Robert Paul Hoffman
Died thirty two years ago
miss him every day
My Dad and I have a special bond.
A physical, special bond.
On Thanksgiving Day, 1969, while goofing around in the basement with my brothers, I slipped and fell.
My brother Timmy had been chasing me and since he was on my back as I fell, I really picked up speed.
As I fell, I was yelling, mouth wide open.
Point of contact with the linoleum covered concrete floor was my left front tooth, which snapped in half.
I remember my Mom groaning, ‘Not the front tooth.”
Dad was a Dentist.
Our journey together over my tooth began.
The joke told was that Dad wanted to wait until I matured to put a cap on the tooth.
He finally gave up waiting and put a cap on it anyway.
Not sure how old I was but it was on a Saturday morning (for a long time, Dad worked half days on Saturday to treat those folks who could not take time off of work to see their Dentist) and he told my sister Janet to bring me down to the office.
I was about 10 or 11 but not sure.
The plan was for a gold crown cap which required that the stump of my left tooth be ground down to make room for the cap.
I had no idea what was coming.
I got no laughing gas or novocaine.
I sat in the operating chair.
Dad leaned in with the grinder making that whooooop whooooooop sound as he reved it up.
The grinder made contact with my tooth and I screamed.
Dad didn’t stop.
I didn’t stop.
Dad stepped back and hangs up the tool, says “This is ridiculous. We will just leave it.”
He stomped out the operating room.
I looked at Janet who had stayed to watch.
In my mind her eyes were as big as pie plates.
I said, ‘I’ll stop.”
Dad came back in and went to work.
I gripped the arms of that chair like a I was drowning.
It seems to me like this went on for hours.
In later discussion, Dad decided that the tooth was broken off so close to the nerve that it hurt more than he thought it might.
Since he had to grind some of my other teeth to make room for the cap and that was nothing like working on the stump, I agreed.
There were more trips to the office.
Final installation of the cap.
I got to see Dad sculpt a gold crown cap in wax and then create a plaster mold of the cap.
I watched as he used a blow torch and a manual centrifuge to melt dental gold and spin it to force the gold into the mold by gravity to create the cap.
He really was an unsung artist of this craft.
Over the next years I broke the cap the off several times.
Each time meant return trips to the office for repairs.
In 1978, my Mom demanded a cap that would last for my Senior Class Photographs for Graduation from Grand Rapids Creston High School.
One last time it was back to the office.
This last cap was just a little larger to insure a tight fit.
With this cap resting in place, Dad says, “just hold it” and fumbled in the equipment drawer for a hammer.
After a few blows that left me groggy, the cap was in place.
It has been there ever since.
I feel it with my tongue all the time.
Sometimes I don’t notice it.
Sometimes I do, and I think of Dad.
Happy to report that our relationship got past the time in the chair.
When he died, I felt he was my best friend.
The tooth is still here.
I didn’t know a gold front tooth was a fashion statement until I moved to Georgia, (Hey call me Earl!)
A special bond.
One last note, I haven’t been to a Dentist since he died.