over. Or, more accurately, my teeth do. I think that it must be a very small taste of what it’s like to be Angelina Jolie, with people in awe wherever she goes.

I certainly didn’t earn my good teeth; although my brushing and flossing is adequate, it’s hardly spectacular. I don’t spend hours with an electric toothbrush (I don’t own one, for starters.) My teeth are not blindingly white. Well, maybe they would be without the coffee stains, but my teeth are strong enough to survive minimal care.

My father died of brain cancer in August. He was only 65. As I drove away from my last cleaning in September, I realized that I couldn’t call him, as I usually did after seeing the dentist, and say “thanks for the teeth”.

My relationship with my father wasn’t easy. He wasn’t easy to please, and I was, among other things, intimidated. The last year has been wrenching, watching him deteriorate and then, die. The disease robbed my father of many things, including the ability to communicate. He was a college English professor; he lived in books, and he was never at a loss for words.

As my father was dying, I realized that I was not going to have a chance to talk to him about the hurts I still carried. There was not going to be an opportunity for a last minute talk at his bedside, coming to terms. My father was truly losing his mind, piece by piece. The most I could do was to try to be there for him and to let him know I loved him.

Three months after his death, the shock is a little less, the sadness, a lot more. It’s not just the big stuff, like his September birthday, that makes me sad. It’s the little stuff too, like the teeth I brush and floss every day.