10 July 2010

The Day My Dentist Took My Dad to the Woodshed

I have been watching the HBO series John Adams on DVD using the feature they have that pops up historical facts as you watch the drama. For the most part they did a wonderful job of keeping things historically accurate. When I studied interior design I had to study the history of furniture and textiles so it is always fun for me to see how accurate period pieces are with their sets and costumes. One of the things I really appreciated was the lack of perfectly white teeth for all the actors. Dental health or lack of it was a major cause of suffering back then. It hasn't been that long ago that things have changed.

My father suffered horribly with his teeth and as a result he took me to see a dentist by the time I was 3 years old. My father told the dentist that he would see I made every appointment and followed every rule the dentist gave me. My dentist, Dr. Gan, was my favorite person. He was a children's dentist and reluctantly sent me to someone else when I was in my late twenties. I lived a two hour drive from his office and he told me it was time for me to see someone else so he could retire. As an adult my dentist relayed the story of my father's first visit to me. "Your father told me if anything went wrong with your teeth, he would blame me and I believed him." When my father told me something I believed him too.

One Friday night when I was about 7 years old I was headed to bed when I remembered that I had an appointment with Dr. Gan on Saturday morning. Not wanting to miss it, I wanted my father to remember too. My father responded to my reminder by saying, "I am not getting up early on my day off to take you to the dentist." I was stunned and disappointed. "But when can I go?" My father proceeded to tell me that I was going to have to take myself. Confused and only partly believing him, I started asking a series of questions and stating objections.

"But, I am too little to drive there."
"Of course you can't drive, you have to walk."
"That's too far for me to walk."
"It's not that far and you know the way. You will have to get up early though."
"I don't have an alarm clock. I wont know when to wake up."
"Just go to bed and say to yourself over and over, 'I have to get up early and go to the dentist.' "

Like Dr. Gan, I believed what my father said. I got up early, how early I will never know but I arrived well before my 8:00 am appointment. It was a rainy Bay Area morning. I dressed myself in my favorite summer dress but had put on my rubber boots and my long coat. I was quite proud that I had been that sensible. I must have looked like a refugee. I was terrified of the walk, especially since it consisted of about 2.5 miles of major roadway that sort of paralleled I-80. The San Pablo Dam Road was a four lane highway 50 years ago that went from San Pablo where we lived to El Sobrante where my dentist had his office. There were no sidewalks on this well traveled road because no one in their right mind would walk there. Back then there were stretches of it that were undeveloped. I tried to walk on top of the hill instead of down by the road, but the rain had made things so muddy I kept sinking and coming out of my rubber boots. I was willing to work harder to walk to away from the cars until I saw the snake. The only reason I kept going after encountering the snake was my greater fear of my father.

When I arrived at the dentist's office, I went in, rang the bell to let the receptionist know I was there and waited. When she said, "Rosemarie, you're early." I beamed with pride and then took my seat to wait for my chance to see Dr. Gan. I am not sure if my arriving in my refugee attire- covered with mud- or coming so early tipped them off that something was amiss. Perhaps I was overcome with the magnitude of my accomplishment and announced that I had walked... somehow the good doctor knew and was determined that I would not be walking home. Never letting me know at the time, he called my father and told him in no uncertain terms that I was not leaving his office. Dr. Gan took my Sicilian dad behind the woodshed and gave him a talking to of his own. My father couldn't believe that I had actually walked. He was at once terrified and relieved to know that I had made it unscathed. I am sure he was also embarrassed to have my dentist give him the tongue lashing of his life.

The drive home seemed longer and more dangerous than my walk. My father ranted at me, "I was only kidding! How could you be so stupid! How could you not know I was kidding?!" I was confused and crestfallen. My most spectacular achievement was a catastrophic failure and I was probably going to receive the spanking of my lifetime. Once we got home my step-mom stood up for me as Father continued his rant, trying to shift the blame for his bruised pride. "She did exactly what you told her to do, don't you dare yell at her for being obedient and believing you meant what you said." My father, usually never one to back down, relented. He knew he was wrong. He'd had some fun at didn't realize how seriously I took every word he said to me. He didn't realize how, even at that young age, I was desperate to do the right thing to please him. He had just enjoyed the moments he toyed with me, not knowing he'd be held accountable for them. I never received an official apology, he just stopped yelling at me.

As I pondered my adventure to the dentist, I couldn't help but see a correlation to the Caner fiasco. I am sure Dr. Caner's joking and story telling embellishments started out as fun, interesting remarks. You know...teasing folks to keep them interested...employing wit so they will want to hear more... and like my father, what he's said has had consequences that he didn't intend. Sure you say, but Caner has apologized. For which part? Sorry you took me seriously? Sorry I misspoke and you were stupid enough to believe me? Sorry, I was only entertaining you and you mistook that for truth? Sounds awfully like, "I can't believe you were so stupid you didn't know I was teasing."

Now, here's something better to read on the situation.

Zechariah 8:16-17
16 'These are the things which you should do: speak the truth to one another; judge with truth and judgment for peace in your gates.
17 'Also let none of you devise evil in your heart against another, and do not love perjury; for all these are what I hate,' declares the LORD."

Colossians 3:9
9 Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its {evil} practices,

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