This was my view for much of today:
I never imagined I would spend the day watching Madiba tributes while subjecting myself, voluntarily, to very expensive torture. I arrived at my dentist in Parkwood at 8.30am; he finished, as promised, at 4pm. This is how long it takes to fit 11 crowns, and that in itself is remarkable when you consider that this used to take one month instead of one day. It is an expensive exercise, and not covered by medical aid, so it’s just as well I live frugally. Three years ago I had the equivalent of an entry level car put in my upper jaw, and now I’ve finally added the second to the lower.
I have a history with Dr Thandar; he knew both me and my ex-husband, and he’s followed my story over the years. Just before I emigrated to Australia, I underwent gum surgery with a view to getting crowns put in, eventually. So the case of my teeth, cursed as they are with weak enamel, is also the story of my journey to the other side of the world and back.
While I sat in that chair, I had a flashback to the pain I felt when I first arrived in Sydney, and how impossible it was to eat anything except soup, and how miserable I was. It was interesting to experience such an intense and prolonged externalisation of pain while watching people weeping on the screen. (Not everybody was weeping, of course; the exuberance of the crowd outside Madiba’s Houghton home would probably have surprised some viewers.)
This gives you an idea of how much anaesthetic was injected into my jaws today. Right now I’d quite like to write a love letter to Myprodol:
The anaesthetic caused my heart rate to increase because of the adrenaline in it, and that together with the extreme discomfort of the hard plastic contraption he put in my mouth, triggered a panic attack. At around 9am this morning, I honestly didn’t know how I’d get through the day. But, somehow, between CNN and Sky, Robyn Curnow and Alex Crawford, I managed. At one point I had the dentist inserting crowns while I watched former ANC MP Andrew Feinstein discussing the passing of our greatest leader in a London studio.
My dentist, who is Indian but sounds exactly like an oke from Fourways, is in some ways, a product of the more just and sane society that Madiba envisioned. He is married to a white woman, and they have a daughter who would have been persona non grata during the 1980s, but is just another cute kid today. His assistant is called Perfect.
I think of how the ethnicity of the skilled people who fix me up does not matter as it would have done when I was twenty five years younger. And yes, that makes me smile.