The clock was ticking and I didn’t want to be late for my 1:15 patient. During lunch time, I attempted to do an errand and eat at the same time. Gil Dooren, DDS , my employer, prided himself on punctuality and required the same of his staff.
As I rushed in and popped open the door to the dental office, I brushed by a patient sitting in the chair closest to the entry. He instantly stood up with a huge grin on his face and gave me a big hug.
I was surprised because I didn’t recognize him. Embraced by a stranger whose name I didn’t know, I blurted out, “How are you, it’s been a long time!” That would cover my embarrassment. He released his grip, still beaming and touched his hand to his this throat with a low pitched groan.
He pointed to the pretty pregnant woman sitting next to him who appeared to be somewhat close to delivery and clutched her hand.
“Hello, I’m Jenny, Jeff’s wife. It looks like you’re long time friends.” I smiled and replied quickly, “Yes” not knowing if that was correct. I was going through the rolodex of names in my mind, Jeff, Jeff, Jeff Nolan, Jeff Summers, who???” Please excuse me, I’m a bit late, I’ll come out and visit in a little bit”.
She continued as I started to walk away, “I don’t know who you are.”
The initial confusion
“Oh I’m sorry, I’m Carole, the dental hygienist. I’m trying to remember when I last saw Jeff.”
“Perhaps at his dad’s bank, the Mercantile Merchant Bank on Lexington and Normandie. His dad, Michael Jacks, ran that bank for over 30 years and retired a few years ago. And Jeff worked there too.”
“Oh yes” I remembered! “Jeff Jacks, he sat at the customer relations desk, now I recognize that smile. He still has it.” Jeff was still beaming.
“Yes, he still has his smile but he had a stroke a while back and can’t talk. My smile started to fade as she continued, “the news isn’t all bad, we’re going to have a baby in the next few weeks.” She glowed with all the beauty of an expectant mother.
“Congratulations! Please forgive me, I need to get ready for my next patient. I’ll come back in a little bit so we can chat more. Glad you’re keeping up with your dental appointments during your pregnancy!”
As it turned out, my post lunch patient was caught in traffic and couldn’t make it. I was still thinking about Jeff anyway.
Jeff Jacks was the sweetest, nicest young guy. His job was to greet customers coming in the door and he did that with a gorgeous smile and great charm.
I remembered his dad was often very hard on him, criticizing him when he didn’t greet a customer right away or answer the phone on the first ring. I always knew Jeff was a bit high strung because he would balance himself on the back two legs of his desk chair and rock back and forth, especially when his dad would walk by his desk and point out something wrong.
As nice as his dad was to customers, he was the opposite to his son. Mr. Jacks would often speak of his daughter, the bank VP, (the favored sibling, without the smile or personality) and beam, but he seemed to make it obvious that his son was a disappointment.
Baby Bonding Time
All of that came back as I reflected on the past. I now had some time to continue our visit so I grabbed a couple of my self published Infant Oral Health Coloring Books: “How a Lifetime of Smiles Begins” and went out to the reception room.
They were the only two left in the room and Jeff was still holding Jenny’s hand. Her other hand was circling her stomach.
I sat down beside them, “My patient cancelled, so I have some time to chat” I spent the next few minutes reminiscing and talking about good oral health during pregnancy, infant gum massage and taking care of baby’s mouth from birth. They both paid close attention and Jenny expressed their appreciation.
She confided that Jeff was concerned about not being able to ever talk to his child and without talking he couldn’t express his love. I put my hand on his arm, “Jeff the more you do for your baby, the more you will bond.” He smiled.
I did not see Jeff for a while but thought about his often.
A second visit
Months later, Jeff showed up on my daily schedule for a teeth cleaning. I was so delighted to see him and his wife Jenny and his three month old baby girl, Julia. It looked as if he would never stop smiling.
I cleaned his teeth and renewed the sparkle to his great grin. When I was finished he got up and handed me a note. It was a picture of new born Julie with a few words written on it.
“Carole, you were right when you said the more I do for my baby the closer we will bond. One of our closest moments is when I give her a bath, massage her gums and clean her mouth. Thank you for giving me a way to get closer to my baby!”
I looked up from the note and there was that beautiful smile and big hug. This time, I couldn’t speak.
Carole Nese, RDH, BS, CFP, is available for presentations and story telling about prenatal and infant oral health plus total well being and health for the entire family.