‘You’ll need a root canal to save that tooth,” my dentist said earlier this year.
“Oh, no!” I said.
The words “root canal” immediately brought back memories of the family dentist, my Uncle Frank O’Donoghue. He was such a curmudgeon, I wondered why my parents went to him for dental treatment. His office was on the other side of Boston, a 45-minute drive from my home on the western side of the city.
Uncle Frank had performed my first and, thankfully, only root canal until now. It was a horror. His hands shook as he tried to numb my gums. Most of the novacaine from the hypodermic needle went down my throat. Uncle Frank ignored my cries and deadened the nerve. What pain!
Uncle Frank passed away. I got married, moved to Long Island and now, 60 years after that awful root canal, I needed another one to save a right-side molar.
There was no pain from the tooth, so I was in no hurry to get the work done. Time dragged on, but the thought that the tooth might have to be extracted finally inspired me to make an appointment.
My husband offered to drive me the day of the procedure from our home in Farmingdale to the office in Plainview. We went back and forth on Old Country Road, somehow missing the root-canalist’s office. I ticked off the house numbers as we traveled west and east.
“We’re a hundred numbers off!” my husband said.
“How could I have missed it again?” I asked.
“Wishful thinking,” my moral supporter replied, getting antsy.
“Could that be the right office?” I said, pointing to a grey house on a corner. “The number is right, but the sign says ‘endodontist.’ What’s that?”
I called the office.
“An endodontist is a root-canal specialist,” the receptionist told me.
I was ushered into the treatment room. I will confess to having the sweats and white knuckles as I held tightly to the arms of the chair. At least I was not hyperventilating.
But a surprise awaited! There on the wall was a picture of Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox, my hero when I was a kid. As often as we could, my friends and I took the subway to sit in the Fenway Park bleachers and cheer for our Ted.
Stan Musial and Joe DiMaggio were also in the picture. Musial was OK, but DiMaggio played for our archenemy, the New York Yankees.
The endodontist entered the room. He was very friendly. We chatted about Williams, the Red Sox and his trips to my hometown. Fond memories calmed my nerves.
I asked how he, a New Yorker, happened to have a picture that included Williams, but the conversation became a monologue after he filled my mouth with dental hardware. The endodontist told me all about his love of baseball and how he bought the picture during a trip to his son’s summer camp.
On the way out, the secretary told me the fee was $1,200, which could be paid in installments. Plus, I’d need three more visits. Now I understood why Uncle Frank was the family dentist.
Reader Mary McCaffery lives in Farmingdale.