Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Those Damn Teeth

For some bizarre reason, this morning I thought about how my teeth have had a big influence on my life. 

As you know, I wasn’t the brightest, or the most coordinated, little kid back in the early 50s and even through in the 60s. Of course some would say I’m still not the brightest candle on the cake, but I try to ignore that reality as much as possible. Anyway, I became fascinated with my teeth when I was quite young and especially when my baby teeth began falling out. I remember the Tooth Fairy leaving money under my pillow or some silly thing like that when I placed one of my discarded teeth there overnight. Yep, I actually bought that story for a long time. I couldn’t really picture what the hell a Tooth Fairy would look like, but she (it had to be a she as far as I was concerned) must have been very fetching. Of course, I eventually ran out of baby teeth and she dropped me like a rotten tomato. Thus began my difficult relationship with my teeth.

When I began getting my permanent teeth (I was told they were permanent), I didn’t realize how much attention and care they would require, and I didn’t realize how much they would affect my life. The problems all began when I was expected to brush them excessively every day, but unfortunately they were not satisfied with just all that brushing. I was expected to be careful and take care of them like they were some kind of valuable gems.

Unfortunately, little Clark didn’t want to worry about teeth. I remember one of my first serious breaches of care happened when I took a header over the handlebars of my two-wheel bike on a street near our Grandfather’s house in Altoona. Evidently, I decided it was better to land on my face then to put my hands out to prevent the “teeth-hitting-the-pavement” landing. It was an early example of poor decision making that would continue throughout my childhood and teenage years. Anyway that “teeth-hitting-the-pavement” event left me with a straggle-tooth mouth and some cuts and bruises, but I somehow was able to save my nose. The parents were upset, but I was not too upset at first because I didn’t realize how much those wild-assed teeth would affect my future life.

I eventually got accustomed to the “Bucky, Bucktooth, Beaver-Face” nicknames, but over time I became obsessed with those crooked front teeth. Eventually, our parents took me to an orthodontist (Dr. Whirlie or something like that.), and that resulted in new nicknames, such as “Wire-Mouth, and even Bucky Wire-Mouth, etc.). However, it was a step in the right direction and after a few years of wearing braces my teeth were straighten and aligned with each other. Eventually, the braces came off, but I had to wear a “retainer” on them at night, which continued for several years.

Unfortunately, the difficult relationship with my teeth continued to be a problem. When I was a teenager, I discovered that not everyone liked me when a rather big guy decided to punch my face. I don’t remember the underling details, but I must have irritated him because he slammed a fist right into my mouth and one of my front teeth was never the same. It stayed in my mouth, but it hurt for a while and it became slightly dark over time and has caused some pain ever since that punch.

Thinking back about all this teeth angst, I believe that perhaps the worst thing about the “Braces Experience” was that it planted a deep-seated time-bomb of interest in dentistry and orthodontics that festered somewhere in my cerebral cortex. That ticking time-bomb exploded when I was about to begin college. I declared that I wanted to become a dentist and I wanted to attend the University of Pittsburgh because it provided an undergraduate pre-dental program and a dental graduate program where I could achieve my goal of becoming a dentist.

I enrolled at Pitt and began the pre-dental program that would enable me to enter dental school during my senior year. Therefore, I had to complete many science courses through my first three years at Pitt, which I endured fairly well.  However, I also enjoyed several humanities courses and really enjoyed psychology and sociology courses, but they were hard to fit into my schedule because of all the science content that was required for the pre-dental program.

Well, I was very pleased to begin dental school during my senior year at Pitt, but I had to buy about a thousand-dollars-worth of dental tools, which was a financial strain. I figured it would pay off when I finished and opened my dental practice. The dental curriculum was of course loaded with many scientific, medical, and anatomical type of courses, which I was expecting. I was accustomed to scientific studies, but the anatomical content proved to be a challenge.

During that first semester in dental school all of us newbie dental students were assigned a cadaver. Yep we each got a dead person to work on. I certainly had been warned about that anatomy content, but the reality of working with a cadaver was not for me. I tried to endure, but my common sense told me that Clark was not suited to cut and sew dead people and probably not living people either. Near the end of that semester, I retired from dentistry.

