Settling in and dental work are similar. Things get changed. Areas of weakness are bolstered. It creates a temporary mess. The work that you knew, or should have known, needed to be done has stepped front and center. No longer a choice: there are fractures that need fixing, there is infection that needs to be rooted out. You want to make your new home right. At the same time, you know that your mouth must be made right as well.
So, you make appointments and order replacement parts. You make decisions about the ordering of the process. But the reality sits there, in your mouth and all around you. And then you wait. These things do not happen on your schedule and this is quickly made evident. Perhaps you have developed fungus that needs remediation, but the workman says that it will be 17 days before he can get there. He comes highly recommended and getting rid of the fungus is a priority and so you wait. One day you feel a crack when you bite down on something as innocuous as bread. When you call for a dentist appointment, you are told that the dentist has his own life and can see you in a week. And so you wait.
One strategy is to try to make the wait time productive, but this must be done without infringing on the work that is upcoming. So you try to order replacement parts that you will need after your structure has been bolstered. You try to avoid doing further damage to yourself and change your diet. Thoughts occur: perhaps it is better to do nothing at all, perhaps you should allow yourself to just live as you have been living and then deal with the consequences. The temptation to do this or not do this is almost equally great. How does one spend the waiting time?
I tried working as far away from the infected areas as I could. I tried maintaining a positive attitude about my mouth. Perhaps it all just required a little bit of cementing. Even though you know this is not the case, you tell yourself that as you wait.
My visits to the dentist are hardly ordinary. I drive to the heart of the inner city where Michael and I were both raised. He’s given more back that I have. He established his practice in a warzone and yet he did good for the people there.
“Kenny, how the fuck are you? You crazy lunatic, look at you!”
“My mouth hurts, Michael. I don’t know why only where.”
“Let’s take a look.”
I came to him thirty-five years ago and was terrified because dentists had always hurt me. Michael changed all that. He grew trust between us. We shared history, which was Newark. Michael brought me back to Newark every time. He did things that other dentists did not understand, and so I always came back to Michael.
I writhed in the seat of this man who never hurt me and was for decades was loathe to hurt anyone. “I can’t do this to you anymore. I can make the pain stop for a while but you need a specialist who does nothing but root canals. My hands are arthritic, I don’t have the strength.”
It hurt so much but the idea of anyone else working on my teeth was terrifying. I listened quietly as he outlined my options. “It used to be that I had to assign five percent of root canals to specialists, now its thirty percent. My hands aren’t strong enough. I can recommend a specialist.”
The specialist was a disaster. I had never worn a dental block in my life and found it difficult bear not swallowing and so each time he took his instruments out of my mouth, I managed a painful swallow. Two visits of ninety minutes each. The tooth looks beautiful and that was this dentist’s only concern. It ached for a week and then it passed from my attention.
Aches that pass away and leave us improved are parts of the bargain of aging. I should have said before, settling in is a product of ageing as is dental work. I am learning to accept limitations in the name of their common sense and because my uncommon sense no longer seems to be effective although I have a quiet prayer that I will investigate it again.
Curved thermo-plated glass is incredibly expensive and we needed a lot of it. There had been mold and leakage and I wondered if it was best to repair mold and leakage of the spirit in the same way that you try to revive a room. I have often seen rooms as entities.
But sometimes I get these visions of how a room would thrive and blossom and I feel it so strongly with this sun room. My plants are so healthy here and are displaying wonderfully colored hibiscus flowers, seven or eight a day. I see the graduations of light and how it will give variety to different flora. I hear the music of the room and I am settling in.
At the next visit with Michael, he told me that I had multiple fractures that would eventually need to come out. One was critical, but Michael was retiring, he has personal health issues and has been doing this long enough. I said, “Who does your teeth?” And he sent me to his nephew.
He looks like Michael. He was gentle like Michael. He was casual. He was proficient. I felt at home. It is a form of settling into change. And so an instinctual bond of trust occurred. The extraction wasn’t easy. It never is with a fractured tooth. And because it was an eye tooth, the root was very deep. It would take months for the bone to heal and resettle.
Settling in puts new stressors on things that may have grown accustomed to being used sparingly. The seal on a toilet begins to leak because its frequency of use increases. A sliding glass door becomes unhinged. Pumps and pipes, circuits and nerves-
The first week after the extraction was sore. Then it became sore to the touch. I wondered why I needed to keep touching it when I knew that it was still sore. The temporary seemed slightly unstable. The soreness extended almost up to my nose.
I longed to have city water and city sewers again. We’ve lived with a private well and septic tank for two decades, and it was always an underlying concern. My first water bill was $535.00. I stared in total disbelief. I called the city offices confident that they would be in error. They were not.
The first question that the clerk asked was “Do you have any toilets that have been sticking and just seem to keep running until you jiggle the latch?” I said yes. She said, “That’s costs you one gallon a minute. That is why your bill is so high.” Settling in comes as an educating process. There are many surprises that delight during settling in, but this wasn’t one.
I am counting the days until the temporary bridge is removed. My new dentist told me that he’d used permanent cement and that the bridge would have to be chipped away. The next temporary replacement will be more fragile, but that will only be for two weeks.
It is not unlike having back ordered glass. Weeks that you do not understand the need for pass. You both long for and dread the ensuing confusion that will predate the permanent fix. This is very much like settling in.
Doubts are engendered. Is this the way that it will always be? Is improvement no longer really possible? Has it come down to trying to maintain and finding that is no easy effort?
Only some of our rooms feel settled and that is always subject to change. If the change is viewed in a negative context, it will cause more damage than if it is not. Some are decidedly unsettled and await those final adjustments that make settling possible.
Will the permanent bridge be stable? When will the other extractions come? Will I have the strength to persevere or will I just give up? Doubts are nagging questions after all.
I now meet young men much stronger than myself. I know that I can’t keep up. This is a troubling aspect of settling in. To what are you settling in? How do you now measure progress?
Resources alleviate concern. Knowing that you have the means to replenish your expenditures makes things easier, but not without concern. How many more shocks before your mouth truly crumbles? How many more debts before you exhaust your reserves? One comforts oneself with math. Arithmetic is not emotional; only its response to it can be that way.
Settling in and dental work, maybe always ongoing. Tom Petty sings that “the waiting is the hardest part.” It leads me to believe that he has dealt with contractors. They are temporary and unreliable kind of friends, pseudo friends I guess. It’s worse if you or your spouse is related to them. There is the expectation of preferential treatment and the disappointment when it does not exist. The waiting tests your patience and frustration levels.
Eventually, I’m learning that settling in and dental work are similar. They are in need of husbandry. Today I sat in the solarium and listened to rain on glass. I saw the copper top bar that I have been refinishing. My little family is intrigued by this place. There will be more dental work but not until next week. Settling in and dental work, ongoing.