Equal Opportunity Tooth Fairy

Why can’t the Tooth Fairy come for seniors? Why does she just come for kids? Older people lose teeth too.

The other day I got to wondering, is it really true she won’t come for us golden-agers? Maybe she would, if we put our fallen teeth under our pillows like we used to. But I know she wouldn’t come. And I know why. It’s because I AM the Tooth Fairy. Or I was, when my daughter was small.

Thirty years ago, when Michele was five and I was forty, she lost a tooth and when I tucked her in bed that night she told me she didn’t believe in the Tooth Fairy anymore. She said it was just another grownup lie.

But I snuck extra change under her pillow that night, three times the usual amount. In the morning she came tearing like wild horses into my bedroom screaming, “Mommy! Mommy! Look what the Tooth Fairy brought!!” I’d sure like to have faith like that again. The faith of a child. I’ve become cynical, not just about the Tooth Fairy but about everything from chances for world peace to the odds that the 49ers will ever win the Super Bowl again.

Millions of us seniors were reliable, generous Tooth Fairies when our kids were small and I wish our children would give back and be our Tooth Fairies. But I don’t think my daughter would go for that. She doesn’t have kids so she’s not on Tooth Fairy duty already, but she has a very busy life.

My husband, Frank, could do it. I’ve had three teeth pulled since I turned 60 and I’ve kept them all. I’m going to put them under my pillow one at a time and drop him very obvious hints about it. 

I take cash, credit and Amazon gift cards. 

 

Doctor With a Heart

 


When my daughter was ten, doctors discovered a growth behind her middle ear. The intricate operation to remove it called for a surgeon with exceptional compassion as well as consummate skill.

There wasn’t much time to lose. The growth was a cholesteatoma, which often starts from a cyst that sheds old skin. The skin builds up, and can grow and destroy surrounding delicate middle-ear bones and cause other serious problems.  

Dr. Alan Nissen, a widely respected ear surgeon, was to perform Michele’s operation.  In one of several conversations we had about the procedure, he told me that a known risk of the operation is severance of the facial nerve that controls the mouth muscles. The nerve was very close to where surgeons would be cutting. When the facial nerve is cut speech becomes hard to understand, and the face is disfigured because one side of the mouth is noticeably pulled down. The risk was small, Dr. Nissen said, but he was duty-bound to inform me of all downside potential.

A few days before the surgery Dr. Nissen and I had a final conversation. I brought up facial nerve severance, which weighed heavy on my mind. I’d been pushing for an extra surgeon on the team to do one thing during the operation: observe the nearness of the cutting to the nerve and alert the team when they were getting perilously close. Dr. Nissen had told me this observing doctor was the most sure-proof way to prevent nerve severance.  

“To surgeons the risk may be small,” I said. “But for Michele it’s huge. It’s one more thing on top of the other facial differences she has. She’s dealt with a lot of challenges in her young life. Her courage amazes me. But why add another challenge that is so avoidable?”

Among Michele’s other issues were her very small ears. She was also hearing impaired and wore hearing aids. She had a deviated septum—a crooked nose that twisted to the left side. That could be corrected but not until she was older. If the facial nerve was severed, she would likely be unable to form facial expressions on the left side of her face and her speech would be slurred.

As the late-afternoon sun filtered into his office that day, Dr. Nissen gave me the bad news. An observing surgeon would not be added to the team, because the group had determined that risk in Michele’s case was no more than average. He looked at me somberly. “I know where you’re coming from—a lot of love for Michele,” he told me. “But we’ve weighed all the factors and this is the soundest decision when everything is considered.”

“Maybe the risk is statistically small,” I said, “but the effects on Michele are so very large.” He looked genuinely sorry. I knew that in addition to being an extraordinary surgeon, he was a compassionate man.

 “I wish I could say something that would change your mind,” I told him when I left, but I knew at that point there was no changing things and nothing more I could say. The surgery was just three days away.

