I’m at home in Pennsylvania, after getting my faculty ID at Bellarmine and applying for a Louisville apartment. I haven’t seen my parents all year, though I do talk with them every two or three weeks. Returning to rural Pennsylvania is a cultural change from Chicago. First, I get relatively much thinner. It’s not that I lose weight, but that the population comparison shifts. Second, the expectations of pace and conversation change. Things are slower. Casual small talk is much more common here in PA. Third, it’s always interesting to see what has changed (not that much, usually) on each trip. Western PA is much more constant, with strengths and weaknesses of that approach.
I’m not one to talk about my family much on my pages, since I feel if they wanted to speak they could get space from me and do it themselves. Here, I’m just going to tell one story, related to my Louisville visit. I’ll be full time faculty with benefits there from January until May, which includes dental. My teeth, well, are not the best. They’re not terrible, but given the continual increase in physical expectations it’s yet another reason I’m still single. Part of my teeth problem comes from not having coverage since 2000, and dentists are expensive. Another reason is my dislike of dentists. My childhood dentist had a very miserly attitude towards pain medication. Perhaps it was because he thought as a child, I was just whining. This is not true – I don’t like complaining about my health and don’t like painkillers. Now I buy the 24 tablet Tylenol bottle, and throw it out when it expires a year later with 20 tablets left. When I was hurting I was hurting. In my mind, dentists are associated with large amounts of pain, which causes me to not spend my limited funds on them.
Another major reason I don’t have great teeth is the title of this musing. In the summer of 1986, when I was 11, I would ride my bicycle to the post office some days. It’s a bit over 1 kilometer away; towards the end is a fairly steep downhill. At the time, I had a one-speed chain brake bike. If you’ve never ridden a chain brake bike, they’re cheaper than pad brakes, but less safe. To slow down, one pushes back on the pedals, which causes the chain to slow the rear wheel by not letting it turn as freely. Unfortunately, this leads to skids in bad conditions. One afternoon, during the Goodwill Games, I was riding and went down the hill. By the end, I had some speed going. That day, the bottom of the hill had some gravel, small pebbles and rocks. At the bottom, I got into the gravel, started bouncing around, and couldn’t stop without losing control. So I lost control.
I went over the front of the bike. At first, I felt fine, and wanted to just keep going to the post office. The people outside stopped me. Knowing who I was, one of them called my parents, who raced to get me and take me to the hospital. My lips and lower face were quite bloody. When we got to the ER, my dad realized that people move to the front if they’re not ambulatory. So he cradled me in his arms, and we got right in. It’s not that I was super heavy – I only weighed about 75 pounds. (I remember because I lied and said I weighed more, since I was small for an 11-year-old.) It’s the last time my dad carried me. Almost all of the damage was to my lower face teeth. I lost one front tooth completely, half of the second one and had to receive a root canal, and my lower teeth got moved out of place. For about a week I had to stay inside and watch the Goodwill Games a lot.
Now, twenty years later, the hill’s still there. It’s still not very safe. I refuse to ride a chain brake bike. Since my dad is close to 60, and I weigh over twice as much as I did 20 years ago, it would be much more difficult for him to carry me. But I still remember.