Dental Lie Gene

I had the boys at the dentist this week. I’m more afraid of the visit than they are. It’s become my nighttime refrain when I am trying to force them to brush their teeth well: “Now be sure to get every tooth. I don’t want Dr. Jane yelling at me!” And they certainly don’t know how good they have it: video games in the waiting room, sunglasses on for teeth cleaning, prize bags filled with several small toys. This place reeks of happiness. I could not even get them to leave after their cleaning. They ran back in the waiting room and hopped on the comfy chairs to play more games on the wall screens. Can you remember being dragged out of the dentist? How times have changed.

First off, I have more metal in my mouth than some hardware stores. I could set off certain detectors at international airports. And my childhood dentist was an older man who looked like CharlesNelsonReillyCharles Nelson Reilly, who–get this–had horrible teeth! I still remember the dread of going to his office. His waiting room had a few ratty copies of Highlights magazine–where someone had already il_fullxfull.204295662-001found and circled all the hidden objects–and a pretend animal circus cage. I’m not kidding. There was a wall with a lion painted on it and a platform where we could walk up and sit behind bars waiting to be called into the exam room. What a great way to get excited to see the dentist–feeling like a trapped animal. And I’m sure we got a new toothbrush, but I don’t  remember being introduced to floss until I was at least ten. And when I did learn what it was, I thought to myself, “Oh, that’s only for rich people–like Saran Wrap.”

So, the boys are enjoying Disney World, I mean the dentist, and I have to fill out another medical history form for Hayden. They say they need an updated file, yet all the information is the same. What a waste of time. He’s six for Christ’s sake. And I hate these forms. Not just because I don’t know his social security number, but because some of the questions are so passive aggressive. The whole time I’m answering the list, I’m thinking of things I’d like to put down. The following are some sample questions from the actual form, with my thoughts in italics:

DENTAL HISTORY (please circle the appropriate answer as it applies)

Was your child bottle or breast-fed? Pam was a trooper and breast fed both boys. But, oh, the judgement for the women who puts down bottle fed. It’s like asking a mother to rate how much she loves her child:        Somewhat        Enough         More Than You Love Yours

Did he/she take a bottle to bed/nap time? YES / NO  No, but daddy sure needed a bottle or two to get up the nerve to let them “cry it out”. Paging Dr. Ferber.

At what age was he/she weaned to solid food? Still working on it.

Does your child or did your child suck his/her fingers/thumb or use a pacifier? YES / NO Older one fingers, younger one binky. Poor Hayden had to give up the binky because it was a sign to the world that his parents were bad, yet, Owen can still suck his fingers when tired or stressed. Apparently you can cut the nipples off the binkies, but you can’t cut the fingers off your child.

Does your child use a sippy cup other than at mealtime? YES / NO Yes, we like our furniture and boys spill everything. Of course, now we call them “sport bottles”. Yeah, sport bottles.

Does your child eat between meals? YES / NO My child eats more between meals than he eats meals. Piss off.

Does your child eat sweets, such as candy, soda, or gum? YES / NO LMFAO (first time I’ve ever typed that). Are you freaking kidding me? Does this question mean at the same time? Then, no. Otherwise, a big, fat John Mellencamp-ain’t-that-America YES to all of these essential food groups.

Will your child eat fresh fruits and vegetables? YES / NO Yes, thank God. Sometimes, it’s the only consolation I have for all the processed crap they consume in a day.

How does your child receive fluoride? θ Community water θ Drops, tablets, or vitamin θ Toothpaste θ Rinse or gel Hot pink bubble gum rinse–just another way we obliterate the essential nutrients of one thing (fluoride) with the chemical dyes and flavoring of another (neon pink “bubble gum”).

Have there been any injuries to teeth, such as falls, blows, chips, etc.? YES / NO If so, please specify Oh, you just HAD to go there. We WERE watching him get out of the pool. He slipped on the damn ladder rung and crashed his chin on the cement. I was just about over the guilt til YOU bring it up frigging nine months later! Bite me.

