After a sleepless night, I forced myself out of bed around 8 AM. I knew I had a dentist appointment and if I went back to sleep, certainly I'd miss it. I dragged myself to the kitchen where I splurged and turned on the coffee. Recently, I've been weening myself off of coffee, but the headaches are unbearable. I read my emails, my jokes from friends and rushed through Facebook. Pouring my first cup of coffee, I settled into my easy chair and turned on the news. I fantisized about my 11 AM appointment, picturing myself prostrate in the dentist's chair, him almost on top of me, pushing his drill deep into my soul, to the very essence of where life begins.
I wondered why I had these torturous thoughts about dentists, when I remembered Dr, Libman, my first dentist. I was about 5 or 6 and Dr. Libman was a giant to me. I had problems with my baby teeth and Dr. Libman made a standing Saturday appointment at 9 AM. My job was to make sure the entire family slept late on Saturdays. I'd awaken around 7 and fake sleep, fully awake, but daring not to make even the slightest sound, waking up one of my brothers and ultimately my parents. My 2 brothers and myself shared the only bedroom, in this West side Chicago apartment, while my Mom and Dad slept on a Murphy (in-a-door) bed, in the living room. Things were tough back then. If my baby brother woke up, I'd tell him to go back to sleep, it's still the middle of the night and I just prayed that my older brother didn't rouse. Once I made it to 8:45, I was home free! With that feeling of relief, I'd watch my father go to our telephone, that was in the foyer and pick it up and wait for the operator to say, "Number please". He'd tell her the number he wanted called and soon my father was rescheduling with his college buddy, Dr. Libman. I knew at that point, I was saved for the weekend, only to go through it all over again the following week.
We learn a lot of our behavior from our siblings. My older brother was the biggest woos on the planet. He was 3 years my senior, but cried like a little girl whenever he had to do anything involving a doctor and his ear piercing screams involved the words, "He's gonna give me a shot". To this day, I can see the terror in his eyes as he cried that famous sentence. Once my brother got a wart on his finger. I knew it meant a visit to the doctor. The first week, we went to Dr. Zakon and he applied something to kill the wart and some of the skin around it. Brother Larry wore a band aid and favored that entire hand, all week. On the dreaded following Saturday, we found ourselves riding the Madison Avenue bus to Dr. Zakons office and were eventually escorted to a room. Dr. Zakon came in and took the bandage off and said it seems fine. He then took out a single edged razor blade and proceeded to slice it off. Although the skin was dead and no blood was involve, my brother took one look at what Dr. Zakon had done and fainted straight away! I made a mental note never to tell anyone if I ever got a wart!
Precisely that happened to the skin between my thumb and index finger on my right hand. That was the year I kept my right hand in a fist all of the time. Eventually, I picked at it so much that it disappeared but only after pulling the center out, while watching a movie, one Saturday afternoon. If you get the root, they disappear. Once I got a gum boil. As I learned, it's a result of an obsessed tooth. That was the year I didn't smile. Eventually, my gum boil was discovered and I was promptly sent to the dreaded Dr. Libman and there you have the reason for me being terrified of dentists.
At exactly 9 AM, my phone rang and it was my new buddy, Lloyd the dentist. He said Mel, can we switch your appointment to tomorrow at 11 AM, I'm still involved in a personal move and we're not finished. I screamed an embarrassing "PERFECT" into the phone and feel like I just got Mom and Dad to sleep through another appointment!