Lean on Me. From the first time I heard Bill Withers sing it back in the early to mid-70’s, the song has imprinted itself on my DNA. I don’t pretend to understand it, but some songs just have a way of doing that to us, right? We remember where we were and what we were doing. It all comes back.
For me, I was working ‘close’ at Arby’s, one of my very first jobs. It was after 2AM and we had the house speakers up loud. So there I was in the back of the dining room, running my mop in time to the tunes when I heard Lean On Me. At the first chord, it stood me up and stopped me in my tracks.
Time and time again since that early morning, I’ve heard the song in my head and known what to do. Lean on me. Imprinted. It’s part of me. You see someone. Somehow you know they’re not OK. So you do what you can.
Fear imprints too (and early).
For years when I was a really little kid, our family dentist would take my mom first and then each of us kids, one right after the other. When one would come back out into Dr. X’s waiting room, the next one of us would go, dead man walking.
This many years later, I now know he was an alcoholic that liked hurting little kids…especially little boys. It was never sexual, but it was sadistic. But back then, who listened to kids? My mom liked him. She thought he was the reason we kids brushed and flossed like maniacs. She was right. Fear imprints long before the next appointment.
The rich irony is dentistry wasn’t done with me. I had braces and a head-gear at night well into my 1st year of High School (8-years). 4-years later, I fell and broke my face. Coming back from all that was rewarded by having to return to the orthodontics post-accident (2 more years!). Every time I climbed into the chair, I would look up into the reflection of the doctors’ glasses now tending to me and see Dr. X. My teeth have rarely seen a DDS since.
Now that I’m out of school, new, credentialed and improved, I’ve been interviewing, negotiating, etc. But in the midst of all that good stuff, there’s been one hurdle I just haven’t faced. My teeth. It’s been a nightmare. Dr. X was more than 50-years ago and the little scared Danny has reserved one last barricade to living my full smile.
“I’ll just muddle through and when I get hired, I’ll get the best dental plan they offer and I’ll get it done. I promise”.
But Life, being what it is, had other things in mind for my mouth.
Now 3-weeks before my big week of interviews, I had an upper molar decide to crack…just a little. I heard it.
A few days later its’ filling fell out mid-bite at dinner. In a world-class show of denial, I told myself, “No big deal. I’ll baby it and I’ll be fine.”
2-weeks before my ‘big week’, the tooth refused to listen and cracked right down the center, front to back.
Last week, the right half of the crack cracked again and fell off at the gum line. Inside of a day, I could barely speak as the left half was flopping around, refusing to let go of the gum and the nerves below it.
Now my mouth was materially standing in the way of me landing my ‘really good’ job.
I have learned how to handle pain but I had reached the point of ridiculous. So now what?
For a change, I decided to lean on others. It did not come naturally. It didn’t feel comfortable. But it was time to put on my big-boy pants. I called around to some trusted sources, found a dentist and asked Rick to drive me to have my flopping problem dealt with.
Dr. Sara was an old pro. She’d seen big bad men fall apart before. She also had credentials the length of her arm. I was lucky to get in. She had something else too. She had a certified comfort dog named Maura, a big champagne Poodle/Labrador mix who had the free rein of the office.
As Rick and I sat down after checking in, sure enough, here comes Maura sauntering around the corner and right for Rick. You’d think they hadn’t seen each in years. To be honest, I was a little miffed. We’re both dog guys. I love ’em; they have always approached me as a friend. I may not be Cesar, but I have some whispering powers.
But Maura? Despite my effort to horn in on the love fest, she was unimpressed. By this time she had nuzzled deep into Rick’s lap as he found that special spot behind her ear, you know, the one that makes the back leg twitch. I’m thinking, ‘Aw come on, I want me some of that’.
“Dan, you can come back now.”
Maura didn’t even look up. Rick may have glanced up as I stood.
Not long after Dr. Sara had begun looking around inside my mouth, she asked me to go back to X-Ray for some films to confirm what she thought. “OK”. As I stood, she took my hand, holding it like my grandma had and walked down the long hallway with me.
I didn’t know what to think. I’d come to face my demon and now found myself feeling a little odd at having my hand being held so gently. In retrospect, I wonder if in her wisdom she saw deeper into me than my mouth.
“We’ll be pulling the offender, but there are two more that need to come out too. We’ll get to the restorative later. OK?”
