This story began precisely 13 years ago. Thomas and I had been married only a couple of weeks. We were being giddy newlyweds and having a water fight one evening… and he knocked out ½ of my front tooth…with a ceramic mug. (I told you it was a ridiculous story.) The dentist then said that because my root was exposed, I’d have to wait 3 weeks before he could fix it. THREE WEEKS! New bride with a half a front tooth- you can imagine how mortifying!! Not to mention all the jokes I heard. I’ll never forget lying in the dentist chair when ALL the dental assistants came in to have a peek and exclaim something like, “Oh, you’re the bride whose husband knocked out your tooth!” “Bless you heart.” “What a great story to tell your grandchildren someday!” Uh, yeah - sure.
Eventually, the tooth was satisfactorily repaired, and it served me well for 11 years.
Then, New Year’s 2013, the cap came off while eating chocolate cake. (again, how ridiculous!) This is the part I wrote about previously (here) – my first visit to the dentist in Uganda. I won’t re-tell that story now, but the end result was a slightly more yellowed, irregular-shaped version of what I’d had before. It was functional, and I’m sure not as noticeable as I felt like it was… still… I’d never come to full terms of acceptance with this tooth. So, last Friday, I was in the dentist office again (different dentist), for the boys to have a check-up. I casually asked him if he thought he could match the color of this tooth any better. He said, “Sure, we can do it right now!” So, I happily plopped in his chair - 20 min. and $100 later I walked out with, not perfectly matching, but much more acceptably matching front teeth.
Then Saturday came – oh, what an interesting day! I have no photo-documentation for this post (thank heavens!), but if you have ANY sort of imagination at all, then you should have no trouble following along. Saturday was a hard-core, domestic work day for me. We have friends moving into our apartment for the three months we are gone to the U.S. So on Saturday, I commenced the crazy, cleaning marathon – as in, pulling everything out of my kitchen cabinets to clean out the gecko poo, making stacks of throw away/ give away / take back to America piles. It doesn’t take much to disorganize a 700 sq. ft. apt. anyway. But Saturday was a real special endeavor in this department! And, because it was a cleaning day, I thought it best to attire my old, paint-stained clothes, hair in a bun, no make-up… to really play the part, you know? And since my face has been especially broke-out lately, I also thought it a great idea to apply acne cream to these trouble spots. At 2pm. (What… doesn’t everyone do this?) So, are you getting a picture? It gets better… I must also mention that as I’m cleaning, I often find Reynah’s hairbows or lost clothes pens lying around in random places, and I clip them to the hem of my shirt so I can amass a stunning collection before putting them away.
So, here I am – adorned with pasty, white cream on my face and bows and clothes pens on my garments in the midst of my disaster-zone house. And then. THEN, the blasted tooth came off again! – WHILE CHEWING GUM!!! (beyond ridiculous!) At this point, I promise I look like a bona fide character off of some red-necked reality TV show. AND THEN - within 10 min. of my tooth popping off – I heard a vehicle pull up and a team of mzungus (white people) whom I have never met, started walking up the stairs to our apartment. I was frantically licking my fingers / swiping at my face as I walked to the door while practicing a smile that didn’t show too much teeth. They were Americans that Thomas had met the week before, and he had asked them to drop by and get an address from us. (Of course, Thomas was far away in Gulu at that moment! Convenient for him.) They were very gracious and did a fabulous job of pretending like everything was normal and that perhaps they were not on the set of a red-neck reality TV show. I did a passable job of unobtrusively pulling bows and pens off of myself, while refraining from blurting out, “I don’t always look like this!!!”
AND THEN …
(I do apologize if you are getting weary of my story, but the tooth is not fixed yet, you see?)
So, yesterday, I finally returned to the dentist and I sat in his chair again. He kindly explained that he would have to add more “filling” behind my tooth to prevent it from coming off again. He used words like “bonding” and “setting” as he worked; I patiently waited with my eyes closed and mouth gaped open. Then, just as he was ready to drill down the extra… whatever the stuff was he “bonded” into my mouth… what should happen but that his compressor should decide to stop working?! Well, of course. Which means none of his little gadgets were working either!
He patted my arm as he got up to investigate the problem and said, “Sorry, my dear. It seems you will be here a bit longer…”
Oh, for the love of…
“Just close your mouth and relax a bit.”
I closed my mouth, only to make the horrifying discovery that this thing in my mouth was HUGE! So huge, in fact, it was poking out between my lips, and I couldn’t even seal them. He and his assistant were having no luck with the compressor. Meanwhile, he had the preposterous notion that I’d like to actually see what I looked like at that moment, so he handed me a mirror. And, yes, just as I feared – there was one enormous rabbit tooth sticking out and down – at least twice as big as my other teeth!
He was then on the phone with a “technician,” who apparently couldn’t come until later in the day. I began preparing myself – Mika, you are going to have to just leave and come back in a few hours. You’re going to just walk around Kampala like this. And you are NOT going to cry right now!
Then, my other thoughts were – But I want to eat! I’m hungry! I’m just going to have to go find some stupid soup to sip until this thing gets out of my mouth!!
Finally, the dentist came back around with a dusty, old electric drill he had pulled out of some cabinet. It was a long, uncomfortable process that followed. The drill rattled my whole head, and he had to keep turning it off every minute or two because it was over-heating. But, at least, I had hope then that I would leave his office within the hour! Finally, he gave me another pat on my arm and said, “My dear, I will never forget you… I usually don’t remember my patients, but this has never happened before, so I will remember you! … Oh, and this is a life-time guarantee! I will fix it anytime if it comes off again, my dear.”
Well, that’s nice.
I couldn’t say that the finished product looked any better than what I originally had when I walked into his office the week before. But who cares?! I sure didn’t at that point! I had a tooth in my head, it wasn’t sticking out between my lips, and I could finally go eat a real lunch! Time to leave well-enough alone.
I met some friends for that said lunch. After sharing my story and venting my frustrations, they all asked the most obvious question – “Why didn’t you just wait until you went home to fix it? You’ll be in the US next week!” And my most obvious answer was that, “Well, it’s a lot cheaper to get it done here.”
Yes, that’s true. But really, though, it’s my own vanity that wouldn’t let me wait. I’ve already had these silly concerns about not wanting to look like the stereotypical “missionary fresh from the field” when I arrive on American soil. Concerns that have led me to ponder things that I normally don’t care a whit about – like what the popular nail polish colors are now, and if ankle boots are still “in” on that side of the ocean cause that’s all I have, and the benefits of perusing Pinterest in order to educate myself on fall fashion 2014 . Amidst these concerns, I couldn’t possibly land in the US with part of my front tooth missing!
But this little tooth has been, not for the 1st time, a good little reality check for me. For goodness sake, I’m not walking off the plane and onto a red carpet. If my guesses are correct, we’ll be walking off the plane and heading to a McDonald’s. And within 24 hours will be wading Jacob’s Creek with the cousins and bumping over the pasture in Grandpa Simpson’s golf cart. Perhaps it is best to go ahead and publicly acknowledge the fact that I’ve not bought new clothes since 2012 and my hair is several months past a decent haircut and these “freckles” on my face are most likely permanent souvenirs from 3 years of living on the equator. It’s OK. It’s a real life I’m living and not a filtered Instagram snap. But, hey! – At least all my teeth are intact! And I pray that I have no more “tooth” stories to share for a long, LONG time!!
See you soon, America!!!!