Something About Nothing published the Week of April 3, 2016 in the Albert Lea Tribune.
I had to visit the dentist last week and have a tooth pulled. I actually needed two teeth pulled — one on each side of my mouth — but I opted for the right side of my mouth to be tampered with first. It was the tooth that was in the most pieces.
I have a fear of the dentist that goes back to my childhood. An ungraceful badminton racket swing by a friend took out my two front teeth. I moved forward to get the birdie, while my friend moved backward. Amazingly enough it was a perfect swing, catching just my teeth but not my mouth.
The summer beginning my eighth-grade year in school was spent in the dentist office. There was no soft music, gentle touch or pain-free dental equipment, nor was there a dentist with steady hands. The fear fueled by those memories lasts a lifetime.
New technology and gentle hands by both the technicians and the dentist now make a visit to their offices as pain free as possible. My tooth is out, and I am making plans to go back for the next removal. My fear is subsiding, and I found my fear was worse than the visit. But it is hard to remove those memories of long ago from my mind.
Recently, I asked my readers for devastating words said to them at some time in their lives that stuck in their thoughts and hearts forever. I was doing research for a Lenten service I wanted to write. My readers responded, and my heart broke as I read some of the unkind and thoughtless words that were left glued inside their mind.
Here are a few examples:
• I will never forgive you.
• “You’re fat, dumb and ugly.”
• “How stupid are you to adopt disabled children? You’d return any other defective merchandise.”
• “You can’t carry a tune. Your voice is terrible.”
• “I’m going to send you home in a body bag.”
These were just a few of the responses I received. Words hurt just as much, if not more than the dentist drill of my childhood. My fear of the dentist didn’t shape my life, only the care of my teeth. Words said in the heat of anger or to wound can twist someone’s life. Kind words in the future do not seem to wipe out the memories of the past cruelties.
Of these five examples, one person did not sing in public or in a choir again. One, because they felt they were too ugly and dumb, didn’t have the confidence to go on to nursing school. And I can’t even respond to how not being forgiven or your life being threatened would change the way one lives. Luckily the person who was taunted for adopting disabled children did not listen but hurt for the children in their care who were ridiculed.
The words I remember the most from my teen years were when a boy told me I was the ugliest girl he had ever seen. I remember that boy, but luckily I had enough support that I could move on in my life. To this day, I remember that boy because of his cruel words. I always wonder what words I might have said that are remembered by someone, and I hope they have forgiven me for them. But I know they aren’t forgotten. Forgiveness and forgetting are two different things.
There is an old saying, “Sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt.” I’d like to change that saying to “Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can break my heart.”