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Some folks' teeth need all the wisdom they can get

Here we are a scant 48 hours before Turkey Day, give or take a quick trip to the grocery store or two, and our youngest child, Jenna, has chipmunk cheeks, relegating her prospects for enjoying a normal Thanksgiving repast to those two forlorn standard bearers of pessimism, slim and none.

She had her wisdom teeth extracted, in other words. Bright and early Monday morning. It seems to be the in thing to do over Thanksgiving break, sort of like Spring Break at Panama City or snow skiing in Maggie Valley over MLK weekend. Half of Heritage High School - and a couple of alumni - kept me company in the waiting room at the oral surgeon's Monday morning. It was really a nice relaxing hour or so and I caught up on a couple months' worth of Newsweek and Sports Illustrated articles.

I don't think Jenna enjoyed the experience as much as I did, though. She was quite groggy when we left the doctor's office - I think they put her into a state called "twilight sleep" - and the aftermath is a little like recovering from a three-day drunk, only without the shame - or the headache. At any rate, we went straight home to the couch and a lot of Jell-O and yogurt smoothies and pain medication - just the way every 15-year-old girl wants to spend the days leading up to Thanksgiving.

But at least it is over and done with. One more thing checked off the list. Her braces are off, her wisdom teeth are out and she'll be getting her driver's license in April. The week after that she'll be leaving for college, and the next time I turn around she'll be married and living in Switzerland with some guy who isn't good enough for her and finding a cure for cancer.

Where does the time go?

Meanwhile, back here on earth, as I waited for the word that Jenna's teeth were officially removed, a couple of the kids who were waiting their turn began asking a couple of the check-signers - also known as parents - about their own experiences.

I was too busy reading an article about how Oregon and Oklahoma were shoe-ins for the BCS Championship game to take part in the discussion, but in the back of my mind I did begin to reminisce and was surprised that I could actually remember a lot of the horrifying details.

I have a thing about pain, understand. I am terrified of it. I don't like needles. I don't like shots. I don't like forceps or pliers or crowbars or any of the other tools that those closet sadists who disguise themselves as dentists use on their unsuspecting patients. I am a big baby, in other words, so I put off having my wisdom teeth extracted as long as I could.

I was, in fact, a senior in college, about to graduate from the University of Georgia and be removed, forever, from my mother's insurance plan. She and Johnny Capes were in cahoots to rid me of my molars and they tricked me into dropping by his office on the first day of summer vacation.

I think they told me Johnny was taking me to the Braves game with him.

Not really, but it makes a better story.

Actually, I don't remember how Tommie Huckaby got me to Dr. Capes' office that day. Perhaps she just told me I had to go. I do remember, however, the wry smile on Dr. John's face as he wielded that giant needle - the one that was supposed to numb my jaw so much that I would forget he had just inserted a sharp metal object roughly the length of a ten-penny nail into my nervous system.

I'm not saying that he enjoyed seeing me squirm, but when he said "This is going to hurt you a lot more than it does me," he wasn't just whistling "Dixie."

I suppose my mother actually drove me to the appointment and I suppose she was sitting in the waiting room thumbing through old magazines and chatting with other patients and mothers just like I did Monday. I guess that's what parents do. I don't remember that part of the ordeal.

I do, however, remember lying on the couch watching television - for what seemed like days - and holding bags of ice on my aching jaws. I also remember drinking milkshakes and eating lime Jell-O for what seemed like weeks but was probably closer to a couple of days.

And I remember refusing to go out in public because my swollen jaws made me look even more like Howdy Doody than I already did. My buddy Bob Lunsford came by and took pictures of me, for blackmail purposes. I think he still has them, too.

They say that hindsight is 20-20, and looking back, I probably shouldn't have had my wisdom teeth removed at all, because in my case any wisdom I actually had seemed to go with them. Jenna is smarter than her daddy, though - she would just about have to be - and will probably do just fine without hers.

I did, however, take a picture of her swollen cheeks as soon as she fell asleep on the couch. Never know when a little blackmail material will come in handy.

Darrell Huckaby is a local author and educator. He can be reached at dHuck08@bellsouth.net.