I was deeply in debt, but I had not completed my undergraduate degree so I got more loans and completed a bachelor’s degree in psychology, which I enjoyed very much. I retained the dental tools that I had wasted over a thousand dollars on, but I eventually sold them for scrap metal or something. Of course, I did not get anything close to what I paid for them.

Anyway, my difficult relationship with teeth continued, because the one that was damaged in the fight during high school continued to give me problems with pain throughout my life. I recently had a root canal on that tooth because the pain was becoming difficult to handle. Happily, that tooth is cooperating very well now.

Unfortunately, I expect to have more difficult experiences with “Those Damn Teeth!” However, I’m determined to keep them as long as possible. 

Bill – I know you have had many unforgettable experiences in your life and I would be delighted to hear about them. It would be great if we lived closer to each other so we could get together more often. However, I know that is never going to happen. I guess letters and phone calls will need to suffice. I hope all is well with you and your family.

Take care.

Sincerely, Clark

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Let's Move To Sioux Falls!

Hi Bill,

I thought you might be interested to know that Pat and I decided that we might want to move to Sioux Falls. We have a perfectly comfortable and charming house in a small charming town north of Sioux Falls. However, we had been thinking that it would be good to live in a nice neighborhood in the city. We would enjoy not having to drive into the city and back so often to take advantage of restaurants, stores, events, etc. Also living in Sioux Falls would enable us to get together with our daughter more often. We also thought it would be good for me to eliminate the yardwork that our large lot and several large trees require.

We began looking at neighborhoods in Sioux Falls and identified several of them that appealed to us. Then we began attending open houses in those neighborhoods. We saw lots of very nice houses that we thought would work for us and we decided to take the next step, i.e., finding a realtor to help us get a new “Home Sweet Home.”

As luck would have it, we encountered a realtor while we were attending an open house in Sioux Falls. She was very friendly and chatty, and she was affiliated with a firm that one of Pat’s friends recommended. Pat struck up a conversation with Ms. Realtor, which didn’t surprise me. However, I was surprised when she asked Ms. Realtor if she would work with us during the sale of our house and the purchase of a new house. Of course Ms. Realtor accepted Pat’s offer and we were on the road to a new home in Sioux Falls.

Selling Our House

Before we could buy a new house, we knew we would need a buyer for the house we have been living in for 15 years. Of course, Ms. Realtor informed us that we must declutter our house and do some interior painting to help entice potential buyers. Declutter, what a nice word to refer to eradicating our treasured possessions! Of course, we already knew that was necessary and we were eager to comply with Ms. Realtor’s (let’s just refer to her as MR from now on) suggestions. She suggested that we rent a large Pod where we could store our unnecessary stuff (furniture and other things that we didn’t want potential buyers to see). We complied and soon the largest Pod we could get arrived in our driveway. We were ready to make our house look great for some lucky buyer.

Shortly after we began decluttering, we discovered that MR’s expectations concerning decluttering, painting and cleaning went far beyond our expectations. MR transformed into a dictator who ordered that our house should not reveal any of our personalities or preferences. She determined what few pieces of furniture we would be allowed to keep in the house. She also dictated that all area rugs, all clocks, most lamps, and virtually all decorative things had to disappear. We actually spent one eight-hour day with MR in our house informing us what had to go, what needed painting and how the few remaining possessions would be arranged. Most of our possessions went in the Pod, although we also got rid of many things (which was mostly a good thing).

I must say that Pat and I were shocked by MR’s authoritarian transformation and we considered what we should do. Previously, we had worked with other realtors and sold two homes without needing the elimination of any charm or character from them. However, MR kept reassuring us that she would be able to sell our (soon to be stark and characterless) home and we decided to continue working with her.

Finding a New Home

MR proved to be very helpful in finding potential new homes in the Sioux Falls neighborhoods that we liked. We saw some individual homes, but we eventually decided that we wanted a twin home where the lawn and snow removal would be taken care of for us for a reasonable monthly fee. We saw lots of twin homes located in very nice neighborhoods.

