This past weekend I was in Connecticut for the AGD annual conference. $70 in Lyft ride later, I arrived at the casino for the fun. Typically, it would be fun but this time, they spread the courses over two areas and I ended up running from one side of the casino to the other for my courses. Even the ladies at the help desk felt sorry for me. My classes were alternating their east and west locations. Needless to say, I got my exercise in after an overnight flight.
The following day I was just in one spot for an all-day course. My legs thanked me as my laziness took over. That night, I met up with all the awardees and other board members from California to celebrate their achievements. I saw the same family that I sat next to on the plane and we talked some more. It’s amazing how I’m the “older” one in the group now. The younger dentists were asking for advice and ideas. It was definitely a catch-22.
On my way home, I missed my connection and ended up spending a night in Minneapolis with a friend. Her home was located in a neighborhood that Californians would only see in the movies with the time setting in the 50’s or 60’s. We stayed up late to catch up and again at breakfast before she drove me back to the airport. At the restaurant, I had to be the darkest person there. That’s the joke I tell my patients and I’m repeating it here. And you know I’m lighter than half of you. Ah-hem…
So even as I detest flying and missed connections, I ended up with a pretty good trip. My meals were fancy as I hitched onto my colleague’s VIP lounge. I won some money at the roulette table. Nothing to brag about as it didn’t even pay for my Lyft ride, but it’s something. I got to see my girlfriend after all these years. I looked like a mess on Monday but my mask and glasses covered all the flaws. Like the saying goes: there’s always a silver lining somewhere.
Mohegan Sun casino in Uncasville, CT.
Lobster salad, cocktail shrimp, grilled veggies wrap and fresh pineapple. Yum.
With CAGD executive director. There was a funny picture of us but I can't seem to upload it here.
Meet my newest foster puppy. She is only 3 months old and has only 3 legs. She lost her leg recently and no one at the humane society knows what happened. But from her running around and speed, I don’t think she knows she’s missing a hind leg. She’s so fast that I had to get a leash to prevent her from chasing after rabbits when we go out to the backyard. She is a sweet puppy as she’s gentle. She doesn’t bark unless it’s 5:30 am in the morning because she wants company. She is almost completely potty-trained. She knows to pee and poo outside. There has only been a couple of accidents but that’s probably our fault for not taking her out enough. She is a smart dog. She understands some commands already and acts according to the tone of your voice.
We can’t figure out a name for her yet, but my boys like to call her Tripod. For a puppy, she is low maintenance. She likes to be where the family is and just sits at our feet. We put her blanket wherever we congregate and she lays right down. Everyday we toss a ball for her to exercise and she loves it. She likes being out in the backyard with the sun to sunbathe; a good belly rub is also much appreciated. She is up for adoption so if you are interested, please contact me and we can set up an appointment with you at the humane society. You will find yourself with a new happiness.
Recently I sedated a father for some major surgeries to rebuild his jaw in preparation for implant-supported restorations. As I was reviewing the post-op instructions with his daughter, she voiced her concerns that her father does not listen to post-op instructions. She said he was stubborn. Starting to hear a harsher tone from her, I interjected with my own father story to remind her that fathers are just stubborn. My goal was to keep her on my bandwagon of optimism. After exchanging a few stories, she stayed on. Suddenly my patient interjected with his own explanations of why my dad was so stubborn and mean at times. Obviously, the drugs did not take effect yet.
His stories started out benign and as he recalls his past experiences, they got deeply personal and extremely sad that even his daughter was surprised. I asked him not to talk anymore but his daughter wanted to hear them. I wanted to leave the room but he held onto my arm, wanting me to understand my dad better. Then as the drugs started to take effect, I stopped him. Both she and I were near tears and he wiped his away.
I remember being so strict with this patient because he doesn't listen. His rebuttal was typically, "I lived this long, I don't need to listen to anybody." Even after the first surgery with extractions and implant placement, he went home and smoked. How or why the implant stayed in there is beyond me. I have no explanations because he also has medical issues that was worrisome. But after this appointment, I could not repeat my restrictions to him. Instead, I helped him find a way that he could smoke and somehow protect the surgical site. I showed him a way to escape the "no smoking for 2 weeks" restriction. His daughter laughed but I was still determined to ask him not to smoke until the soft tissue is better.
