The Canadian years, 55 the dentist

Door San-Daniel gepubliceerd op Monday 12 January 19:16


The tooth

My sister saw me at the first sip of tea in the morning as I fought back a pain in my tooth. ‘You have a toothache’, she said, ‘I will ask Dad today to make an appointment for you. Come home  immediately after school,’ she continued, ‘you have to do something before it gets worse.’ I nodded meekly, my sister was always right. ‘You should always solve your problems, otherwise they grow above your head.’ Again, I nodded in agreement. It was early in the morning and whatever she said were truths that could not be denied. ‘I mean to say,’ she said, you need to solve problems, before they sort you out.’  ‘I have no problems,’ I said. ‘Well, I recently ended up in situations at home, without looking for them.’ ‘We all have that at times,’ said my sister. ‘ Talking to father Ohler was an unfortunate choice, that man became pastor because he is unable to do something else in his life’. She was so awfully pragmatic and that so early in the morning. ‘I also find him a mediocere pastor.’ ‘I agree ,’I answered. ‘He has no radiance,’ she added, ‘he is a beaten dog, without ever having been beaten, if you know what I mean. Life has not made him this way through all kinds of experiences.’ ‘Well, I said, ‘he  probably meant well and he is old and probably thought that my problem was  a generation gap between Dad and me.’ ‘No,’ my sister said resolutely, ‘he does not think and he did not mean well and he is old but that is how he was born as an old jaded man. He had only one intention and that was passing on the problem.

I let that sink in a moment. Those were quite a few claims. I could not blame her. ‘Look,’ said my sister,’I have my own problem with your father, a very unpleasant problem. When I go to the police, they will, given my age, take me serious. But it will be an annoying way to go. I will need to face him at the police station and be open.’ I listened intently. ‘Your father will deny everything. He is an important man in his work and respected at the university for his merits. That same priest Ohler will show up and testify that he knows your father as a good Christian and a good father who takes his children to the church to always show them the path of the righteous.’ ‘I,’ she said, will go through a boring mill of red tape, and I work but as a nurse in a German Lutheran retirement home. It will be my word against his, and I know what the outcome will be. You know it too, if you think about it. She was right. ‘If perchance I would get my right, which seems unlikely,’ my sister went on,’ he could lose his job or end up in jail, that would be the death blow for Mom.’


She was just right in everything this morning, it was all watertight. ‘Social control’, I suddenly said. ‘What do you mean, social control,’ she asked? ‘I suggest,’ I said, ‘that I discuss this with my brother and that we then discuss this with dad, that would give him some embarrassment and will keep him from approaching you again.’ ‘You are responsible for your own actions,’ said my sister, I can not tell you what you can or can not do.’ My decision was made. I drank away the lukewarm tea and put my coat on. ‘You know,’ my sister said, ‘I went to  a German and  Canadian evening of the home and met a cute boy.  ‘Nice,’I said. ‘I'm going to marry him,’ she announced. ‘He escaped from East Germany and has no family here. He needs support and I have that for him.’ Her eyes sparkled.’ How long have you known him,’ I asked, as I glanced at the clock because I still had a lot to hobble before I was at school.

‘He complies’, she said, ‘I wil have three children and then I'll see how our life goes.’ I didn’t realize it at the time because no such word existed, but now I would have called her heavily emancipated. She sought protection and an escape and had dotted her life out, right up to the number of children. ‘How long, have you known him,’ I insisted again?’ I met him the day before yesterday ,’said my sister. ‘Hans is very common and strong.’ ‘So,’ I thought, my brother goes out with Karen and my sister has plucked a Hans from the audience. I got the picture. She had just smiled at him and the poor, lonely, East German refugee, had come to her, stumbling over chairs, knocking oldies over, half blinded by her beauty, he had fought his way towards her.

‘I have to go now,’ I said, and so it was, I had  brisk hobble awaiting me. ‘I'm very happy for you,’ I said, ‘until tonight,’ and I stumble stepped out the back door. I had to limp on to make up for lost time. I let all that had happend pass, while limping to school at ful speed.  My brother would probably move to Edmonton. My sister would marry her Hans, within the shortest possible time and I would stay in a totally new situation without backup of them in the family.

‘Hey, there we have my favorite limpy limpy man.’ Almost unnoticed I had arrived at the school. Beverly came to me and gave me an exaggerated kiss. I rather liked that. ‘Oh oh’, I heard, Don and Richard who came walking into view. ‘Behold and tremble,’ Richard said with outstretched finger pointing at me,’ our bird dog is active again, he does like kissey kissey.’’ My men,’ Beverly called out and she walked up to them and gave them a resounding smacking kiss. I’ll be, if those are not the brothers bird dog and I pointed accusingly at them. ‘Our Holy Virgin,’ Don shouted and I realized that he was the only one who was crazy and just always said the wrong things .. A couple of guys looked at us with envy. ‘We are the boys’, said Beverly and we all had a great laugh and I laughed with my friends and felt the atmosphere change for the better. I knew it, when I finished school I was going to live in a commune with my friends.

