Saying Goodbye

Ever since I could remember, I hated going to the dentist. That all changed fifteen years ago, when I met my new dentist here in Bakersfield. He was kind, gentle and understood how to calm my fears when it came to injections, extractions, and fillings. I only had a few fillings; but, I’ve had a lot of extractions. Although I had strong teeth, I had weak roots, which made for a lot of trips to the dentist.

I remember one time when I was really stressed out about an impending extraction, he said “If you trust me, then there’s nothing to be worried about.” Seemed like solid advice, and although my heart still pounded with each injection, I was able to suppress the urge to jump out of the chair and never come back. He earned my trust, which meant a lot when it came to a dentist.

A few days ago, I received some sad news. My dentist was gone. Not forever gone like he died. But gone forever from his practice. He left a note for his office staff, and that was that. Not even a goodbye to patients or staff. I was so taken by the news, I wept. And now, after a few days, I’m still trying to process the information.

My writerly mind came up with scenarios for “The Disappearing Dentist,” a novel about high pitched squealing drills, sterile extraction forceps, mystery and intrigue. But my heart tried to find a logical reason for a quick exit. I’m sure he had his reasons. And, I’m trying to accept that he did what was best for him. But, after so many years, I would have liked to at least been able to say thank you, good luck, and goodbye. But life doesn’t always come neatly packed with perfect answers. Nor the chance to let someone know how much we appreciate them. So, we move on. Slowly.

The office is still open, but under a different name with some new staff. I made an appointment for a cleaning and to meet the new dentist. I suppose I should give him a chance to earn my trust. It might take me a while to resist the urge to bolt from the chair, but since I have a few good teeth left I need to try.

In the meantime, thank you Dr. for all the years of visits that were actually enjoyable. Thanks for the funny stories while you worked on my mouth. Stories that made everyone laugh. And, even though I was numb and could think of a hundred other places to be, you helped me push aside my fears and learn to trust. Best of success in your new endeavors. I will miss you.


5 thoughts on “Saying Goodbye

  1. Donnee Patrese says:

    It’s so hard when someone earns your trust and then leaves suddenly. I have felt that way about a few therapist. Great post.

  2. Very nice Joan. I especially like your third paragraph in which you describe your shock and reaction. But you don’t let it get in the way of the message of trust that he shared with you. Great post. ks

  3. tabi cooper says:

    I know how hard it is to find a dentist you really have faith in. It’s gotten so state of the art, that I feel like an assembly line patient. I wish I could recommend mine, he’s very good, and yet the personal touch is not what we crave. I just went in yesterday, thinking I would see the dentist and no where to be found, just an assistant. He could have bolted and I wouldn’t have known either!
    Loved the story, made me sad for you and me. Also, funny.

  4. sudha says:

    Perspective from a patient side….
    Possible h
    The dentist was burned out to his core that he didn’t have anything left to give…not even a good bye….specially the exceptional doctors do suffer from burnout.
    A taboo no one wants to talk about or acknowledge its existence…

    I wish more people like you would show gratitude….for those who genuinely care about them.

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