I'll be here a while this morning.
The Oldest is getting his braces put on as I type these words.
We knew it would be this summer. We'd been planning it for years, actually. We knew basically what we were looking at. He has a fairly severe overbite, and we'd known that since he was a tiny guy fighting a tongue thrust projection frontal lisp. It still comes out when he's tired.
For now, anyway.
It probably won't anymore.
Many things about him are changing in this moment, though I'm not sure that either one of us really appreciates it.
For most of his life, I had my father to consult for all things dental. My dad made dentures, owned his own business. He spent his entire career helping people create the illusion that their teeth were better than they were, helping people mask the problems of their pasts. He helped hide weaknesses, he got people to smile again. He was good, damn good, at what he did. One of the best, really. His dentures and partials so well made that wearers didn't have to use any of those dental adhesives they peddle on television. If they're made right, you shouldn't need that stuff.
Because of the nature of his business, he saw a lot. He saw what happened when people didn't take care of their health, didn't take care of their teeth, didn't take care of themselves. He would have gone to dental school and become a dentist if he'd had the money back when he needed it. As it turned out, the lab might have been better for him. He was an introvert, a solitary kind of person. He liked to have a partner around but had absolutely no need to interact with humans constantly.
I come by it honestly.
Anyway, he was always the person I ran everything by. When the kids had trouble with their teeth or their speech, he was the one I called. When Freckles destroyed her hard palate in a freak accident, he was the second phone call after my husband. When The Oldest had to go in for speech, he was my rock. When we had tooth injuries, my phone just automatically dialed his number. Whenever anyone lost a tooth, he was one of the first to know.
He talked the kids off the ledge a few times when they'd freak out about a wiggly tooth. He became the Tooth Fairy one day when The Oldest was asking what everyone in the family did for work. Four years old at the time, he could easily conceptualize that Papa was a policeman and his Uncle was a firefighter, but other jobs were a little harder to explain. I told him that Grandpa made teeth for people who lost theirs, he made the connection.
I never questioned it. It made too much sense. Grandpa was the Tooth Fairy.
Still is, actually.
He took the last one lost under his watch with him when he died, tucked neatly into his front shirt pocket.
I'd talked to him a bit about The Oldest's bite issues towards the end of his life. He always encouraged me to wait, to be cautious about early work. He saw the long term effects of overly aggressive treatment. He nodded in approval when I told him about the dentist I'd finally found for the kids, one who actually called him personally to talk about Freckles' issues one day.
Dad told us to wait until The Oldest was in his major growth spurt to do anything.
So did the dentist.
And here we are.
He's grown at least 4 inches this year already. Probably more. His voice is changing. He's shaving. The shape of his face, the shape of his body, all different, sometimes from one day to the next.
He's growing up, and it is time.
This process, one that will transform him even more. His face will never look the same again. His teeth will never look the same. His voice will never be the same. His lisp could disappear, finally, forever, though it will probably get worse for a little while first.
By the time these braces come off, he'll be 15 years old.
That doesn't even seem possible.
As we walked into the orthodontist's office just a bit ago, this began playing.
This song. This damned song. I love it so much. I hate it so much. I heard it for the first time in the weeks before my father died, just before I flew home for the last time to take care of him. Every single time I hear it, there's a reason. I'm in some place or time or moment that I need a reminder that he's with me.
I got one this morning.
He's here. He's watching out for my boy. He's up there nodding his head in approval.
It is time.
Ignore the woman in the waiting room sobbing into her laptop, you guys.
Her Dad just came to say hi on one of the biggest days of her son's life.
She just needs a minute.