Tag Archives: autumn

And The Days Keep Marching On

It’s been a year since I finally agreed to getting a partial for my sparsely furnished upper set of teeth.  I was bothered and beleaguered and blatantly resistant, but finally realized that I needed to do something.  And so, in great co-operation with one of my favoritest dentists ever, Dr. Steward, there were impressions made and a partial plate was procured, and —

It didn’t fit.

It felt so completely unnatural and huge and wrong and I couldn’t even get my upper teeth and lower teeth to meet.  (I wondered which barnyard was missing their horse’s upper plate!) Dr. Steward took one look at my face, one look at the fit of the teeth in my mouth and started over.  I still don’t know if that was necessary, or if I just “needed to get used to it,” but Dr. Steward mumbled some things under his breath about the lab not believing a bite could be quite this diverse and taking it upon themselves to change it up a bit, and how he needed to put on the instructions “DO NOT CHANGE THIS IMPRESSION EVEN A MILLIMETER!  Just make it as directed!” He wasn’t extolling the virtues of the partial plate nearly to the extent he had before

(You see, I have a very strange cross bite as well as a very small mouth to put it into, and there  has been more than one dentist who mentioned the fact that I needed to open wider.  Then reminded me again.  Then insisted in not so gentle tones.  There was even one who found my efforts so unsatisfactory that he put this miniature jack into my mouth and cranked it open.  It hurt like crazy, and when he was finally finished and released my jaw, it went into a muscle spasm that reappeared with regularity over the next year of two whenever I yawned.  Shew-eee!!!  That kept me away from dentists for a good while!)

But I digress . . .

Following the first disaster, after another couple weeks or so, a second one was procured and this time the fit was acceptable.  Not that I liked to wear it.  I didn’t.  But the fit was about as good  as I could have imagined after the way the first fitting came down, and I went about wearing it (at least some of the time).  As time went on, there were days when I wore it less and less.  It made my mouth so dry I could hardly talk.  It sometimes made my mouth so sore in places that I almost couldn’t eat, and it just felt so unnatural.  There were days when I thought about my grandmother, Savilla Bender Yoder and how I never saw her wearing her dentures.  She kept them wrapped in a hanky, tucked into her Mennonite cape dress.  They just didn’t fit her mouth right, and she really disliked wearing them.  One time she dreamed that she saw them riding out of town, bouncing around on a flat bed tractor trailer, the only thing on the whole, empty back of the truck.  I became rather sympathetic towards my grandma, and wondered about what significance that dream may have held.  I kinda’ thought that wrapping my partial in a napkin and carrying it in my pocket would have the same desired effect — but when I remembered what they cost, I  thought better of it.

And so the months passed.  And the consistency with which I wore this appliance was getting spotty indeed.  But then Certain Man’s sister, Lena, came to spend a few months and she was having severe issues with her dentures.  Wanting to help, I thought that maybe she could get some help at my dentist.  However, I realized how little I  was wearing my perfectly good pair when I faced the prospect of accompanying her to an appointment..  I also realized that having a partial that fit wasn’t something to sneeze at. Which I certainly could do without fear of dislocating my upper teeth!  (I did realize that a hearty sneeze could send false teeth into orbit if they weren’t properly fitted.)  Suddenly, I began wearing my partial a whole lot more.  I found that it was a rather useful gadget.

But then something happened.  I don’t quite remember if it was at our annual picnic or some other time, but I was happily chewing away when I bit down hard on something with the only “anchor tooth” I had on my upper left.  This tooth had been saved by a root canal and a crown and it sometimes protested having the partial’s clasp tightly around it, but whatever was bitten upon this day was very specific to this one tooth.  And the immediate protest set me back a bit on my heels.

“Maybe that was just a fluke,” I thought sadly.  “Maybe it is just sensitive for some reason, and it really won’t be anything.  Maybe it will get better.”

Well.  That immediate starburst of pain did pass, and even though I found myself being a bit partial to my one remaining upper molar on the left, it seemed that it wasn’t too bad — unless I happened to bite down on it.  And as the days and then weeks passed, it became apparent that it wasn’t getting better.  But the days were full of demands that left me almost not thinking about that crazy tooth unless it was late and I was getting ready for bed.

“H-m-m-m-m-m-m-m,” I would think as I brushed and water pikked and mouth washed with a healing dose of Listerine.  “I really should do something about this tooth!”

