by Marie A. Kelson
Bloomsbury, New Jersey USA
I was 15, still in the throes of those teenage years, and full of rebellion and determined independence. But in reality, I was running scared, as were most young girls my age. My mother was a single mom doing her best to cope with raising a family of one boy and five girls by working long hours in a laundry and staying up most of the night sewing clothes for all of us. There was little time for expressing physical affection and individual attention.
I had developed an abscess in my bottom front teeth, and the decision was made to remove three teeth and the abscess. I had to go alone. I was frightened, but I knew it had to be done — so off I went.
Putting patients to sleep was not an option at this dentist. I made myself sit down in the chair, closed my eyes, and tried not to think of what was going on. About halfway through the procedure I was comforted to feel the nurse’s two warm hands on my own, where they remained until the work was done. Susan, I am sure, could feel my fear and sense of abandonment. I am sure tears flowed down my face as I was so moved by this reaching out of one human being to another.
Losing three front teeth was traumatic for a 15-year-old girl, but the missing teeth were easily hidden by my bottom lip. The operation was done during the summer, when school was out, so initially it was not embarrassing socially. However, the cost of a bridge to replace the missing teeth was a serious consideration.
Welfare as we know it today did not exist. All six of us children worked from a young age, doing whatever we could to earn money for our extras and occasionally helping out with family expenses. When we were very young, we earned money by gathering and selling newspapers and rags. Later, we babysat. I had been babysitting for quite a while and saving money to buy a used bike, so my bike money and contributions from my mother were put together. Our very kind dentist allowed us to pay by installment, which was accepted in those days before credit cards. Thus I had a bridge before I returned to school in the fall.
Susan’s loving touch was very important to me. It meant so much that many years later, I can still feel it. I never personally thanked Susan for her kindness, but I know she understood. Such a small gesture on her part brought great comfort to me in a highly stressful situation — comfort that will last a lifetime. Thank you, Susan, wherever you are.