After schooltime my father stood outside waiting with the fastback. ‘Better get in quickly,’ he said, ‘ you have an appointment in 20 minutes.’ I didn’t  follow him for a moment and then the coin dropped, he had made an appointment at the dentist. My father looked relaxed. It struck me that he was cleanly-shaven and smelt of aftershave. He had a modern suit on and I realized it was Monday, the day that Betsy would come into our lives. ‘I have very little time because I do not want to be home late’, my father said,’ and I want to give you proper attention’, the word attention he gave emphasis and he raced to the mall where the dental practice was. The waiting room was empty and it was not long before I was in the chair. The pretty assistant came to fetch me from behind a desk on which a jar was standing with the words ‘for the Wildlife Fund. Give freely but generously.’ She clicked a drool bib around my neck and gave me an enchanting smile, with a row of  brilliant white teeth bared. ‘She gets discount,’ I thought, because she works here. 'She is probably humped silly,’I heard Don, our future psychologist say in my imagination.


‘Yep, I can see what is troubling you,’ said the dentist, ‘a cavity that needs filling.’ ‘Drill’ he said, and he held his hand out to the assistant. ‘Wait a second,’ my father said. ‘What does a filling cost?’ ‘Ten dollars’, said the dentist. ‘and extracting,’ my father wanted to know. ‘Also, $ 10,’ said the dentist with a strange look. ‘Extraction without anesthesia,’ my father said, ‘what would that cost?’ ‘Yeah,’ the dentist said, ‘that actually never happens.’ ‘Today, it will however,’ my father said. That must be less than $ 10, I suppose.’ Cold sweat broke on my forehead and my hands dug themselves into the chair. They had gone clammy.

‘Previously, there was never anesthetic and pulling a tooth only took a moment.’ Father was lecturing me. He could not be serious!!. ‘Would you not rather have it filled,’ asked the dentist in surprise?’ ‘He still has all his teeth’, said my father, one more or less, won’t matter.’ Sweat beaded on my head now. ‘It is not a front tooth anyway, it will not mar him. Besides it will take some time before an anesthetic works and I really have no time for it, because I have a pressing obligation.’ ‘Academic world, hey,’ said the dentist. ‘Besides, I am against anesthesia if not strictly necessary, it takes a while for the effects disappear from the human body’. My father looked  around himself.’ I want the best for my son, I focus on that.’ ‘You know what’, he suggested, ‘I just pay $ 10, you  do not sedate him and put the balance in the jar of the Wildlife Fund.’ This was to be a stress game, he would intervene at the last moment and let my tooth  be filled. ‘Thank you,’ said the assistant, those animals need all the help they can get.’

‘Tough boy,’said the dentist, ‘ I respect that’. ‘My son is tough,’ my father proudly reported.’ In my house are only tough men.’ It was about me and they talked and  decided about me as if I was not there. ‘Open wide please,’, said the dentist and before I knew it there was a clamp between my jaws. Some rotten bear from Wildlife Fund would reap the balance of my anesthetic injection. This could not be true. Now my father would intervene and say that it was all a joke. But he did not, I saw out of the corner of my eye his friendly smile, he gave a thumbs up,’ keep your cool,’ he laughed. At that moment I wished that all the teeth of pastor Ohler would rot out of his mouth. This could not, could not be taking place, my brains repeated in disbelief. Then suddenly there came a calm over me, I realized everything is finite, tomorrow I'd be back at school. I would not give anyone the pleasure of watching me whine. I would not beg with the clip in my mouth for a shot. My father would intervene and I would get a filling.


The dentist kept his pliers firmly around the tooth and pushed against it, this was not a joke anymore. I felt pain, my nerve protested. ‘That is really secured,’ said the dentist, ‘yes it is a healthy one, then you get that.’ Now he pulled and he pushed alternately. I really felt a terrible pain. I heard a crack in my jaw. ‘If only the root does not break,’ said the panting dentist. ‘Then I must cut it out. That was not a pleasant thought. He pushed as far in as he could and pulled with both hands on the pliers and a white tooth came out. The assistant, came with a glass of water, ‘you want to rinse big boy? ‘Big boy wanted to rinse. Then I got a coiled compress pushed in my mouth. ‘Were the rest of the teeth okay,’ my father wanted to know. ‘We are here now anyway.’ ‘No they all looked fine,’ replied the dentist. ‘ I love efficiency,’ said my father,’ because of course you can treat them preventatively.’ The sweat broke out again. My father took revenge, but in his own intelligent way. Friendly, with a smile and with proper attention, he messed people about without them being able to demonstrate it. ‘That would have to be another appointment,’ said the assistant and gave me a warm smile, ‘so big boy you've earned two dollars for the bears’. I smiled wryly back, all the Panda bears could drop dead as far as I was concerned.

‘Say thank you, to the good people,’ my father said,’and come with me because I'm in a hurry.’ I felt the wound, beating in rhythm with my heartbeat. On the garden path I took the cottonwool out of my mouth and in passing I threw it in the bin. My father walked through the back door and let it crash into me. The dog sprinted away, father was home. He went straight to the salon. My sister who was chopping something on the cutting board,  turned around. ‘She is inside,’ she began, but she shut her mouth and then asked; ‘What happened to you, you look so pale?’ ‘My tooth was pulled,’ I said, ‘without anesthesia.’’ You had just a cavity,’ she said surprised.’ He,’ I said irreverent and with my thumb I pointed over my back to the salon, had  my tooth taken out  without anesthesia, because he pays extra attention to me.’ She picked up the cleaver and then with a lot of self-control she placed it back on the cutting board. ‘The dirty dog,’ she said, and I knew my father's fate was sealed.

‘Oh, what a beautiful place you live in,’ a young girls voice cooed. ‘I hope my house will bid you welcome,’ my father said solemnly. I glanced through the doorway  and saw a flash of the owner of the voice. It was a pretty young woman with a perfect figure, but God almighty, she was as old as our Beverly.

San Daniel 2015

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