Shortly afterwards Bob came into the room, his daughter said she needed to get her dad into therapy to address repressed emotional issues that he shared with me. When patients share stories of past traumas, I'm left aghast. The sincerity and heartfelt vocal vibrations in the narrator's recollection flood me with emotions. I'm so grateful for their trust. As for this patient, he and I will have a different relationship from now on. I'm going to have to treat him like my dad. I will only pick certain fights to fight. The rest of the time, I will just listen and let him talk. He was dealt with an unfair hand at the start of life. I am aiming for a place in his "nice" category when he recalls dentistry. He told me I was the one person that doesn't talk back to my dad so my dad can say anything to me, even unfairly. He's right. My dad is too old for me to argue with him. I just let him be.
As I sit here on the cusp of mid year, I am thankful for each day that has passed. For it means I've made it to the end of another day. At times this year can't end soon enough.
This past weekend, I said farewell to a teacher, mentor, friend and patient. He was my open water instructor. He ruined me for life with scuba diving for he spoiled me to the point of being a clump in water. Seeing I was a weak sauce, he held my hand and pulled me along under water. When everyone else was exhausted from a dive, I was still perky, wondering why they thought it was so hard. When I wanted to give up, he swayed me to continue. He placed the light in my dull life. When I told him my belly dancing teacher said, "no," to me, he said I didn't need moving hips to dive.
At his memorial service, his families and friends shared stories of his greatness and generosities. I've never known him to be any different. He was my teacher before he was my patient. He was in the office just a month before he passed. I've known him for over a decade and each time he comes in, he has optimism that was beyond my reach. His daughter said he went quick, with his loved ones around him in his home. I was glad to hear that cancer did not drag him down. It was also a pleasant surprise when his daughter knew who I was by name.
So to my teacher who is in heavenly water, you've already climbed the highest mountain on earth, may you continue to find adventure and climb the highest mountain above. I want you to know I know it was you who landed in my path on my morning walk in form of a bluejay. Of course you would visit me when I'm outdoor, enjoying the fresh air and feeling happy. That is my story and I'm sticking to it. Thank you, RC, for letting me into your life. You gave me some of my happiest memories. Mine and Bob's version of Lucy and Ethel on the beach is one of those moments that makes me laugh so hard recalling it every single time. We still talk about it to this day with the same amount of silliness and laughter. How you just sat back and watched us fall over and over again was pure joy. How you cooled me down when I overheated was so fatherly. We have yet to laugh that hard in years. I know your spirit will continue to venture out. At least this time, you have no pain. Have a great afterlife, R! Now you don't have to worry about hurting yourself. Love you.
Sometimes a story can be summed up with just a picture. This past weekend, I had the pleasure of going to a Leadership Development Symposium put on by the AGD (Academy of General Dentistry) in Chicago. There, I met other dentists volunteering their time for the betterment of our organization and advocating for policies to advance community service and general dentists. There were young and old faces, people who have been doing this for at least 30 years. As a new leader in organized dentistry, I met and networked with dentists from all over the country. I even found a dentist for my patient who is moving to Austin, TX in 2 weeks.
The AGD fosters a reunion mindset at their conferences. Everyone is family. We learn and eat together. Here in this picture are the representatives from California, from north to south. We were dining with the current AGD president at dinner. He said he would pay the bill so naturally, we welcomed him. But our regional director ended up getting the check. Maybe at the next meeting, we will give him the bill. During the conference, everyone was in the mode to learn and share ideas. We were all focused on how we can contribute more and better guidelines to our constituents. But at dinner, it was different. We were cousins getting together and catching up. Of course, there were lots of harassment and jokes. The funniest comments came from the head of the table, yes, that guy sitting all by his lonesome self. The same guy that will be paying our bill at the next dinner.
The 2 days symposium was a great experience. We all share the same goals and were able to discuss strategies together. Making new friends is also great. Supportive new friends are even better. That’s another beauty to this symposium. The camaraderie was amazing. In the real world, dentists don’t support each other enough. At this symposium, I am thankful to the AGD for its investment in its members and leaders. I am also thankful to my colleagues for the fun and learning opportunities. Like old friends, I miss them already.