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WISDOM
February 6, 2007
 
I don't think it's going to hurt that much, Rosie said. It's more the sound.

She will have two of her wisdom teeth pulled at 3:00 this afternoon. We were discussing the pros and cons of general versus local anesthetic; she's opting for a local.

Well, if you change your mind, just tell the doc, I said. I hate to think of her in any kind of pain, although she has had more than her share of surgeries for someone her age. Come to think of it, though, I had mine pulled under local anesthetic decades ago and lived to tell the tale -- although I remember the pain afterward as not inconsiderable.

I must remember to tell her to ask for the teeth. Wisdom teeth are remarkable things: big, with an enormous tangle of roots which, left to their own devices, wind themselves around the jawbone in fearsome ways. They look as hard-won as the maturity after which they are named, and they often don't let go without a fight.

They are the teeth that say you've come of age. You're a grownup now, and you know better than to do half the things you're doing. Socially, we don't keep pace with our teeth any more: Americans remain adolescents for years beyond the year of the departure of our backmost molars. Longer than we need to, it seems to me: I'm not sure its good for us to be as sheltered as we are for as long as we are, but it's the way we do things.

Unless you're in the military. Check the enlistment bulletin in your newspaper. Look through the names of the fallen. Young, young people, almost all of them. Old enough to rotate back two and three times before even turning 21. Old enough to fight and die for us. Old enough to come home grievously wounded for us. Really, really different from the others in their age set who have not done what they have had to do. Permanently different. They grow up fast.

Come home safe, cherished sons and daughters! I will not call you children, for you left childhood behind when you left. Let the pain of having your wisdom teeth extracted be the worst pain you ever experience, let there be nothing more than that for you, for all of you! I know you cannot hear me, for your are too far away. And I know that if you could hear me, you would smile and thank me for my concern, that you would be polite and kind to me because it is your training to be polite, and you would say to yourself that this kindly grandmother doesn't know a tenth of what you know, that you wish the pain of a tooth extraction really were the worse pain there was, and that you wish you still could think it was.

But I know that you will never think that again. You are far too wise now.
Copyright © 2018 Barbara Crafton
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