Today was the second of two incredibly unpleasant trips to the dentist office. It’s been 5 hours since I left and my poor jaw is not only throbbing but still numb. It sounds impossible to both be in pain and be numb but I’m pulling it off quite well, thank you. Apparently I’m one of those rare birds that metabolizes the numbing medicines very rapidly so today dear old doc was nice enough to use the ‘good stuff’ on me.
And then he still had to come back half-way through and re-numb my lower jaw. So, hours later I feel like the majority of my facial muscles are outside of my control all while the whole left side of my face is throbbing. And Don’t. Bite. Down. let me tell ya.
The lady who is doing all the work is a super nice, kind of down-to-earth person that you instantly just like. You know, the kind of person who when you see her in he grocery store 3 months after your visit she greets you like a friend and seems genuinely glad to have run into you? She’s outgoing and pleasant and kind and I’m good with that because with the amount of pain and discomfort she was causing in my mouth it’s much easier to resist the urge to slap a super-nice person.
Which is why is just shocked me speechless when the most unkindly thing came out of her mouth.
At the end of my visit we got busy scheduling my next few appointments. I’m standing there, slack-jawed, drool rag in one hand, phone with calendar app open in the other as she starts going through dates.
The first works. The second, however, I have to say No, or the closest approximation of ‘No’ that I can manage, that is the day of the Special Olympics and my son is participating in them.
Oh, OK she says cheerfully, the one’s at Such and Such University? to which I say yes. And before I can say what about the next day, she spits these words out into the room.
So, what’s wrong with him?
That dead space up there after that sentence…..that’s the dead silence that hung in the room for a moment after she said that. My mind, however, was not at all silent and I’m sure my face, even with half of it numb, had to have conveyed my utter disbelief. In that 5 second moment of silence more than just unbelief had to have run across my face as I stared at her and a few of these almost came out of my mouth.
What’s wrong with him??? NOTHING. There is actually not a SINGLE. THING. WRONG with him THANK YOU VERY MUCH.
I CANNOT believe you actually just said that! Do you live in the dark ages?? You’re a medical professional!
Oh. No. You. Did. NOT. Just say that to me.
I have got to set this woman straight, it is my duty to my son and to the special needs community……
But I didn’t. I did not because honestly, she is a nice woman and my pain-ridden knee-jerk reaction would have done more harm than good. She didn’t mean to be ignorant. Most people don’t. She wasn’t trying to be unkind. She was being curious and trying to ask a question that she didn’t know how to ask.
And, unfortunately, although she did correct herself after my silent stare of disbelief, and asked ‘What kind of special needs?’, she, like so many others, really do see my son as ‘damaged’. To them, he has something wrong with him.
And my ugly outburst might prevent her from ever asking someone else such a question in such a tactless way but it won’t change her perspective.
I know because I was a nice person once, too. Until I had my kiddo, I didn’t understand that there was nothing WRONG with folks with special needs. I was ignorant and curious and scared.
God cured me of that.
I told the nice lady at the dentist office that my son had Down syndrome and we discovered that he and her child are the same age and we finished our appointment setting and off to nurse my jaw I went, all the while wondering how it is that things like that don’t happen to me more often.
Except that I don’t have to wonder because this past week we had World Down syndrome Day. Too much has been done by advocates and families and others in the community, including myself, to bring awareness about people with Down syndrome and other special needs for me to wonder why I don’t encounter situations like today more often. Every little thing helps.
Even knowing when NOT to get ugly with the nice lady at the dentist office.