Missing my F’s and V’s

I never liked my teeth until recently. I don’t think they’ve been crazy about me, either, frankly.

Most of my body parts started out pretty good—all units reported on time and competently, eyes and legs and arms and innards. My teeth just didn’t feel up to snuff, though. They were slackers, just getting by among an elite corps of comrades.

Then when I was 9 years old playing blind man’s bluff, I walked into our cast-iron porch railing and chipped a front tooth. It was downhill from there.

At some point I also decided that my underbite was hideous, thus giving myself a permanent, suppurating psychological wound. I was an inventive guy.

Even when I was a child, there were many modern dental offices on the South Side of Chicago. My mother took me instead to Dr. Floyd, who worked on my teeth in a spare room in his dark little apartment on Marquette Avenue. I mostly remember the brown stains in the sink, the dusty sterilizer, and his own long, yellow teeth. Thus my primary dental-hygiene associations formed.

From my current old age I realize that Dr. Floyd may not have even had a license, but my mother’s loyalty—sometimes called fear of the unknown—was such that all he needed to get her business was to open the door, which he did only after considerately putting his vicious dog in another room.

When gum disease got me many years later, as it had gotten my father, I thought that was the end of my dental tribulations. While I hid out until the pain went away and my new teeth were ready, I worked on thinking of myself as somehow essentially whole anyway, even though I looked like Moms Mabley.

When the prostheses showed up, I figured if I could get used to all that plastic and metal in my mouth, all would be well forevermore. Not exactly. First, I hadn’t lost all of my teeth, just the ones in front. The others continued to yellow and rot as before, and they’re still at it.

Then a couple of weeks ago I was at a resort treating myself to a respite and celebrating the end of my last job. I’d managed to get used to being in a new place where I knew no one and that was clothing-optional to boot. After a morning meditation, I was having a mocha and a croissant in the dappled shade on a deck outside the café when the next bite of croissant caused my aged partial plate to crack in two. In a trice I went from debonair to derelict, Cary Grant to Gabby Hayes. Trauma is too mild a word.

All’s well now, and the hardest part wasn’t being toothless. Most of all, I missed my F’s and V’s, which are utterly dependent on teeth for articulation. Some of you know just what I mean.