While memories are lost everyday, rarely are they gained. I recall something terrible once
| Some time ago me and Rachel took several days off from work to watch my parents house, along with m 10 year old brother. Since coming back home I have been thinking a lot more about my parents and my own childhood, coming back across a certain memory. At 1st not entirely sure if the memory was completely real, I had reason to doubt any memories that surface after all that time from my Russian childhood, being only the first five years of life. But after careful consideration over the years I became aware of two facts, this memory was definetly real and it had a definite effect on the way I am today due to it's impact on my present day self.
Up until now I have had three memories that were most unpleasant from my time in Russia. There were good memories as well, but the worst ones stuck with me much more vividly. One is of being on a cruise ship to a cliffside castle, though at my size I cannot guess at how big that ship really was, and I had what looked like a 2 liter of Pepsi. I was drinking it on the sunny bow of the ship when i got the motion sickness, as i continued to drink my sickness grew worse and that was maybe the 1st time I remember ever really thrown up. Since then I had a very strong aversion to anything carbonated, never touching that stuff ever again in any real volume.
My 3rd worst memory was the 1st time I had to get stitches. It resulted from playing in the park, but as i recall playground equipment was a lot more fun and dangerous back in the day, especially in Russia. Where people are expected to be responsible for their children's fun and their suffering to a greater degree then in the US. We had everything made out of metal, from those long slides to the swings, and in those days the entirety of the swingset was made of metal, not just the support poles.So as I made a game of running from one end of the swingset to the other , dodging the heavy metal swings and got hit, in the head, partially removing my left eyebrow. It took me some time to piece the two stages together, I remember holding my eye so hard and never letting go, until grandma brought me in front of a mirror and had to force my hand away to make sure I still had both my eyes. The memory of getting stiches was seperated from this, by hours or days and all I remember is getting into a chair with the brightest light I had ever seen and getting a syringe brought up to my eyebrow, then I don't remember a thing after. In a sense I'm glad to not recall both the initial pain and the procedure,except that my mom was not in the room and anything could have happened to me after that point. I have no clue as to the level of pain in those moments, not even to say that one hurt worse than the other. That makes these memories seem detached from the real me, a little less frightening, and now the impact of the situation is more frightening to me now then the actual and transient feeling of pain in the moment itself.
The only exception is this next memory, my 2nd worst memory. since I do have an idea as to the pain of that moment and it is worse than any 3 terrible memories combined. That is the one that I was finally able to piece together after that stay last weekend, at 05/2017. There is a reason most kids don't go to the dentist till they are teenagers, if they do it's probably for a routine and expected checkup. One reason is the fact that, like they doctor, we definetly never seem to want to go, without either trickery or bribery on the parents end. After all, our baby teeth grow in kind of late, after we have done our worst and most careless eating with them, and as our jaw expands our real teeth come out by puberty. It's pointless to go and pay the same price for fillings, downright ludicrous to pay for a root canal, for a tooth that's going to fall out anyway by middle school. For that reason I got a little dental work, but not much, until I was past 18 and was in pain. As everyone's been told by a dentist before, if it gets to where it hurts constantly and consistently, there IS an infection and the tooth will die without a root canal. You just slept past what could have been a 200$ filling and landed in a 3000$ torture scenario, that or 1/2 a year of the worst pain in your life. I do have a theory though, since most dentist usually see people in need of just a few cavities or 1, maybe even 2-3 root canals, they are rarely visited by lost causes, people like me who need over 10,000$ to put a dent in their oral trouble. If one tooth is rotted and in need of a root canal, since teeth are a very hard substance to eat, most of the bacteria would gravitate towards the "easy target" and leave the other teeth alone, relatively but not entirely.
