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Get Over It

Franklin Roosevelt in his first inaugural address said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”.  I’m sure there was plenty to fear for people with the country in a deep depression yet he offered a challenge to everyone to look beyond those thoughts and beliefs.  Fear can be a clue that stops us from doing something very stupid or fear is imagined and it can just stop us from doing.  For all of us fear can be very debilitating.

The day after the Wilco concert I stopped at HyVee after working at the Copper Beech all day.  I was very tired after not getting home until 2:00 am and I pulled in to the parking lot where there were no cars and fell immediately to sleep.  I left the engine was on and the music was loud but I kept sleeping.  Suddenly I woke up and I grabbed the wheel and started turning right then left and slamming on the brakes because there was a van that parked in front of me.  I thought I had gone to sleep while driving and was about to have a head on crash.  Now that was fear, imagined.

When I was a young child I had a very bad experience in a dentist chair.  When I lost my baby teeth the roots remained and they had to be removed.  The dentist did this without the use of a local anesthetic.  My mother later reported to me that while I was in the chair screaming a neighboring dentist came into the office and asked what was going on?  I remember as a child feeling guilty that I was so happy when I learned that he had suddenly died.

I was assured  that our next dentist, Doctor Boardway, was going to be a great improvement because he shot water of all things, on the tooth while drilling.  I was told that this practice was to relieve a lot of the pain because it would keep the tooth cool.  It didn’t work and his little magic act at the end, when he turned a penny in to a dime did nothing for me either.  I was so glad when I was eighteen because I told my parents that I was no longer going to the dentist.  I didn’t have a lot of for sight and although I was invincible for about seven years, I returned to the dentist when Linda and I worked in the boys group home in Waterloo.  The boys had to go so I was coaxed into going once again, something quietly said about being a role model.  Because of my seven year absence I had a dozen cavities and plenty of opportunities to be that role model.  I sat in that chair with my hands gripped tight to the chairs arms and struggled through it.  After 25 years I was finally introduced to a local anesthetic while drilling but the damage was done and I could only rationalize my fear.

Getting married, having children, sitting in court rooms making recommendations that affected others lives was nothing compared to sitting in that dentist chair.  I felt as though I had no control over myself.  It was a very weird feeling when faced with the thoughts and memories of my childhood dentists.  My new dentist was great but I struggled for the next fifteen years with fears from the pain of many years earlier.  Even after my nineteen crowns I continued to make excuses so I could cancel my appointments.  Always hoping I would have an emergency at work so I wouldn’t have to sit in the chair.  I always made sure I had an emergency and the appointment would have to be rescheduled.  I had a practice of always having to cancel once before I could gather myself together to go and sit in that chair.  This was the only control that I felt I possessed.  Finally, I just quit going.  Linda reminded me many times that I needed to go to the dentist but I would not listen and I eventually told her that I did not need her reminders.  She got the hint and before I knew it twenty years had lapsed without a visit to the dentist.  Except there was the one time when I had to have a tooth removed that had broken off at the base after biting down on a bone at Carrie’s graduation.  I realized then that pain can overcome fear, but what a choice.  Those years were not carefree because I knew in the back of my mind I was one day going to have to see a dentist.  With each passing year I was feeling more of a prisoner of my own fears.  Last year when I was in the hospital Linda gave me a mint and I broke another tooth.  I didn’t tell her about the breakage, but while laying in the hospital bed, knowing what I had gone through and what was still ahead I told Linda that I was going to a dentist when I was discharged.

After my discharge from the hospital I had thought many times about what I had told Linda and with my one year anniversary of my hospital stay quickly arriving I needed to take action.  I had decided that I could not go back to my old dentist, although he was no longer there I couldn’t go back in to that office as I was embarrassed.  I needed a fresh start so I looked in the yellow pages and there was an add that read, “dentist for cowards”.  I felt like it was speaking to me so I nervously called and made an appointment, kept it and hey, I have returned for my regular appointments.  I did have a tooth ache where it broke off and I took Tylenol and had to watch what I ate until I will was sporting a new crown, my twentieth, and yes I had one cavity. I sat relaxed and I don’t even know if there were arms on the chair.

For me fear has to take a back seat to living to ones fullest.  Yet the words fear,  frightened and afraid are such a large part of conversations especially if words describing something new or different are part of the same sentence.  We have our boundaries, self imposed and we hurt ourselves.  We rationalize out of the fear of something new or different yet we know how good we feel when we move that boundary.  When we move from our parents home, marry, interview for that job or promotion, learn something new, when we meet new people, when we go to the dentist.  I’m listening to myself, “Get over it”.