But we went to Ohio for the birthday party for all three grandsons, attended the ordination of our Eldest Son, and enjoyed exploring the house that they had recently purchased, came home again, had a gazillion things here to catch up on and the days went by.  Finally, last week one day, I had really had it and I called my beloved dentist and before I knew it, I had an appointment for that very same day!

I trudged into the office at the time instructed and tried to be cheerful.  The dental assistant took me to my chair and did an X-ray and then Dr. Steward came in to check things out.  He was his usual cheerful, kind self.  He put my  chair up in the air, tilted it  back and proceeded to poke around the offending tooth.

“Let’s have a look,” he said.  “Uh-huh!  It has some wiggle in it!”  (Why are dentists so cheerful when the news is bad!)  He poked around some more and then said, “Well.  It has a crack in the root.  That’s a tooth that has a root canal in it already, and the crack is longitudinal.  There’s nothing we can do except pull it.”

“What about my partial plate?” I asked anxiously.  “That’s my anchor tooth for the rest of the plate.”

“Won’t be a problem,” said Dr. Steward, confidently.  “We’ll do an impression, send the plate out and have them add that tooth, and then when it comes back, we will pull that tooth, and put the plate into your mouth right away.  It will act as a ‘band-aid’ for the site and will actually be helpful.”

And so the impressions were made, and about a week later I went in and they pulled the offending molar.  Dr. Steward was nowhere to be seen.  Young, pretty Dr. Gall did the honors.  It was a tough extraction.  The crown came off right away, and then, piece by crumbly piece, they got the root out.  The sweet young dentist was cheerful, careful and thorough.  She left not a single particle of the tooth behind, and ended up needing to suture the gaping hole in my jaw.    My small mouth made things a bit difficult — especially when my lip got caught between the forceps and my lower teeth.  That situation got rectified soon enough, but a cold sore followed on the site a few days later.

When things were finally done to her satisfaction, in went to revised partial.  My heart sank.  The area over the stitches was so high, no other teeth would meet.  I was exceedingly worried about this, but Dr. Gall encouraged me to not get frustrated — they were going to make it all right again.  And so I sat for another half hour while they filed, then tried the fit, put carbon paper in my mouth and told me to grind, pulled it out and filed again, then the same procedure over and over again.  Finally, I convinced myself that I could live with it, and that it would probably settle down and that it was never going to be the same again, and I might just as well get used to it.  So I called a halt to all proceedings until the numbness wore off and I had a chance to see how things were and I got into my car and cried.  Then I put it into gear and came on home.

Home.  Where the fire was warm and there was a kind husband waiting.  He ordered me to my chair under treat of retribution if I didn’t take a nap and looked like he meant it.  I crashed onto the chair and slept a really good sleep.  When I got awake, things didn’t seem so bad.  The pain was manageable, and the partial was fitting fairly well.  I collected Grammy’s Girl and together we fed the birds, looked for pretty leaves and made a pretty candle holder for a tea light.

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The days have passed, as they are wont to do.  There’s been plenty to keep my mind off my jaw, but it has been troublesome to put it mildly.  I’ve been wearing my “band-aid” faithfully, and I do think it has been helpful.  Pain medicine has helped, too, and now, almost a week later, I feel like it’s improving.  Getting a tooth pulled just feels like a violation somehow, and I hate it!  But one thing kept going through my mind while Dr. Gall wrestled with this tooth.  That was how thankful I was that there was Novocaine for this sort of thing.  It sounded terrible.  In fact, it sounded like it was REALLY going to hurt when the numbness wore off.  And it sounded like it was the kind of thing a person could faint over if they were trying to take it straight up.  I thought about people through the ages and even now in less developed countries who do not have the choices that I have and who would have suffered so much more than I ever did.

And yes!  My heart gives grateful praise.  For Novocaine and and cheerful doctors who know what they are doing.  For a nicely fitting partial plate after all the trauma and for competent dental care for me and my family.  I’m thankful for a husband who protects and cares for me, and for enough freedom from pain to carry on with my responsibilities.

And I’m thankful for a brightly lit leaf lantern, for this season of grateful praise and for the many, many opportunities I have for joy.

