Saturday, June 11, 2011

I REMEMBER: Dentists, Lincoln Logs & No Play-Dates on School Nights

This isn’t the cheeriest of remembrances, but definitely one I am unable to forget and it is why I hate to go to the dentist.

It is 1954 and I am seven years old.  We are living in McAllester, Oklahoma and I am in first or second grade.  I didn’t have a fondness for going to the dentist like any other kid, but I liked candy, so I got to take the dental trip more often that I would have liked.
 As it turned out, a good friend of mine in school was also the son of our family dentist. My friend Raymond had just gotten some new toys for his birthday, including Lincoln Logs , which was the best toy a kid could ask for in 1954 Oklahoma (with the exception of Lone Ranger Guns, mask and bandana.).  His dad made a lot of money, so my friend got the first, biggest and best stuff when it came out and this wasn’t just a starter box, it was a deluxe Stage Coach Stop Kit with cowboys and horses to boot.

He invited me over to spend the night, so we could play with the new toys.  It was, however, a mid-week night and was also a school night.  His mom offered to bring me to school with Raymond the next morning, if I brought a change of clothes.  It seemed like a super deal to me, but my Mom wouldn’t hear of it, as it was a school night. Mom was a school teacher and had a hard and inflexible rule about playing during the week. She wanted us to concentrate on homework, be rested and have our smarts on for school the next day. Play dates were exclusively for the weekends and there was no changing her mind.  So, the moms made a plan for the following Saturday.

The next day at school, my friend Raymond was not in school.  There was a lot of hushed whispering amongst the teachers, but when I asked if Raymond was out sick, my teacher just told me I should talk to my mom after school.

It turned out that Raymond’s Dad, our family dentist, had snapped the night I was supposed to stay over, killed the entire family with injections of poison, burned the house to the ground and committed suicide.

Dentists' odds of suicide "are 6.64 times greater than the rest of the working age population," writes researcher Steven Stack. "Dentists suffer from relatively low status within the medical profession and 
have strained relationships with their clients—as few people enjoy going to the dentist."

That was almost 60 years ago and although I can’t tell you what I did last week, I still remember that time I was invited to be in Raymond’s house that night and my fear of dentists giving you an injection.  For a very long time after, you needed three men and a mule to get me to the dentist or get a shot of any kind.  With all the dental work, injections and blood work I have had in the past few years, I am managing much more calmly and mostly appear to be an adult about the whole process on the outside. The three men and the mule are on standby, however, in case of a relapse.

So, this week, I remembered that I have a root canal/crown replacement appointment at 9:01am this coming Monday.  One and a half hours in my least favorite spot in the universe.  I’m good.  Just saying, it is interesting how the little memory pop-ups from our past still come many years down the road.

Note: Reruns of The Lone Ranger starring Clayton Moore were still being transmitted as of August 2010, sixty-one years after their initial broadcast.

Oh, and for my kids, that is probably the main reason you never, ever got a sleepover on a school night.