Reflections

Recently I visited my mother.  Since we live a little less than 150 miles apart these visits are planned.  They usually include shopping, a trip to the library, a nice lunch, a ritual of an ice cream cone and great conversation which includes historical information.  The ice cream is important because it is my mother’s way of testing fate by consuming a cold treat after she had her heart attack in 2007.  During my last visit we went to our usual grocery store hangout, Barnes Foodland in DeWitt.  I was pushing the cart and helping my mother find the different articles on the list.  She was walking behind me and we were approaching the end of an aisle looking for what else but prune juice.  As we reached the end of the aisle a woman, I’m guessing in her middle thirties, was also going in the same direction.  I’m sure she was not looking for prune juice.  Anyway, the two of us made eye contact, we smiled, and she started to go ahead of me.  At that moment without turning my head I said something to my mother about prunes.  The thirty something woman while smiling said, “pardon me what did you say?”  Since I usually shop with Linda I quickly responded, ” I’m sorry I was speaking to my wife.”  She looked at me, twisted her face like she was in some pain and said, “huh?”  With that, she appeared to me to go quickly went down the aisle and thankfully I did not see her again.  I made sure of it.  Now that was cool, it was smoooooooooooooth.  Fortunately I’m married because with those kind of lines I would be pretty lonely.  A bigger question is how did I get married with conversation like that?

When I was ready to return to my home after my visit with my mother, she gave me my dad’s baseball glove that he used when he played ball in high school.  I thought the glove was long gone but there it was.  I immediately put it on my hand remembering all the great times my dad and I had playing catch in the yard those hot summer nights, throwing the ball until it was dark and sometimes turning the yard light on so that we could play longer.  We would laugh and I think that is when we felt most comfortable sharing our thoughts and ideas with each other.  Sometime he would throw the ball hard and it would sting my hand.  For some affect, I would hop around, waving my arm to try and relieve the pain, all the time laughing and happy to have the attention from my dad.  At times when I threw the ball he also felt the sting through his glove and he would laugh and suggest to me that I had thrown a real stinger.  Since I was the oldest child I am sure he was trying to figure out how to be a dad to this kid who was trying to figure out who he was.  However, by age eighteen laughter and good times was not always the case and we struggled to figure out how we were going to work together on the farm.  By the time I was twenty one there was very little that dad or I could say to each other that we could agree upon and we ended up going our separate way for awhile.  Dad continued to farm with his father and I left for college.  But I believe that old glove and those nights of sharing laughter and ideas, helped to bring us together again.  I wish I could show you the glove.  Maybe you have an old glove.

Have a wonderful day and enjoy every moment, taking nothing for granted about ourselves and those around us.

Music recommendation:  Blue October, Eighteenth Floor Balcony a song he wrote for his child.

Introduction

I have written some poetry over the years and with few exceptions have only shared it with my wife, Linda.  Putting my poetry aside, two years ago I began sharing some thoughts and observations in letter form with my daughter-in-law Tammie, and my two sons, Tate and Ryan.  I tried to integrate some of my history and present and past experiences into some stories and ideas to share with them.  I attempted to interject some humor while explaining my thoughts and actions of the past fifty and more years.  In October, 2007 I retired after thirty five years of working with children and families who were having troubles.  Retiring did not mean that I was done communicating.  Instead, it was a whole new venture from only being a verbal open book with my family to writing in book or story form.  I was motivated to write to Tammie, Tate and Ryan because I felt I had things to share that otherwise would be difficult, unusual or awkward to bring up in normal conversation.  These writings have given them the opportunity to understand and in some cases to catch up through these history lessons.  You can figure things out better if you have more information and these stories hopefully eliminate the so called, “inside joke” that if you don’t get it you can’t move ahead.  Writing has also offered to me opportunities to reflect on my life both past and present and where I might go from here.  It underscores the nuance that promotes the love, recognition and importance in my life.  My posts will be versions of what I have already sent to Tammie, Tate and Ryan.

One quick note.  The Awesome Russ thing is one of those inside jokes that I will share with you.  Linda and I gave a card to Tammie and in the card we had each written a line to her and I had used the word awesome.  When we each signed the card, the way the words lined up, it read Awesome Russ.  It got a huge laugh from all of us when Tammie pointed it out.  It got an even bigger laugh from all of us when I chose awesomeruss.com as my blog address.