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Filed under Family living, My Life, Uncategorized

Sorting it All Out

My Daddy’s study.  Spiral notebooks of my Daddy’s careful sermon notes, reference books, history books, family pictures, boxes and boxes of correspondence, endless files of minutes from various local church and school committees as well as incredible amounts of detailed secretary’s notes that he took from conference committees through the 70’s and 80’s and beyond.  There were school yearbooks, conference reports, even private files that held the responses of church members dealing with church problems before Daniel and I were back from Ohio.  (I refused to read them, but rather discarded with abandonment and even a sense of having no right to know any of it when I would discover such incriminating evidence.  Did he have to keep this???  Was this something that would ever be necessary for posterity???)

When we left for Claytor Lake State Park in Virginia one Thursday afternoon in September, I was to the point of not wanting to go.  I was bone weary and soul depleted.  There had been incredible amounts of canning, bean picking, laundry, sorting, bill paying, estate work, State reports for OGA and BL to get into the proper persons, and the ordinary household chores that needed doing.  I had been determined that I was going to get it all done before we left, and I fell far short of my goal.  My sister in law, Rose, had done a lion’s share of the physical work at Mama’s house that week, but I felt the pull of all the essence of my parent’s home and their very lives being drained away by the decisions I was making concerning their “stuff” and nothing felt “right.”  It may be possible to read every card ever written to Mark Yoder over the course of his life, (including his teen years) but is that the proper use of time?  Do I take a year of my life to organize all the papers, all the files, all the notes, all the sermons, all the tax returns, all the medical and financial records just so they are organized?  And then what?  Who wants them?  I would like to know what is in all those pages and pages of information, but then what?  My siblings and I conferred (as well as the inlaws) and they all said the same thing:  Unless something is legally important, or specific to your particular family, Don’t Save It! (With the exception of Daddy’s sermon notes — those are in high demand among the grandsons.)

And so, I would run a perfunctory eye over files, riffle through committee notes, check the correspondence for personal letters from or to family members (and that alone was voluminous!) and then turn my head and put them in the large dumpster.  Over and over again my siblings would reassure me, “Mary Ann, we just can’t save everything!”  And they were right, of course, but it was still one of the hardest things I have ever done.

Late that Wednesday afternoon, I left My Sweet Mama’s house barely able to hold back the tears until I was in my car and out of the driveway.  Much of my time that afternoon had been spent going through cards, letters, birth announcements, engagement announcements and wedding invitations that had been sent to my grandparents, Michael and Alma Wert, from Daddy and Mama and my siblings and their families.  The years that were marked in that brown manilla envelope were full and exciting and so far gone.  I had read a letter that I had written to my grandparents while I awaited the birth of our third child, telling about five year old Christina and two year old Deborah and the excitement I felt over the new baby coming.  I held the birth announcement for that baby, and thought about Raphael, now older than I was when I wrote that letter.  I drove along the familiar road through the small town of Greenwood and tried to see through the tears.  I rounded the corner at 16 and 36 and came down the road towards Milford.  The brick church by the side of the road with the familiar cemetery was on the right and there were no cars in the parking lot.  I pulled my van up beside the steps going into the graveyard and stopped.

I had not been to Mama’s grave since the day we buried her except for the day we buried Uncle Eli.  In the days following Daddy’s death, I had stopped often, sometimes going in the dark, sometimes in the rain, usually in the winter cold, but always feeling such a need to somehow be where we had laid his mortal remains to rest.  I knew he wasn’t there, but the part of my Daddy that I could see and touch and talk to was down there — somewhere, and I felt like I could talk to him there.  And I would!  I always ended up with my heart turned toward my Heavenly Father and there was where I found comfort.  However, I always felt better after being there.  With Mama, it’s been different.  To think of her body being there — and knowing how she always wanted to be carefully dressed and combed and smelling good and attractive, and knowing how she hated being alone and cold — well, that has been a huge hurdle for me.  It’s just been easier not to go.  But on this day, I needed to be there, the place where we had laid her to rest, and I needed to tell her my heart, and to sob out the grief and heart pain and indecision and questioning that was eating away at my resolve to be strong and upbeat and cheerful. I traced her name against the hard stone, and thought about her life and the last weeks that took her away from us.  Even as I acknowledged that the Mama we knew had been starting to slip away, it was still this horrible, empty place in that house that was always so cheery and welcoming, and this horrible empty place in my heart where this woman, who gave me life so often gave me comfort or encouragement or just plain took my part — whether I was justified in “my part.”  Or not.

