My Dad lost all his teeth when he was 15. He didn’t lose them really, he had them pulled out. The story is that he had a lot of cavities and rather than pay for the treatment, my grandfather, a legendary pennypincher, had the dentist “extract”. My Dad, at age 15, had to go to school for two weeks, maybe longer now that I think about it, without any teeth, while they made his dentures. At the height of puberty. In High School. Obviously there are worse things to endure, but I think it’s one of the defining experiences of my Father’s life and goes a long way to describe the funny/sad/rageful part of his personality that all of his children seem to have inherited. Ahem.
The weird part is that my grandfather was a nice guy, well nice isn’t the right word, he was interesting and he was smart and funny and we liked each other, though maybe if I had been around him more, he would have tortured me too. It seems like something more than just frugality would cause a father to make such a decision for his child. Still when my Dad recalls this story, he doesn’t say it with bitterness, so much as a shoulder shrug. Yeah, I had all my teeth pulled out when I was 15. In the middle of the school year. No big.
It reminds me of the things we get used to, in our families mostly, like the three-legged bed or the drawer without a handle I wrote about a few days ago: things that seem like they’d be easy to fix but just get overlooked until they become part of what is normal to you.