Just got back from an hour\’s communion with the spider plant in my dentist\’s office. Since I find nothing more boring than talk about teeth–even my own–I will write instead about the spider plant that kept me company while the dentist and his assistant fought the good fight in the tiny battlefield of my mouth.
This was not a spider plant filled with joie de vivre. It drooped in its hanging pot and was obviously deficient in Dylan Thomas\’s \”force that through the green fuse drives the flower.\” It disturbed me because my house is always in danger of being taken over by spider plants. They ooze vitality and make babies by the dozen, and the minute I put those babies in water they send out thick shiny roots, and then I have to find homes for them.
Spider plants being famous for purifying the air of pollutants and bad energies, I wondered if the dentist\’s plant\’s failure to thrive was due to the pain and apprehension it was obliged to absorb day in, day out,. But I\’m almost sure that I did not, during my sixty minutes in the chair, personally add to its daily load of negativity. I was so relaxed that in fact I wrote this entire post out in my mind and thought of a couple more topics to get me through the blogging week. Plus, I was sending out waves of gratitude the entire time.
I don\’t like going to the dentist any more than you do, but whenever I\’m there I imagine in vivid terms what my life would be like if, as has been the case for the human race during 99.9% of its history, I couldn\’t go to the dentist–a friendly, clean, well-trained 21st century dentist. And I am overwhelmed with thankfulness.
In another age, by now I\’d be missing a bunch of teeth, some of which would have fallen out as a result of calcium depletion during pregnancy. But others would have dropped off only after days and nights of the kind of pain that obliterates thought and makes a living creature long for death. My face would have that sunken look that one sees on witches in fairy tale illustrations, and my few remaining teeth would be crooked, wobbly, and yellow. I would not be able to eat walnuts, or almonds, or pistachios.
So I\’m grateful that my cheeks are anything but sunken and that my teeth, with the help of dozens of dentists over the decades, are still clinging to my gums. I\’m grateful for the chair that tilts at the touch of a button, the piped in music that matches the blandness of the decor, the face masks, the rubber gloves, and the assistant who asks me if I\’m ready for spring. And I\’m grateful for the hard-working spider plant, which looks like it is in urgent need of some spring sunshine.
And now for a negative P.S.: One thing I am not grateful for is the arm-and-leg cost of all this, which is covered neither by Medicare nor by supplementary insurance. I am grateful that I had an arm and a leg to give in exchange for having my tooth saved, but it is distressing to think how many people in America can only get this kind of care by sacrificing other necessities of life.