Disappointed and sad, I walked to my car. I knew the growth had to be removed. I would pray that Michele’s facial nerve would not be touched. That was all I could do. Driving home I told myself the odds of severing the nerve were low. I told myself there were therapy programs to rebuild strength in damaged facial muscles. I told myself God had already brought Michele safely and successfully through four surgeries for other problems. I told myself all that and more…and I worried.

I was exhausted emotionally and physically when I got home to our cozy little apartment. Michele was at a friend’s house. We lived just a few blocks from her “mainstream” school, where she had just transferred from her special education class for hearing-impaired kids that was two towns away, an hour bus ride. It was an exciting change, especially when we walked around the neighborhood and she saw and played with kids she knew from her new school.

I went into the kitchen to start dinner and was peeling potatoes when I noticed from the corner of my eye that the answering machine was blinking. I punched the button to run the message.  And there was Dr. Nissen’s voice. “I wanted you to know right away that my colleagues and I talked this afternoon and we’ve decided to add an observer to the team. We will see you both in a few days. Don’t worry, everything is going to be fine.”

He had called while I was on my way home. It was one of the most beautiful phone messages I’ve ever received. I’ll never forget that day, and I’ll never forget Dr. Nissen and his compassion and skill. 

A huge and heavy burden had been lifted from my shoulders. I felt suddenly light and free as I got back to fixing dinner. I have never peeled potatoes with such joy and gusto as I did that day.

The operation was four hours long and successful in all ways. It’s been 26 years and Michele’s cholesteatoma has never come back, as they sometimes do.

 

Truth in Blogging, a hot issue

Relax.


I worked as a newspaper reporter some years ago, and I always told the truth. It wasn’t until I started blogging that I had to start lying. I had no choice. Honest.

At heart I’m a very truthful person. As a reporter I was committed wholeheartedly to Truth in Journalism. I support Truth in Advertising. But I haven’t been able to keep it honest when it comes to Truth in Blogging. 

It’s not my fault. I run into dilemmas. The problem is I’m writing blog posts about myself and my family and friends, and people who know us are reading them, and I have to be careful. I literally have to walk on eggs. Embattled Female Drivers (posted Feb. 18) is a perfect example. I identified my protagonist as a former boyfriend named Bob. In my post “Bob” freaked out in the car and bullied and climbed the seats and shouted and panicked at everything that the female driver, who was me, did.

The truth is that “Bob” is really my husband, Frank. When I wrote it I was afraid Frank would get angry if someone who knew us told him he was featured in an unflattering light in my blog. That’s the only way he’d find out because he never reads my blog. The post got a lot of laughs at “Bob’s” expense and Frank might not have found it funny if I’d used his name.

I tell the truth now because no one is interested in anything about the post anymore. It’s in the past. But while I was writing it I became concerned about upsetting him, especially when I remembered that Phyllis Diller’s ex-husband Sherwood, who she called Fang, sued her for $250,000 for denigration. Of course Frank would never sue me. Not in a million-zillion years. But why take the chance?

This is just one of many examples of the fine line I have to walk as a blogger, even more so with humor involved. The post, though, was very funny. See for yourself. You can click on my blog archives and read it. Just don’t tell Bob about it. I mean Frank. I’m calling Frank “Bob” all the time now. Frank’s beginning to suspect I’m having an affair. What a silly idea. I don’t have time, I’m too busy blogging.

Photos should be truthful too. The photo of me on the About page of my blog is pretty recent, taken a mere five years ago. That’s not so old. I worked for a public relations firm once and the photo the CEO put in newsletters and press releases was 20 years out of date. He was barely recognizable. Shame on him! All of us in the publications department felt dishonest every time we sent one out. But I basically look the same today as I do in my blog photo, taken ten years ago. I mean five years ago (oops). I’m a little chubbier is all. I’ve put on some weight in the last ten years, I mean five years. Also, since I started blogging my nose has grown a little longer.


