I grew up in a family where respect was a big thing. You respected your elders because they were, you know, old. Policemen, doctors and priests were especially high up there on the respect totem pole. Maybe it because they all wore some kind of uniform- they just seemed more official than someone wearing jeans and a reindeer sweater.
I am not sure if it was the medical degree hanging on the wall or the gun hanging in the holster…the fear of going to jail or the fear of going to Hell….I just didn’t question it. I respected them because they looked the part and I trusted they knew what they were doing.
Well, in the past year leading up to my surgery, I have dealt with a lot of doctors. I learned quickly that trust is not something that is handed out with the lab coats. Finding the right doctor is a lot like dating. You have to weed out the assholes before you discover Dr. Right. The whole experience can leave you a little jaded.
So now I go into most doctors’ offices with my game face on. I am prepared for anything: a 90 minute wait despite being on time for your appointment, a bitchy receptionist, a pitiful magazine collection comprised of a TV Guide and some free pamphlets entitled “You and Your Rectocele”.
I am prepared to have a referral that didn’t go through, a nurse that says things like, “Well, looks like we’ve gained a few this month!” and a thermostat set on 55 degrees as you wait another hour wearing nothing but backless tissue paper, shivering your bare ass off in the exam room.
But every once in a while, just when I have lost all faith in humanity, the Universe sends me a loving emissary(or maybe they are being sent all the time, but I am too distracted by Facebook daily chores to notice). These Special Agents of Hope to show me that all is not lost…and I usually find them where I would least expect it.
Like at the dentist.
I was filled with dread leading up to Emma’s appointment with Dr. McKee. Somehow between moving, getting pregnant with Phoebe, and 5 months of appointments leading up to major surgery, Emma’s bi-yearly dental visit kind of fell off my radar screen….more than once.
More like….6 times. In a row.
I anticipated being handcuffed and put away for Oral Hygiene Neglect. In the parking lot I warned a wide-eyed Emma that there was a SLIM chance she might get a needle in her gums, but it would be ok, because we could stop for a nice, cool smoothie on the way home.
Let’s just say she wasn’t convinced.
Entering the foyer, I hadn’t remembered the office being so cutely decorated. But then again, after 2 kids and a whole lot of sleep deprivation, I don’t remember my social security number either. The whole place was warm and cozy, with an entire sunroom filled with GOOD magazines, toys, books and trains that actually look they haven’t been puked on. Emma made herself at home as I approached the front desk with baited breath:
“Umm, Braun? Emma Braun?” I practically whispered.
The receptionist looked up, smiled warmly and said, “Of course, hi! Our hygienist will be right out for you.”
“Hi?” No “Well, look what the cat dragged in?” She must be new, I thought.
A young, pretty woman wearing scrubs came out and flashed a smile that would make Miss America jealous. “You must be Emma! Well, Hot Diggity Dog, let’s get started! Let’s get those cute little teeth of yours shining like pearls! C’mon Mom, we’ve got a comfy seat in there just for you!”
Emma was totally enthralled with this woman. She was like Cinderella, Glinda the Good Witch and Taylor Swift all rolled into one. Her tooth scraper might as well have been a magic wand.
Then in came Dr. McKee, who looks about 20 years old and is totally adorable. He said, “Hey there! Let’s take a look in there! It’s great to see you, it has been a while!”
Here we go, I thought. This is where he calls the authorities. “Well, we’ve had a crazy couple of years,” I said in a high pitched voice, “..we moved, had a baby…”
He looked right at me: “Hey, no worries. We are always here. We are always happy to see you. No judgment.”
Huh? When did Jesus go to dental school? Suddenly I felt like I was in my therapist’s office and started getting all confessional. “Yeah, it’s been kind of crazy, I had surgery about 6 months ago…”
His little tooth mirror froze in mid-air. “Surgery? What happened?”
“Well, I had my entire colon removed.”
His hands dropped to his lap. “Oh my God. Was it cancer?” The pretty hygienist looked on the verge of tears.
“Umm, no, it was actually a congenital nerve defect.”
He shook his head in disbelief. “Well, thank God you are ok. Thank God you are here right now.” The hygienist nodded emphatically, her delicate, latex-clad fingers covering her mouth in sympathy.
Miraculously Emma had no cavities. They led us out to the prize bucket. “Emma, we usually give out two prizes, but you know what, just take five.” No argument there. The visit that started with the threat of mouth needles had definitely done a 180 in her book.
And as for me…just as Cindy-Lou Who defrosted the icy soul of the Grinch, Clarence jumped into the icy water to save George Bailey and Annie tap-danced her way into the heart of Daddy Warbucks….Dr. McKee has restored my childlike faith in medical professionals as gentle caretakers.
I approached the receptionist’s desk with my checkbook. “What do I owe you for today?”
She smiled. “You don’t owe us anything.”
Oh, if she only knew.