Strangely, I heard myself nodding my agreement as my breathing started getting rapid. There! The sticks of the needles…the instruments, the reflection in her goggles in front of her sharp gray-green eyes…I flashed back.
“OK, that’s #2. One more…”
Sharp stabbing psychosomatic pain as she cut to expose…I sucked in my breath. My legs went stiff. I was trying to control my breathing, but my feet didn’t care. They were jumping like downed electric lines…’Dr. X! Stop. No. Pleeease. You’re hurting me…’
But that wasn’t it. What I felt as I fought myself was Maura laying her big head on my thigh. I knew it was her. I caught a glimpse of her out of the bottom of my eye. Seems unbeknownst to me, Maura was watching. Somehow she knew to lean on me.
I felt her. I knew it was good. The strangest sense of peace reasserted itself. It was weird. It was palpable. After all this time, there was no Dr. X. He’d been replaced by a wonderfully skilled professional and her dog tending to me like I was kin.
I tried to explain it to Rick as we drove back home. Through all the gauze wadding and the swollen cheeks, I couldn’t wrap my head round it. What was it?
Grinning, he looked over at me the way he does when I’m goofy. “Maura and I were talking after you went in. We got your back.”
Looking at what I could in the bathroom mirror once we got home, I spied something out the corner of my eye. After a very long time, it was Danny and Dan smiling at each other.
The interview was great!
Jean-Baptiste Frédéric Isidor, Baron Thielemans
(29 April 1922 – 22 August 2016)
“Belgian jazz musician Toots Thielemans has died at the age of 94, his manager has said.
He was widely regarded as one of the world’s top harmonica players and was well known for appearing on the Sesame Street and Midnight Cowboy themes. The musician’s real name was Jean-Baptiste Thielemans but he was known affectionately as Toots. He died in his sleep at a hospital in Brussels, his manager Veerle Van de Poel told AFP. Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel tweeted: We have lost a great musician, a heart-warming personality. All my thoughts are with the family and friends of Toots Thielemans,”
Thielemans was born in April 1922 in the working-class Marolles district of Brussels. He first came to prominence when he joined Benny Goodman on a European tour in 1950. Thielemans later moved to the US where he worked with other jazz greats including Charlie Parker and Ella Fitzgerald. He also collaborated with Peggy Lee, Quincy Jones, Billy Joel and Edith Piaf across his 70-year career.
On the liner notes of one album, Quincy Jones said he believed “without hesitation that Toots is one of the greatest musicians of our time”. “
SOURCES: BBC – http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-37153355 and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toots_Thielemans Photo: Jazz Journal – http://www.jazzjournal.co.uk/magazine/743/toots-thielemans-biography
THE MAN WHO KNEW INFINITY
Starring Dev Patel and Jeremy Irons
Based on a true story, A really good movie (or book) like this doesn’t come along every day….I was transported! Amazon, Red Box or wherever you can get it…get it.
If your Soul is weary, here’s a three course offering on LEAN ON ME I thought you might like. Think of it as me leaning on you. Enjoy.
Bill Withers – The original: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N5jlPL1tNDY
GLEE – Full Performance of ”Lean On Me”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sf9_lkf7BtA
Club Nouveau – Lean on me (LP version): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IwIzcNLOogc
Banner Coastal Redwood Forest by Eric E Photography is used with permission.
Gene Kelly in Thousands Cheer – 1943: http://greatentertainersarchives.blogspot.com/2012_08_01_archive.html; Old School Dental Terror (SOURCE): http://www.thehealthculture.com/2015/01/reading-notes-2-for-profit-medicine-cancer-drugs-expensive-doctors-health-care-monopolies-dental-care/; More Dental from the Past (SOURCE: ©Everett Collection/Shutterstock.com): http://www.oralanswers.com/tag/dental-history/; Maura – Crop from Original Source: Community Contributor gigipelka – Chicago Tribune; Epiphany Definition LaWhimsy Word Nerd (A WordPress Blogger): https://lawhimsy.com/2015/09/16/word-nerd-epiphany/; Don’t Cry Big Bird – Children’s Television Workshop (PBS): http://static1.businessinsider.com/image/4efdceaa6bb3f79f57000022/big-bird-just-shared-the-most-meaningful-moment-of-his-career-and-it-will-probably-make-you-cry.jpg
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