Went to the dentist yesterday...Julie's dentist...OUR dentist. Made me think...
Julie had a lot of tooth issues...A LOT! Taking 80 mg of steroids for over a year not only caused dramatic changes in her physical appearance and pummeled her self esteem, it destroyed her teeth. As indicated earlier (complete with pictures), Julie had already gone through a braces period to correct some misalignment problems that were causing her to grind her teeth at night...resulting in severe jaw pain. (Hey, the "misalignment" was the orthodontist's explanation. We knew better... "Grinding" is a byproduct of working for Cairo School District Number One...as in, sets one's teeth on edge!)
Actually, there was a positive result to all of this...it addressed something that had bothered Julie during her "formative years"...those impressionable and super-sensitive teen-age years - a gap in her front teeth. Julie had mentioned her "affliction" during our dating years and how she tried to avoid smiling as a result...especially for photo ops. (Actually, as I have gone through Julie's pictures following her passing, I'm amazed at the number in which she brandishes her dazzling smile...both before and after and DURING braces. Even Julie couldn't suppress the joy with which she faced life...each and every day!)
Lupus - and the treatment of lupus - is sneaky. Try as one might, you could never stay ahead of it. During one period when Julie was feeling bad and her medications seemed to offer no relief, she happened to crack a tooth. Julie's reaction was one of frustration...what next? However, when the dentist conducted "routine" x-rays, he "got to the root of the problem"! All of Julie's front teeth were abscessed...and pumping infection throughout her system. No wonder she "felt bad".
The dentist told Julie that she had two options...he could put her in the hospital and perform root canals on all of the teeth simultaneously. Or, he could pull them all out. Ouch!
Julie had already "gone off" on her mother, Eloise, for exercising the "nuclear option", so her decision was easy...multiple root canals. Post-op, the dentist would tell me that all went well...except that he happened to break off a drill bit in one of the teeth...and couldn't retrieve it..."but it shouldn't cause any problem...it sealed the tooth." Whatever! (Fortunately, years later I would remember this conversation when another dentist expressed alarm after doing some x-rays...an unusual "shadow"...never seen anything like it!)
Then we went to Springfield...
Actually, this was a few years later. Julie was scheduled to make a presentation at an IEA function, in her capacity as a member of the IMRF Board of Trustees. As is usual, we attended the group dinner...the night prior to her presentation. We were with colleagues and friends. Julie was being her "social self", entertaining the table with funny stories when there was a very audible "POP" at the table. We all looked around and I finally exclaimed "What was that?" Julie was sitting with a puzzled look on her face, napkin to her mouth, when she said "I think I broke a tooth." I expressed disbelief that the loud sound I heard could have been a tooth, but Julie soon confirmed that, yes, indeed, she had snapped one of her upper front teeth...which was now "hanging by a thread".
We soon excused ourselves from the meal and returned to our room. Julie was distraught..."What am I going to do?! I can't give a presentation with my front tooth out...the only minority to ever sit on the Board of Trustees of the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund...and the first Trustee from the DEEP South. I'll look like a poor, dumb, black hick!"
We finally consoled ourselves that the tooth was still "hanging on" and that hopefully it would continue to do so until the presentation was completed. With that, I went to bed.
When I awoke, I asked Julie if her tooth was still in place. She got a funny expression on her face, but said "Yes." We got dressed, went downstairs, SKIPPED BREAKFAST, and found the room where she was to make her presentation.
And...no drama...the presentation went off without a hitch. Julie wowed the audience in her usual manner and she was nothing but smiles afterward.
Speaking of afterward...that's when Julie told me her "secret". After I went to bed, she went into the bathroom and "fiddled" with her tooth...and it came out! Needless to say, Julie was dismayed. What would she do about her presentation?
Well, have no fear...Julie Newell is here! Julie delves into her ample bags that she (or I) carried everywhere. Lo and behold...Krazy Glue! Yep, Julie douses up her front tooth with super glue and cements that sucker into her head! I about had a fit...make that I DID have a fit when she told me this story. I said "Julie, there's no telling what that could do to your system...you could make yourself seriously ill...you could kill yourself doing something like that!"
Didn't phase Julie one bit. She looked me in the eye and said "What choice did I have? I was NOT going in front of all those people with a missing front tooth!"
What could I say? Julie Newell definitely believed that "The show must go on!"
Upon returning home, Julie made an appointment with "Dentures R Us" in Cape Girardeau. No...that's not their real name, but they're the folks that you can show up without an appointment, they will take impressions, pull your tooth/teeth in the morning, and fit you with some brand new "choppers" in the afternoon. (In Julie's case, she got what they called "a flip"...a single tooth "denture" that just popped into the gap. Julie went through a couple or three of these before finally resorting to a permanent fix...a bridge. If I recall correctly, that became necessary when a second, adjoining tooth snapped off.)
I've been talking about signs...and Julie's mischievous sense of humor.
'Twas the night before Julie's wake...the night before I would have to face well-wishers, try to keep a stiff upper lip, and smile in appreciation for condolences received. Somebody, being nice and considerate, brought us some chicken wings from the Cut-Mart uptown...which WERE very good by the way.
Well, Julie absolutely LOVED chicken. True to the "beans story", her (financially) poor childhood, and her always putting others before herself, Julie's favorite piece of chicken was the back (followed by the leg...then, the thigh.) That worked out well for us, since I was a boob man!
Anyway...Julie must have been jealous...all of us chowing down on chicken without including her. After taking my first bite of chicken wing, I felt what I thought was a piece of gristle. I hate gristle! Thought about swallowing it, but finally decided to remove it from my mouth and throw it away. When I went to do so...you probably guessed it...it was one of my front teeth! Fortunately, it was a tooth off of my partial...the partial that replaced a front tooth that I had snapped off a couple of years earlier...a tooth that I had had a root canal performed on...just like Julie!
What was I to do??? I don't have time to go to the dentist...even if he could work me in!!! I can't "meet and greet" folks with a missing front tooth!!!
And, yes, you guessed it again. I DID have time to go to the store the next morning and buy some Krazy Glue and glue that sucker back on the partial...which is exactly what I did!
Thanks for the dental lesson, Julie!
After paying for my dental services, I turned to leave and the receptionist asked "Ron, did Julie ever write the book?"