Face Your Fears

6425b286c9f1ca14ba538f0e8d20ff45Next week is the start of our vacation in fabulous Las Vegas. It’s something that we had planned for months and saved up for, and we have a list of things to accomplish while we are there, some free and some not.

Either way it’s happening and nothing is going to stop us from enjoying some time away from home and office, and just be a family. Our list is long. It will be [mostly] conquered. You will see pictures on Instagram.

But the one thing I’m not looking forward to when we return is something that I really should have done sooner: visit the dentist. You see, I’ve got a few teeth – well, one is a partial tooth – that need some TLC or perhaps even an extraction. The last time I put off a dentist visit was years ago when I had a tooth literally rotting away and at one point, cold air entering my mouth (when I would inhale while speaking) would produce excruciating pain. I can’t even describe it but I know I couldn’t speak much. My coworkers secretly loved it I’m sure.

While one of the teeth in question has yet to reach that point, I don’t want it to. The other tooth is chipped and will need some care as well but nothing like the other.

Now you’re probably wondering why I just don’t go right-effing-now to get it done. There really isn’t a reason why I shouldn’t – I have dental insurance and plenty of sick days at work. But the answer is simple: I am afraid.

I fear dentist offices. Everything about them. The sound, the smell, the feeling. I will go to the doctor and have every exam possible done to me without hesitation. I will give blood without a second thought. But the dentist? I have to be forced.

In fact when I had to get that rotting tooth extracted, I paid the extra $300 to be put to sleep during the procedure. It was money well spent considering I didn’t have to expose myself to all that freaks me out. I remember counting to three and then waking up, asking the dentist if they had done anything at all. It was nice.

But the fear is still there, and with good reason.

Today, there are several kinds of people who work strictly on teeth. The dentist is for check-ups and cleanings. Your oral surgeon specializes in pulling teeth. Orthodontists straighten them out.

And when I was growing up, orthodontia was starting to take off. I mean, every freaking kid had braces and yours truly was no exception, in addition to wearing neck gear and a permanent retainer on my bottom teeth (later removed by Ann’s boss, an orthodontist).

Before I could have my braces put into place, I had to go to the dentist to get four teeth extracted. Yes, four. Two top, two bottom. And they were not in any condition to be extracted, meaning they had pretty much taken up residence and had no fear of ever being removed.

That all changed.

Remember, this was the time before oral surgeons and other kinds of specialists so my dentist was the one who had to do it. And when I think of that day, it’s pretty traumatic. There was blood all over gloved hands. Grinding and crunching sounds. Tools banded around the teeth to be extracted. Feeling the pressure of the teeth being pulled from my jaw (and I don’t handle physical pressure well). The dentist sitting what seemed to be literally on top of my while be tried with all his might to remove these four teeth. And of course, seeing the tooth in all its glory being held by a pair of pliers and seemingly six inches long. It all seemed cartoonish, but gone horribly awry.

I’ll be honest about this. That experience traumatized me for life. If not for this, I would have no problems happily skipping myself to a dentist for any kind of routine work. But as it stands now, that experience really messed me up and I won’t go until I’m at a point where things can’t wait any longer.

It’s stupid. It’s most likely not good for me. But then again, neither is drinking soda but I’ve already stopped doing that. (Seriously, stop drinking that garbage. It’s got no nutritional value and is a shit-storm of chemicals in a can. STOP. IT. NOW.)

So I’ve decided that upon our return from vacation, I need to face my fears and get this shit taken care of before it gets to the point my last extraction reached. I’m not sure how many people I will have to see or what, but I know that sucking it up and being a man about it is the only thing I can do.

Here’s hoping that nothing happens while on vacation or at the very least, I win $300 on the slots to pay for the twilight anesthesia.

Because I’m gonna need it.

Dem Bones, or Das Boot

Ann and I decided early on in our parenthood journey that we would be supportive of Anthony with everything he did. Whatever he wanted to try, we would let him have at least one stab at it and be behind him all the way.

And so we did: tae kwon do, t-ball, violin, trumpet, and even the drums which I use more than him even though I suck. He gave all of these a chance but never really went anywhere with any of them but does indeed spent a lot of time at my drawing table producing abstracts that I can’t even being to comprehend. He’s got an artist’s mind for sure. I have no idea where he got it.

We’ve even so gone far as to not brand him with any one religion and only act as a moral compass along the way. If he decides later in his life that one has the answers for him then that’s great. Adults can’t make sense of that stuff most of the time so why confuse a child?

There was, however, one exception to all of this: playing football, and this goes back to long before we were parents. The sport seems to lend itself to inflicting serious injury onto the other players and for kids, I think it’s over the top and way too much for them. They have enough trouble trying to understand and execute plays and I couldn’t stand to see him or any other kid get flat-blasted on the field and not get up.

Then there’s the whole sports parents thing. I guarantee I would have been in my fair share arguments. Football was definitely out.

We never played it as kids but did toss the old pigskin around during those long, warm summer evenings while listening to the AM transistor radio. None of us would he harmed by that. But as for some of the other things we did as kids, well, that’s up for debate.

I’m not willing to divulge any of the stupid, stupid things we did as kids but let me tell you that it was by some miracle that none of us ever got seriously hurt or maimed. The most painful injury I had as a kid was a sprained pinky finger that I got while catching a kickball at school during a play at home plate. I never hurt myself playing any sports with the guys on the block.

And despite all of that, I’ve made it to the ripe ol’ age of 48 without breaking a single bone, even after my scooter accident. I’m a tough old bird.

So what does my childhood devil-may-care attitude and Knievel-esque propensity for adventure have to do with my son?

First, I haven’t told him half of the things I did when I was his age or younger. He doesn’t need any inspiration for stupid things to do and post on YouTube. In fact, it’s safe to say that me and my friends were the original version of Jackass but without cameras rolling. We were that bad.

Second, he recently started expressing an interest in football. We watched the Super Bowl and for not being a football fan, Ann was amazed at just how much I knew about the game. (The rules are pretty basic; I just get bored sitting for hours on end seeing guys yelling into headsets and watching six-second plays unfold.)

He told me that they were playing flag football at school recently and that he really enjoyed playing. That’s fine because hey, rip the flag off the dude and the play stops. No contact, no injuries.

Then one day after playing at school, he came limping up to me and told me he hurt himself playing football – tackle football, something they weren’t supposed to be doing. So we RICEd it – rest, ice, compression and elevation – for a few days in the hopes it would get better.

A week later and it was still the same so we had to take him to the doctor. The diagnosis was a sprained ankle but they took x-rays anyhow to be sure. They gave us the same RICE recommendation, scheduled a follow-up visit and prescribed some crutches.

Later that day, Ann gets a call: they found something on the x-ray.

Yep. His ankle was fractured. And $300 later, the kid is now sporting a huge boot that he has to wear all the time except to bed for the next 4-6 weeks, a time that includes our vacation in Las Vegas.

The good thing is that he doesn’t have a cast and he can move along pretty well, even better than I expected.

Hopefully this experience was a wake-up call for him.

Then again, if he’s anything like I was as a kid, it probably wasn’t.