Scripture: Thou shall not lie, unless you must to prevent troubles that could arise from your blog post. ~Exodus 20.2-17 (9th Commandment)

Chocolate: Happiness is an unexpected piece of chocolate. ~Anonymous

 

Home Invasion

Relax.


A massive prehistoric beast lives with us. It rumbles threateningly when it’s awakened, it shakes the earth when it moves, it gobbles up space, it’s always hungry. It’s my archrival. 

The beast is my husband’s beloved muscle car, his 1970 Chevrolet Camaro. It’s a polluter, with no catalytic converter, and a gas guzzler. It gets a mere 15 miles to the gallon. Maybe 10. Yet the old space hog gets to occupy the garage while my sensitive compact lives outside in the driveway because there’s not enough room for it. On cold winter mornings I bundle up and go outside and, teeth chattering, scrape ice off the windows of my two-year-old Corolla. I run the defogger to clear the windows before I can get on the road. All the while Frank’s beast snuggles comfy-cozy in the garage.        

When we married I moved into Frank’s house and from the beginning the Camaro was like a roommate. A roommate I’m jealous of. It gets so much attention. Even though it’s an environmental nightmare Frank loves it. It’s the closest thing to a child he’s ever had. He’s the original owner and lived with it for more 20 years before he met me. He’s always working on it. Changing the oil, or tuning it up, or fixing a leak of some sort, or adjusting something or other.  

It was never like that when we were dating. I came first. I wasn’t crazy about the car because it didn’t have air conditioning or a CD player, or anything modern. But I wasn’t jealous of it. We would just use my little Sentra with its air conditioning, electric windows, CD player, etc.   

I wish Frank had a teensie car like this, instead of his massive 1970 Camaro that devours the garage.

I was almost rid of the Camaro once. Frank called one morning from the side of the freeway where the Camaro had broken down. He thought the block was cracked. I don’t know much about cars but I was pretty sure a cracked block is fatal.

I told him I was sorry, trying to hide the insincerity in my voice. I drove over to him, singing along to John Denver’s Rocky Mountain High. I actually felt high. I was making plans for life after death of the Camaro. Frank would take my Sentra and I would buy the new Toyota I’d been wanting. Sweet. Lots of head room. Five-speed automatic shift, sunroof, 10-disk CD player. My fantasy ended when I saw Frank and his damaged chariot. I pulled over, turned off John Denver and tried to look sad.

The Camaro wasn’t drivable so we called a tow truck. It came and loaded up the car and drove away. On our way home Frank said glumly he didn’t think they made new engines for his model anymore.

“I’m so sorry,” I lied. When we got home I started dinner and Frank called his car guy. They talked a long time. After Frank hung up he was beaming.

“They do make new engines for my model,” he enthused. “And it won’t cost nearly as much as I thought.”

Then and there, I decided to take my stand. I took a deep breath.

“If you’re going to keep that old dinosaur, I want a divorce,” I said. “I’ve had it. It’s me or that car.”

KIDDING. I didn’t really say that. I thought it, but what I said was, “Gee, that’s great honey. I’m happy for you.” The truth is I was afraid to find out which of us he would choose.

Frank and I and the Camaro are still together. I still park in the driveway. Frank’s Camaro still hulks in the garage, like always except now it’s got a brand new engine. It’s good for another 50 years. It will outlast me. It’s not fair. When I break down, I won’t get a new engine. The most I’ll get is a new knee or a new hip or two in the coming years, maybe a pacemaker. Minor parts. But on the bright side, the Camaro’s longevity reminds me of my own mortality. It helps me to savor every moment that I have now.