What happened to me at some point in Russia, in my kindergarten, before the age of 5-6 when I flew to America, was that one day my whole class got usher out of class and into a line. One before the other, we were being led through an unfamiliar hallway before one of the back rooms, which none of us remembered seeing before, to get dental work. As we waited all I remember is hearing the sound of the drill as my place in line got closer to the head. I don't know if I was told that it was dental work, told it was a checkup, or quite frankly told anything at all. When my turn came they took a look and decided they had to drill. If you know anything about dentistry 20 years ago, especially in the Soviet countries, you'd know that anaesthetics, despite costing pennies per vial, were either unheard of or perhaps with the patents in place they cost much more back. When I got my training in dentistry decades later the teacher called it, what we have here in America now, "Painless Dentistry" by comparison. Well, being a child of 4 or 5, what I got instead of a shot was a set of noise cancelling earmuffs, the kind you would wear to a shooting range, and the command to close my eyes. I have to wonder, at my age, did we really have cavities bad enough to warrant this pain or was this some kind of training program for Soviet dentists. Were they told " relax, if you can work in a child's mouth you can work in an adults, and don't worry about mistakes, those baby teeth will be gone soon enough". When I asked my mom about this when she came back home, she claimed to knew about the dentist visits at our schools, but knew few of the details. I guess I'll have to sit her down and talk some more about it, I know it wasn't exactly an easy memory for me to come upon. The strange thing is that since I don't remember hearing any sounds or seeing anything with my eyes closed, and since it is but a memory I cannot even remember the specific pain, all I can acertain from this is that the pain I must have felt back then had to have been horrendous. Definetly the worst pain of my then-short life.
I can't help but think my aversion of the dentist as a young adult steamed partially from that old experience, that and we were quite poor as 1st generation immigrants leaving everything behind, including my mother's master's degree in engineering. I knew how much even a cavity would cost and I didnt want to burden my family if I had a little pain and could suffer through it. By the time I had a genuinely infected root and I was in agony, it was all I could do to save enough to get that one tooth taken care of, the one that was in pain and was probably going to be lost anyways. Root canals do not come with guaranties, they could last for 5 years or 50 depending on your care and the dentists. By the time 1 tooth was in pain, with the 3000$ price tag I definetly could not afford to spare the 300$ to get a filling on the others. As one tooth got removed or would fall apart, another world start hurting and the process continued. To my credit I did eventually get 3 root canals. The 1st was the easiest and lasts to this day. The 2nd had the tooth break apart a few years later and needed to be removed. While the 3rd, took the longest and was a triple root, meaning I needed 3 root canal procedures on one tooth at one time, and the top fell apart later that night. Even though I was already aloud to eat, I played it safe with soup and some mashed potatoes, and it still fell apart. I had to be in pain and deal with that for over a year before I found a great dentist to split the tooth and remove it in halves, but not until I got ahold of some painkillers and kept them in my mouth just prior to the procedure, I was not about to go in there and risk "any" pain.
So as time passes my mom signed me up at this Jewish center where her and grandma have been going to for food and medicine, and as it happens they have a dental area as well. So in my twenties I finally got a good deal of my dental work taken care of. I still have a few root fragments to be removed, but they managed to pull some lost causes out and give me a few replacements completely free of charge. Even though I still don't smile very often out of habit , growing up pretty quiet and quite shy, I do smile a lot more, and when I do open my mouth everyone can see I have a full smile. In a way going to this new clinic, despite the very real fear and pain accompanying any dental visit, can definetly be considered one of the happiest memories of my adult life. At one point my teenage depression allowed me to convince myself I didn't have very long to live, as a result my neglect of the future caused my problems today. But getting my teeth fixed was one of the greatest commitment made towards my future and helped restore hope in a full and happy life.
Perhaps now that I have listed my 3 worst memories as a child, specifically in russia, maybe next I should balance them by listing the 3 happiest memories. We will see how this draft develops and base it on the input I shall receive. Although if any of these memories are similar to your own Iam absolutely dieing to hear, so please drop a line. Knowing that there are others out there like me would, in some ways, be more helpful then a review, especially since this could technically be considered a journal entry and not a true article. As always, thank you for your time and above all, if you did not learn something I hope you have been entertained.
- D. Zhel