How long has it been since your child’s last visit to the dentist?   Child–6 months; Dad–going on two years.

Were any dental x-rays or radiographs taken? YES / NO What’s the deal with X-rays again? Radioactive or not? I should know this stuff.

When does your child brush his/her teeth? θ Morning θ After eating any food θ After each meal θ Before bedtime    Define “brush”? A  toothbrush enters their mouth for a few seconds in the morning and again before bed. But if you’re talking a three-second, circular motion on each pearly white while at the same time sweeping away the plaque from the gumline–NEVER! And by the way, does anyone really brush their teeth after each meal?  Even people who own Saran Wrap only brush twice a day, right?

Does your child think there is anything wrong with his/her teeth? YES / NO If I have any control about it, he better. He needs to fear the cavity creeps so he doesn’t have to endure a lifetime of drilling and filling like his father. Fear = Fewer Cavities.

“The boys are all finished, Mr. Trainer. Their teeth look excellent. Thanks for all your hard work at home.”

“No problem, Dr. Jane. No problem at all.”

“See you in six months.”

“You betcha!”

“Way to go, guys! Let’s go celebrate with one of those in-between meals meals.”



Shut the Hell Up!

When I was five years old, I was invited to a costume party down the street. The party was hosted by a boy named Jim (Jamie) O’Hara. He and I had much in common, as we were both the youngest of large, Irish Catholic families. Or at least I was the youngest of mine for the first four years of my life–and was just getting used to my status as older brother of twins. TWINS! No more attention for Michael. But I showed them–my family that is. I went out of my way to gain attention. Good or bad, I made damn sure you would notice me. Which leads me back to my costume party. The costume I chose for this occasion was (drum roll) Raggedy Ann. Yes folks, you heard me right. Raggedy-freakin’-Ann!  I am so embarrassed to admit it now.

Since this was NOT Halloween season, costumes were hard to come by–not sure why. My costume was prompted by the fact that my mom had a full spool of bright red yarn in her knitting bag, and my sister had a blue dress–no overalls to be found. I’m not sure who thought of the costume, I only know I was fine with it (at the time) cause I knew it would stir up trouble with my older brothers and my dad. I’ll show those manly men! I’ll dress up in drag! Talk about attention!!

I’ll never forget walking down the street with my mom, and all the odd looks that the neighbors gave me. But I had everyone’s attention. And it didn’t stop on the walk there. At the party, which was really just a handful of neighborhood kids I saw regularly, we played  in the basement and had some snacks. This was when kids’ parties were relegated to the basement for a few games, some soda and cake–No rented magician or travelling circus, no Bouncetown or Play Gym, no friggin’ goody bags to reward you for coming and having fun! It was basically a chance to play indoors, rather than outside for 12 hours. Anyway, the party was hitting a lull, and Mrs. O’Hara suggested we play charades. We all loved charades.

Maybe it was the dress, maybe it was because my attention-seeking radar was already in full gear, but when I got up there I did not play charades–I performed my debut stand-up routine. First, I gave a very authentic portrayal of my sister, age 8, having one of her tantrums. I screamed, I threw my red wig on the floor, and then I stomped on it, a lot. The crowd roared with laughter. Mrs. O’Hara said, “What else you got?” So I whipped out my impression of my dad getting mad, my mom calling everyone in for dinner a thousand times, my sister having another tantrum, the two little brats who usurped my role as youngest crying their lungs out, my parents yelling at my older brothers. I was in a manic frenzy of impersonations. I do not remember the party ending. I do not remember anything after my “performance”. I just know I went home exhausted.