My struggle with the Camaro has taught me that I can only change myself. I can’t make the Camaro go away. I can’t make Frank less attached to it. With acceptance comes peace. It’s good for me, after all, to get outside on those freezing winter mornings and scrape ice off windshields. It’s invigorating, and I can practice gratitude, being thankful I’m not back East shoveling snow. I see the positive side. I’ve stopped calling the car my husband loves a gas-guzzling, space-hogging, polluting, noisy, prehistoric old heap. Now I see an iconic American classic, majestic symbol of a bygone golden age of Detroit and American car makers. I’ve learned nonresistance. That wretched old road hog—oops, I mean that national treasure—is my teacher.


The Power of Faith: WWJD – What Would Jesus Drive? A fuel-efficient, environmentally friendly car like a Honda Accord. “For I did not speak of my own Accord….” ~John 12:49

The Power of Chocolate: I love cars. Especially milk chocolate cars, wrapped in Italian foil. ~Pat Torello

 

Life knows what it’s doing.

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Relax.


It was 1981. I was 35 weeks pregnant, at home enjoying a fun episode of The Love Boat. Suddenly I felt powerful contractions, while the ship’s bartender was belting out a song trying to court a talent scout. My enjoyment turned to foreboding. I had an undeniable feeling in my gut that the baby was coming, very soon. But it wasn’t time.  

I had never even considered the possibility of not going full-term to 40 weeks. Everything until then had been going along so smoothly. I was frightened. Even though 35 weeks is not extremely early, I had a sense of foreboding. In fact, by the time we got to the hospital and they were pushing me down the maternity ward corridor in a wheelchair I was crying. “Something’s wrong,” I sobbed, “Something’s wrong. It’s not time!”

Michele, our beautiful baby girl, was born that night with “multiple congenital anomalies.” They included her smallness—she weighed just over three pounds, very small for a 35-week baby; a bent nose, twisting to the left; and tiny ears. Some other anomalies and issues such as hearing impairment would be addressed as time went on. A team of doctors came and put her onto a gurney loaded with monitors and wires and rushed her to intensive care. The team leader came to my room later and, in a voice filled with compassion, told me and Michele’s father they weren’t sure she would live through the night. We were frightened, hoping desperately that she would. We already loved her deeply.  

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If Michele had been born at the “right” time, things might have been tragic.

I didn’t see Michele until more than 24 hours after she was born, because specialists were in and out of her IC room all that time, filing in and out, examining her intently.

It turned out I was mistaken to be upset about the earliness of Michele’s birth. I’m convinced she had reached an instinctual decision in my womb to come out early. And that was exactly the right thing. It turned out that she had cranial synostosis: her skull plates had fused prematurely in my womb. They’re supposed to be detached from each other for a few years after birth, to allow the brain and features to expand as the baby grows. The neurosurgeon told us later that if she hadn’t had corrective surgery by the time she was 38 in-womb weeks (two weeks “early”) there would almost certainly have been severe brain damage. Being born at 35 weeks gave her three weeks of beneficial out-of-womb nutrition and growth before the surgery. If she had been born at the “right” time, at 40 weeks by conventional medical wisdom, she would have been brain-damaged.

So, right from the get-go, Michele was wiser than I was. She knew things I didn’t. I shouldn’t have been afraid about her birth being early, I should have been reassured. I shouldn’t have been crying in my wheelchair about something being wrong, I should have been cheering—yelling “You go girl!”

Michele’s time of arrival in the world was miraculously right. Since then she’s had her share of challenges, undergoing many surgeries since that first one in early infancy until she was 20. Much has been corrected, aesthetically and otherwise. Today she’s married, a college graduate, a lover of life, independent, intelligent, compassionate, creative, energetic, beautiful…and, I might add, punctual. She’s never late.  I could go on singing her praises but I’ll stop here.

I’ve come to realize it’s silly to worry about her, because she knows what she wants and she knows what to do to get it. Just like she knew, nestled in my womb, exactly when to be born so she could have her surgery on time. 


rose-1403530_640The power of faith: As you do not understand the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the maker of all things. ~Ecclesiastes 11:5

 

chocolate-183543_640The power of chocolate: If God gives you chocolate, you open your mouth, no? ~Alejandro Jodorowski