|summer lights and fireflies, 2012|
"I lost a tooth, Mom," said Mr. Cook.
"Oh? How did you lose it?" came my reply.
"Well, it didn't fall out from natural causes. The tooth underneath was cutting into my gums like a sharp knife and so it had to come out."
"How did you manage that?"
"I took my fingers and went underneath the tooth until it fell out".
"Oh. Is that right?" was all I could manage as I cringed and held tightly to the steering wheel- trying really hard not to lose my lunch.
When I was a kid, I use to pull on my teeth too, in order to get some money placed underneath my pillow by the tooth fairy. My family lived in an A- frame home when I was about the age of eight and one night I decided it was high time my second front tooth came out in time for Christmas. My bed was pushed right up against the wall and the ceiling which supported large beams- and I thought it would be a good idea to bang my tooth against that beam to knock it out. When I proudly showed my parents the prize I'd just won, they laughed and asked me to say words like path, bath, and Bethany- which I discovered I couldn't do.
I haven't met a child yet who gets to feeling uneasy pulling out their own teeth. Our sons certainly haven't. Maybe the reason has something to do with the fact that losing teeth is just part of the process of growing up- it's no big deal. But all of this teeth pulling business still gets me squirming and when the occasional stubborn tooth comes around that needs a little helping hand, it's usually Mr. Reporter who gets the job done- not Mom.
Mr. Cook's belligerent tooth did get me thinking though about how life likes to present us with problems that cause us discomfort. Sometimes we sit with the ache for days, months, or even years until the pain becomes so great that we have to rip it out and be done with it. Once removed from our system though, the healing can begin.
What's even harder than dealing with my own pain, however, is watching my loved ones go through theirs. Now that's the tough one. It's easy to imagine their problem bigger than it really is or project pain that I have no business projecting- such as the queasiness I felt while Mr. Cook explained how he got the hole in his mouth. And I've been coming to understand as a parent that the older my kids get, the more they need me to offer a listening ear instead of an informative tongue. These are their experiences after all- lessons that will make greater teachers than me.
Mr. Cook let me take a look at the little dagger that was attached to that tooth of his- his determination to rip it out completely understood. And later that night underneath the blanket of quiet that covered the room he shares with his brothers, seventy-five cents was carefully slipped underneath his pillow and for the first time in several nights, he peacefully slept.