I finally pulled myself away.  There was so much yet to do.  The tears ran on and on down my face as I headed my mini-van out onto Shawnee Road and headed towards Shady Acres.  The sun was heading down the sky behind me and I felt keenly the weight of sorrow and grief and loss that seemed to be embodied in the discarding of the things that were important to the lives of my Precious Daddy and Sweet Mama.

The weeks have passed.   Almost six to be honest.  I haven’t been back to my Mama’s house since that day. It’s hard to go without one of my sisters with me and they have both had incredibly unpredictable weeks this last while.  And on days when it may have suited them, it didn’t suit me.  But this excuse has come to an end with the return of my brother, Nel and his good wife, Rose, for a few days.  Tomorrow, it looks like we go back to the fray.  And I will be glad to be there with good support and diversion and helping hands.

But I also dread it.  I keep thinking about that house — particularly that spot where her chair sat so that she could keep an eye on everything, and be a part of everything that went on in her big room that was so full of light.  Her bird that she loved, and that she pampered and talked to, is now here at Shady Acres in the care of Deborah.  I come down in the mornings sometimes and take off the polyester wrapping cloth of pale blues and white that Mama always used.  He looks up at me and chirps his questioning noise.

“Good morning, Pretty Bird,” I often say to him as he hops about in the cage she bought for him.  And then I often find myself saying, “Oh, Pretty Bird!  Do you miss her, too?  Do you miss her as much as I do?”  He’s just a bird, but his morning songs comfort me as I remember that last day, as she was sinking fast, how he burst into song on that long afternoon and sang and sang.  He — here at our house.  She — there in the sunny corner room at the Country Rest Home.  He doesn’t often sing in the afternoon, and Middle Daughter, noting the song, told me later that she felt certain that Grandma was about to head on HOME.

HOME.  That’s where she is.  She is safe.  She is happy.  She is with Jesus.  She is warm and comfortable and healthy.  She is where there is no night.  She is not lonely.  She has no need to cry.  She is never afraid.  She has no more pain.  She isn’t being bossed around.   She is beautiful.  She is alive.

The thing I miss most, of course, is the conversations I had with Mama.  Last week, I wrote a note to her, briefly touching on a number of subjects — things that I would develop into a longer conversation if she were here to participate.  This is what it said:

Ah, Mama.  I wish I could talk to you today!  The leaves are falling without changing much color this year, and the beans got froze out early.  I saw a robin and his mate at the outdoor bird watering station in the cold.  Doesn’t he know its time to fly south?  The hummingbirds are gone.  Aunt Gladys has two new great grandbabies, and they are both Naomi’s sons’ children, born less than forty hours apart.  The church building is coming along.  This morning, Daniel talked to the person who called 911 for us.  That was so interesting.  It seems impossible that a year ago, we were waiting for word of Frieda’s homegoing — and now you are there with her.  We couldn’t know how soon you would leave us, it’s true, but I’m so glad we didn’t.  I don’t know if I could have borne that.  Rachel finally found a job, and will be moving to Washington, D.C. next month.  She placed third in the Pennsylvania Society of Clinical Social Work’s annual awards for Clinical Excellence. Our chickens are almost ready for market and we want to go to Ohio and see Raph and Gina and the boys.  We still aren’t finished cleaning out your house.  It’s mostly done, but I think I’m allergic to something in that house.  Everytime I go in, my eyes water and my nose runs . . .

So much to tell you, Mama.  And no more time.

The thing is, as I looked over this note, I realized something.  I was wrong about something.  That business about the leaves falling without changing colors.  That’s how it looked about ten days ago.  The leaves were falling off our trees and they were brown and green and nothing else.  But something happened on the way from then to now.  I’ve had the chance over the last three days to observe a number of woodlands and ponds and lakes — and the leaves are more beautiful than I have ever seen.  it has to be the prettiest display that Delaware has had for — well, maybe forever!  And I cannot get this off my mind.  I was so wrong about the leaves.  Maybe, just maybe I am wrong about this, too.  Maybe this grief that right now looks so dark and colorless and even “terminal” is going to surprise me someday with its color and life and beauty.

Maybe.  And not just “maybe.”

I have to believe that the word is more like “Probably.”

And for that hope, my heart gives grateful praise.

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Filed under Dealing with Grief, Family, Family living, Grief, Heaven