A thousand years ago*, in the month of June, Mom came up for my bridal shower. The night she arrived, we sat on my bed with take-out sushi and wine.
Afterward, we opened our fortune cookies. Hers said something vaguely apropos and thoroughly unremarkable. This is what we expect of fortune cookies, if we expect anything.
My fortune read, Wow! A secret message from your teeth!
We laughed. “These aren’t necessarily written by people who speak perfect English,” Mom remarked. But I held onto the tiny slip of paper, just in case. It resurfaced from the paper apocalypse of my desk two weeks later, the day after a cleaning at my dentist’s office.
The hygienist began my appointment with a walk downstairs to the 360-degree X-ray machine. “When you first came you needed more urgent attention, so we skipped this, but we typically take one of these every five years.”
I gripped the handles like a kid in a bumper car as the space-age paddles rotated around my head. So much more fun than root canals and crowns.
I met my dentist’s wife at yoga class in the spring of 2008. I overheard her chatting with Willa about the way our bite affects skeletal alignment. I was self-employed, up to my ears in credit card debt, and my first marriage was on its deathbed. Also, I was enduring dubious dental treatment at a university teaching clinic. Between 2004 and 2008 I didn’t have dental insurance, and I figured flossing daily would replace regular check-ups. No dice.
Dr. Corbett’s first task was to repair a botched root canal on a posterior molar. He waited until August for my new dental insurance to kick in, then fitted the molar with a permanent crown. Next came the painstaking process of perfecting a crown for a discolored front tooth that had undergone a root canal in high school. (You’d think a person who needed a root canal in high school would keep up with her cleanings, right?) Next came several replacements for fillings I’d had since childhood. (Yup, since childhood. Again, shouldn’t I have known better than to go Lone Ranger with my chompers?) Most recently, Dr. Corbett executed a scaling procedure to relieve a section of gum that bled when I flossed.
Let’s just say that I’ve made a lot of friends at North Shore Smiles over the past five years.
After the 360-degree X-ray, the hygienist and I settled into her office, chatting about her kids and my wedding while she gently scraped and prodded. “Your gums are doing great,” she said. “No more bleeding!”
Dr. Corbett stopped in for a peek. I was ready for the usual: his discerning eye scrolling over the computer screen, his gloved fingers patrolling my gum line, his prognosis for a questionable spot or two.
“Everything looks good,” he said. “We’ll see you in six months.”
So that was it. I scheduled the next cleaning, warning that I might have to cancel it since David and I might move. I said thank you.
The next day I found the forgotten fortune.
The school year was winding down like no year had before: a sideswiped jetliner blazing toward the ground. My wedding was two weeks away. David hadn’t received the job offer in Kansas yet. We didn’t know we’d be driving across the country to a whole new life five weeks later. I was just trying to tidy a messy desk.
But there it was: the secret message the cookie had foretold.
Everything’s going to be okay. Better than okay. You’ve learned what you needed to learn here. You’ve always been happy to do your work, but over the past five years you’ve learned what it means to receive help. From a wise dentist. From friends. From family. From God. And you know what? Things are looking good from all 360 degrees.
A secret message from my teeth. Wow.
*Please note the hyperbole in “A thousand years ago.” A lot has happened in the past two months. I’ve got many blogs in me aching to be written, so I hope you’ll stay tuned. If you’re interested in subscribing, the sign-up below doesn’t work (someday I’ll figure out how to fix it!), but the one at the top of the page does.