We also thought it might be wise to downsize from our 2,350 square-foot house on the golf course. Therefore, we began focusing on smaller (around 1,300 square-foot) domiciles. We viewed several very nice small homes. However, we soon realized that we were not ready to eliminate most of our possessions, and we kept increasing the sizes of the homes that we viewed. I decided that I certainly was not ready to get rid of my pool table and Pat was equally adamant about retaining most of our furniture and other possessions. Consequently the size of the homes that interested us became larger and larger during our house hunting safaris. Since our banker (bless her heart) continued to reassure us that we could afford a larger home, we figured why not.

Eventually, we found the perfect home for us. It was a wonderful twin home in a beautiful neighborhood where all exterior maintenance would be taken care of for us. The house had everything Pat wanted including a beautiful white kitchen with stainless steel appliances, a large living room, a four-season sun room, three bedrooms, luxurious bathrooms, a deck, etc. It also had everything I wanted, including a large family room that would accommodate my pool table and a three-car garage where I could have a workshop to mess around in. It was a fabulous home. It was also bigger than our current house! So much for downsizing?

Selling Our House

Well, we still had not sold our house on the golf course, although it was finally ready to put on the market. MR put the “For Sale” sign in the front yard and posted the house listing online, etc.  We were on our way to moving to utopia in the big city, with the blessing of our banker.

Now, MR had forced us to completely eradicate any charm from the interior of our home. I mean, Pat and I could hardly live in the house because everything that made it a comfortable (and inviting) home was gone. We struggled to live there with stark walls and nearly empty rooms. Almost everything we enjoyed about the house and its furnishings was gone. We were not happy, but MR was relentless that it would sell.

Our neighbors had told us that our house would sell within days after it went on the market, and they thought the price was too low. Many potential buyers walked through our previously-cozy and previously-charming home. However, nobody made an offer on the house. We kept trying, but nobody would buy it. We lowered the price, but not too much because we wanted a good price to help us purchase the new home that we had chosen in Sioux Falls. MR hosted a few open houses, which were not well attended, and we still received no offers.

Remember What the Banker Said

When Pat and I first talked to our banker about selling our house, she was somewhat surprised. She reminded us that we will have our house paid off in only two years and she mentioned that most people don’t sell their house when it’s that close to being paid for unless they absolutely had to move for some reason. She still advised that we could certainly afford to make the move, but she just wanted to remind us how close we were to ending the mortgage payments.

We’re Staying in Our Home

Pat and I decided to stay in our home and we are happy to have made that decision. We like our small town and our neighbors. We also like that our house payments will end within two years and we will then have many enticing options. We also will be able to continue to walk our dogs along the golf course, which we like to think of as our park. Sometimes we get distracted and pursue unwise goals, but things usually work out for the best.

Pat and I know why the house did not sell. It was because MR had forced us to remove all the charm from the interior of the house. It had been stripped almost bare and there was very little to enable viewers to see how charming the interior of the house could be. We also believed that the price that MR had convinced us to list was too high. However, Pat and I were not willing to reduce it too much because we wanted to buy that large home in Sioux Falls, which we now realize that we certainly don’t need.

A Do Over

Since we canceled our move we have concentrated on rejuvenating the interior of our house, including getting rid of many possessions that we thought we could never be without. We have also changed the way the furniture is positioned and purchased some new furniture. It’s like starting over, and it’s actually enjoyable! 


The daughter was disappointed we are not moving into Sioux Falls and we still continue to drive back and forth from the city to enjoy the stores, restaurants, etc. But, really, the city is 20 miles from our home and how bad is that? We are now thinking we will wait to move until we really are feeble and I’m ready to give up my pool table (which may be never). Maybe we will let those damned adult children of ours deal with another MR to sell this house after we are gone!

Bill - I hope you and your family are healthy, happy and spending as much quality time with each other as possible. I wish we could get our two families together sometime soon. 

Take care,