Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Toothless Like Me.

When I was 19 and preparing to serve an LDS mission, I went to the dentist.  They want you to go to the dentist and make sure you don't have anything that will erupt and kill you while you are serving in the remote jungles of Madagascar.  As it turns out, I had a bad root canal that was now, "a major source of infection in my face".


When I was 13 I decided to swim the entire length of a pool underwater.  I devised a plan: I would use the diving board with full force, which would cut off about two feet of my "death swim" and then swim very close to the bottom of the pool so that when I finally needed to come up for air I would still propel  myself forward as I climbed for life giving air.


I stood with my toes curled over the edge of the diving board and prepared to make history.

Airborne I reviewed my plan: jump out far, swim along the bottom, never give in.


As I entered the water I immediately began phase two of my scheme and I swam straight to the bottom and then, as hard as I possibly could, I kicked myself forward.  All was going swimmingly (yes) when my face collided with the gradually shallowing bottom of the pool.

One front tooth chipped in half.

One front tooth, dead forever and that would require a root canal; the very one that later became a mildly purple tooth that I could press pus from it's gums above for most of my high school career.

Six years later that tooth would have to be removed.

I was left with two choices: I could delay my mission 6 months while wearing a "Flipper" (a retainer with a tooth filling the empty space in my smile) and get an Implant, or I could just wear the flipper for my two year mission and take care of things when I got home. I chose the latter.

On my mission, I found I could fake a hard pulling and then yank my tooth out for herds of gobsmacked kids. It later became my go-to "joke save" after my mission and I did improv comedy at Comedy Sportz in Provo...if a joke didn't land, pull out my tooth and throw it on a teenage girl on the front row; it killed every time. This deformity has now become part of who I am.  It was something my wife had to learn to love (or tolerate), but now it's part of her, too. Both my children, before they could talk, knew they could reach one finger up into my mouth and with a quick flick of their finger could pop out daddy's tooth. It is who I am.

Thursday, fifteen years after we met, my flipper broke for good.  I say "for good" because it has broken many times in our lives together. But always I could mangle it back into my mouth and muss a few more years out of it. But Thursday, while hurling down I-15 eating gas station nachos, I heard a loud crack in my head. I was too terrified to swallow. I fished around my mouth feeling for my tooth, and pulled out a chip crusted half of my retainer...sans tooth. Horrified, for I had swallowed some upon finding that half, I dug back in, rummaging for the rest. And there, in my hand was a single, orange, tooth. Nothing left to adhere it to my face, it frowned, as did I, for we both knew this was the end.  OF COURSE I SUPER GLUED IT! What am I, a fool?! But the crack would give up in a few hours and I would stop smiling. And so did my tooth.

This past weekend my little family decided to drive down to Dinosaur National Park outside of Vernal, Utah. I had this great idea to not take my tooth and then blog an exposé about the bigotous treatment of the Toothless in America.  But it turns out, only the girl at the BYU creamery treated me extra nice and smiled early and often (much like the time me and my guy friend were walking around a Provo Mall with my black daughter and everyone, and I mean people came out of the woodwork, congratulated us and give us supportive nods....Thanks, Modern Family!).

So instead of a tell-tale story of how hard my life has been as a toothless American, I wanted to say goodbye to a dear old friend.  His replacement is even now being forged in the fires of Mordor or wherever Stone Haven Dental has their flippers made.  They think I should get an implant, a permanent solution to what they see as my biggest tooth problem.  But they don't know me, and they don't know my tooth.

Friday, October 4th 2013, I will hold a small burial for my tooth in my new backyard, next to the previous owner's dead dog.  It will be a fitting end for such a strong and personal part of my life.

Close friends and family only, please.
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