Monday, March 14, 2011

WE'LL BE EITHER DEAD OR TOOTHLESS

Two pieces of news we received last month have convinced my husband we soon will be six feet under and toothless.

It all started when I went to the dentist to have a filling replaced. After the torture was over, I breezed by the front desk and said, as usual, “Send me the bill! See you later!”

“No more billing,” the employee said, stopping me dead in my tracks. “The policy has changed. Payment is due at the time of the visit.”

I just stood there with my mouth hanging open. For the past umpteen years, I had been making time payments for my thousands of dollars’ worth of dental work. In fact, I’d paid so many thousands, I figured I had to be a co-owner of the place by now.

The filling was $197. I paid it…and then ate peanut-butter sandwiches for a week because I’d had to use my grocery money.

“What happens if I lose a crown?” I complained to my husband. “Twice, I’ve lost a crown right on a front tooth and rushed to have it replaced before anyone could see how hideous I looked. Now, I’ll have to wait to save up over a thousand dollars before I can have it replaced? I’ll be too embarrassed to be seen in public until then. I’d have to go into hiding!”

“Well, you’ll just have to be really careful, that’s all,” he said. “No more caramels or jelly beans. Or maybe we should just look for another dentist who accepts payments.”

“Or just buy a bag to wear over my head,” I muttered.

About a week later, my husband was opening his mail when he suddenly read something that made his face turn about three shades whiter. I had no idea what could cause such a reaction. A pending audit by the IRS? His favorite burger joint going out of business? I was almost afraid to ask.

Before I could, he answered the question for me. “Our doctor is leaving his practice! He’ll be gone in April!”

I have to admit I was shocked. The reason why we’d found a younger doctor in the first place was so he’d outlive us. Granted, this guy probably would outlive us, but somewhere else.

I grabbed the letter and read the doctor’s statement, “At this time, I am not certain where my next chapter will bring me, but likely it will not be in this area.”

“Does ‘not in this area’ mean the area of medicine or this area of the state?” I asked my husband. He was obviously too distraught to hear me.

“He can’t do this to me!” he was whining. “He knows everything about me – my likes, my dislikes, my allergies, my medications, my problems! It took me 30 years to train him exactly the way I want him!”

“I’m sure the next doctor will thoroughly read your chart and do what’s best for you, too,” I said.

“Or he’ll probably be fresh out of college and have all sorts of wild, new ideas and use me as a guinea pig! He’ll get rid of all of my medications and then test new drugs on me that haven’t even been approved by the FDA yet! There could be bad side effects like I’ll break out in bumps or lose my hair…or worse!”

“As long you don’t lose your teeth,” I joked. “We can’t afford to pay for any new ones.”

Ignoring me, he suddenly gasped, “What if his replacement turns out to be a…woman! I’m not about to strip down and show off my flab to a woman!”

“Well, I wouldn’t mind having a woman doctor for a change,” I said. “As my dad always used to say, it’s better to have a doctor who has dainty hands than one who has fingers the size of kielbasas!”

The good thing about our family doctor was he did everything himself. When my husband had a heart attack, he handled it. When my husband got diabetes, he handled it. When my husband had stroke, he handled it. No cardiologist. No endocrinologist. No neurologist. No specialists. He took care of everything.

“I’ll probably end up with five or six different doctors now,” my husband said. “One for every ailment. I’ll spend all my time going from one doctor to the other.”

I found myself thinking that at least he’d be getting out of the house for a change. Since he retired, he’s done nothing but eat and sleep.

My husband has been inconsolable ever since receiving that letter. His blood pressure probably has shot up about 20 points, he’s so stressed out. And his stress is causing me some stress. Unfortunately, when I’m stressed, I grind my teeth in my sleep.

I have the feeling I’ll be needing that bag to put over my head any day now.

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