The First Good-Byes
Had my last dental visit yesterday. A damn good dentist, and expensive. He just stopped accepting my dental plan. I suppose I am leaving at a good time, but have been his patient over twenty years. He came into the small designer-cozy lobby where I waited for my final dental scrubbing by his hygienist. Don squatted by my chair and made polite conversation about when and where we were going . . . and why.
People invariably ask: “Do you speak Swedish?” No. “Isn’t it cold there? And dark so much of the time?” Either that or some version of, “Wow, you’ve really got guts!” Which in-between the words might also mean, “Wow! You’re really nuts!” Others mention the comparative sanity of Sweden. They’re in good shape financially, no massive debt, and wise enough to have refused the Euro. A world leader in recycling; little is wasted. The people are taken care of; education and health care are free. High taxes of course.
The hygienist gives me a polite hug. I have requested her from several others for the past ten years. She is the only one who keeps her mouth shut. I would rather not be in a conversation with someone who’s got their hand in my mouth—and tools. Some thirty visits, maybe twenty hours we’ve spent together. These good-byes are of a shallow level, but there are some feelings.
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I have also hit the baseline level, just two days ago when I had lunch with George, a friend for more than sixty years. The two of us grew up together, lived next door to one another and our moms were best friends—bond of total trust with anything, and friends in need—whenever, with no questions in Wood River, Illinois. So many years and miles ago.
We had a four hour lunch together, talking non-stop. We have always had good conversations. He’s well read, an MIT grad—smarter than myself which makes him interesting, almost naively modest. Seemed as though we could have talked another four hours easy, and I didn’t even have a drink. It was surprising; off-the-wall thing from our past that we remembered, incidents from years ago. People we’d known— remembered adolescence . . . growing up together off and on.
We were both comfortably aware, as if ignoring this pivotal moment . . . the last time we would ever see each other in the flesh. So many years and pleasant dinners with our wives, their place or ours. Our spouses have became good friends and we share random e-mails . . . always kept in touch.
It was so nice, that four hour lunch, and one day later . . . kind of sad.