Full Circle

Posted on September 17, 2012 by

The pathway looks just as it did 40 years ago when I first rode to his office.  Tiny aggregate stones cemented along juniper prickly bushes, apartment parking lots on either side.  Only the legs moving the pedals had changed; a bit older, yet still the memories flash  back to Icees and Pay n Save nail polish.

It still smells the same, too.  That dental kind of tart, sterile and oddly comforting smell.  The waiting room, updated, yet still the same configuration as always.  The receptionist smiles as welcomingly as if decades haven’t passed.

I stretch back in the chair, searching for the familiar 70’s wooden signs warning me to floss and keep a clean smile.  The poster high overhead has been replaced, I notice.

“Ooh, I’ve never seen that before,” chimes the technician, a familiar face, yet only within the last decade.  Not something I want to hear, even though she claims there is good news along with the bad.

But I dodn’t panic.  I sink deeper, breathe, and know he will take care of me, just like he always has.  She steps out, and I overhear her telling him I’ll need an afternoon appointment – because I’m a teacher.  He hasn’t checked on me yet, so I fill her in.  “He’s the only dentist I’ve ever seen.  In my whole life.  We were neighbors when I was little.  And I even taught his son,” I inform her.

“You wouldn’t believe how many people say that.  The only dentist part, I mean,” she replies with a smile.  “It’s amazing.  Four generations, even.  People just keep coming back, bringing their families, their kids.”

I smile to myself.  Of course I believe it.  Well, maybe not the four generations part.  His icy white hair may hint at his age just a bit, but certainly not four generations.

When he enters I’m back in elementary school again.  Not many people can call me by my childhood nickname, but I wouldn’t have anything else right now.  He asks about my dad.  “Isn’t he getting to retirement age?” His eyes twinkle as he speaks.

“Are you kidding?  He can’t retire yet- he’s just a young guy,” I tease back, knowing he’s remembering those days when his kids and I used to kick-the-can down Mulberry Lane.

“And anyways,” I continue.  “He keeps getting too many clients who want him.  They like the experienced guys.”  No kidding here.

As he chuckles in agreement, my body folds into the chair and we begin.  It’s just like it’s always been.  I have no idea what’s really going on inside my mouth, but I’m ok with that.  For a type-A teacher like myself, that’s an uncomfortable feeling.  But strangely, it’s ok right now.

It’s never rushed, never wrong, there is never a misstep.  His skill doesn’t change with years.  He knows just how to make me feel at ease.  “Just sit back, kid,” he commands.  I haven’t been called that for a very long time.

When he’s done, he steps back and looks me in the eye.  All seriousness.  

“I can’t thank you enough for teaching my grandson.  He’s amazing.  He’s planning for college, creating amazing projects.  He’s learning to fly a plane,” he boasts in only the way a grandfather can.  “Thank you.”

My numb mouth cannot keep up with my brain, and I smile in thanks as he walks out of the room.

Biking home, I’m still in elementary school.  It’s all too familiar right now – just a bit farther and I’ll be back home.  Nothing much has changed in 40 years.

But as I enter my adult home, just a few blocks away, my brain and mouth collide.  Thank you, Dr. Spore, I whisper to the empty room.  Thank you.  

I’ve come full circle.

free image courtesy of FreeDigitalImages.net

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Comments: 4

  • Emily Sovich

    September 17, 2012

    What a gift it must be to come home and find yourself still so deeply connected to your community. This was lovely.

    • Jennifer Wolfe

      September 27, 2012

      Thanks, Emily. I love living here, where I have roots.

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