The next day, my entire family attended the 10 o’clock mass (the mass to be seen at). It was boring, as usual. I couldn’t wait to get home and outside. Then it happened. In the parking lot, as we headed to our car, I heard Mrs. O’Hara’s voice. “Joanne, I just have to tell you…” “Tell me what, Pat?” “Your Michael was the hit of the party!” “Really?” said my mother, fixing her gaze on me. “Oh, yes! He had us in stitches.” “What about?” “Oh, you know, his brothers and sisters, all the craziness that goes on in these houses. He’s a character that one.” “He sure is,” I heard my mom say, although I had already skulked to the car and was hiding in the back seat amid the menagerie of arms and legs that belonged to my siblings, the very same people I abused in my comedy routine just a day prior.

When my mother finally came to the car, she got in very slowly. We drove home in relative silence, the entire three minute trip to our house from the church. When we pulled into the driveway, I made a run for the back door. “Michael!” “Yes, mom?” “Come here.” I came. “Yes?” “What exactly did you do at O’Hara’s?” “I was just messing around.” She looked at me suspiciously. I had to give her something. “I just acted out Erin throwing a tantrum.” She continued to stare at me in anger. I winced under her gaze–my mom never got mad at me–ever! In that exchange of looks, I felt like she could see in my eyes all of the other skits I performed. I knew she felt betrayed, outed by one of her own. “We don’t ever talk about our family like that to others. It’s our business. Do you understand?” “Yes.” “Don’t ever do that again!” “I won’t.”

Fast forward three years. Jamie O’Hara has just announced that he is not coming back to St. John of the Cross. The harsh discipline of our third grade nun is too much for him. I know one of them did throw a desk down the stairwell at a kid–maybe that’s what sent Jamie over the edge. And as a “good Catholic” I was incensed that he would give up, that he would go over to the Dark Side of public school. It wasn’t as if we were best friends. Truth is, we grew apart after his costume party. I think it was the combination of me dressing as Raggedy Ann, behaving like Andy Kaufman‘s understudy, and airing all my family’s bad behavior. Whenever I saw Jamie, I thought of his party, and I always associated his party with my getting in trouble.  Hence, I felt awkward around him. But that didn’t stop me from opening my big fat mouth once again. This time, he was the recipient of my bitter tongue.

We were walking to school. The survivors. The one’s who didn’t succumb to public school, but offered up the crazy behavior of “the religious” to all of the suffering souls in purgatory. There were about fifteen kids who would make the trek from our neighborhood–up one hill, and down another. We were talking about the scandal that had fallen on the third grade–the departure of Jamie. I said it without even thinking: “You know he’s going to Hell, don’t ya.” “MICHAEL!” gasped a few of the girls. “Well, he is! There’s no way God won’t punish him for this. Public School!?! They’re all probably going to Hell!” I was proud of myself. Taking a stand for my beliefs. Speaking the good word of the Lord. The rest of the walk was fairly silent, as everyone considered how quickly one’s fate, one’s salvation, could turn–on a dime!

It was a beautiful September night. The sun was beaming into the kitchen as we just finished dinner. I was hoping to get out for another hour of play. There was a knock on the screen door. Someone answered it. My mother and I still lingered at the table. Stupid me for not scarfing down my food like the rest. “Hi, Mrs. O’Hara!” said a brother or sister. My mom shot up from the table. Pat O’Hara was not one to just drop by. I tried to escape. I tried…”Hi, Joanne. Is Michael home?” Oh, shit, I thought (sorry, Jesus).

Mrs. O’Hara sat me down at the kitchen table with my mother. She proceeded to tell me that her son was NOT going to Hell. That God loves all of his children regardless of where they go to school. That we’re all trying to get to the same place, we just have different ways of getting there. She made her case like the loving mother she was. I nodded and kept my mouth shut. In my head, I was thinking how this MAY be true, but catholic school certainly gave me an upper hand in the matter. Mrs. O’Hara took pity on me and my remorseful face. My mom let me be excused from the table where they chatted for a few more minutes–awkward, to be sure.

When I heard the screen door slam, I waited in my room for the call. “MICHAEL, get down here!” There was my mom at the bottom of the steps. I knew that look, but I had only ever seen it once before.

age 5 2

The author, circa his Raggedy Ann Phase.