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Grief Gets Stuck In Your Teeth
updated: Jun 30, 2012, 10:15 AM
By Nicole Buchanan Freire
I wore braces (and expanders, rubber bands, retainers) for almost 10 years as a kid. I had terrible teeth.
But, thanks to a bevy of orthodontists and oral surgeons my teeth finally straightened out into an okay
smile. I'm pretty obsessive about my teeth; I brush and floss at least 3 to 4 times a day. I know my teeth
very well. My tongue knows this inner landscape by heart as it constantly sweeps back and forth across
the backs of my teeth.
Maybe it was turning 43. Maybe it's because of the root canal I had in the fall. Or the grinding of my jaw
when I'm stressed. I don't know what they're responding to, but for whatever reason, my teeth have
begun to drift. (That's a real term, have someone Google that for you.) So my once familiar teeth have
begun to move, ever so slightly, but enough to alarm my tongue. There's nothing I can really do about it
right now, I've got two daughters in the midst of some serious teeth work of their own.
So while I wait for the opportunity to fix my teeth AGAIN, I explore these new valleys and divots, worry
my tongue around the rough spots while trying not to clench my jaw.
And here's what I think about when I send my tongue out on an inventory of my mouth.
I know. It sounds bizarre. But events beyond my control have rendered a once familiar landscape into
something new and vaguely unpleasant. My mouth is not what it used to be.
My life is not what it used to be. My marriage dissolved. Friendships have changed their shape and size.
And there have been a few deaths and losses recently. I've written more condolence cards in the past six
months than I ever expected to. While I think I do a good job initially, a nice card or a letter, an email or
two, it's the afterwards that has me stumped.
I search for a tooth that is no longer there and am surprised each time. Oh wait, that's new! Was this
space always there? How about now? No? Yes? Does it feel bigger today? Smaller? Sharper? Will it be
there when I wake up? When I go to bed? Do people notice? What will my dentist say?
These people that have died, is it ok to be sad about a cousin I didn't know very well? Someone's brother
I met maybe twice? My mind traces these new paths of loss. What do they feel like today? Was I sadder
yesterday? Why am I angry? Why is the landscape so different?
Just as I count my teeth a dozen times a day, I also count how many days since I heard such sad news. I
have bad dreams about losing my teeth. I dream that they fall out and I'm unable to find a dentist. Or I
carry them in the palm of my hand, crying.
It seems weird. But then I wonder, is it appropriate to tell someone that you thought of their loss last
night and that it made you sad? Or that you saw the sun setting over the hills and thought to yourself, "I
wish _____________ was here to see that!" That you enjoyed your blueberry pancakes more that morning?
Grief can feel sharp and pointy some days, dull and rough the next. Sometimes I forget about it for a
week and then I floss my teeth and cry.
I can't explain it.
STUPID RUNNING UPDATE
My last column about running was actually quite old. I am now officially in my fifth week of training. I
should be in week six, but I've had to repeat week four twice because I cannot break the four minute
mark. I can run for two minutes at a time. I can run for three. I can even run for 3 and half minutes. But I
cannot break into the elusive four minutes at a time. So I keep repeating the week four workouts. And
it's getting to me.
Mostly I'm terrified because I am signed up for the Sunset Tiki Torch 5K in Ventura on July 14th. If I
cannot run for more than three minutes without having to stop and walk, how am I going to ever run
I know of at least 4 people who have also signed up for this race, because, duh, TIKI TORCHES. It should
be fun. I may be walking the 5K but you should try! Sign up! Keep me company.
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