Diaries and Dentists
It's a new year, so yay, everything's better now, yay.
Prior to the long break from work and school, which in my case are the same thing, I checked out Leonard J. Arrington's three volume diary from 1971-1997, comprising 874, 922, and 666 pages (not counting the Afterword, Bibliography, photographs, list of Works by Leonard J. Arrington, and Index), respectively, from the university library. At this time I've only finished the first volume but I don't have to take them back until April so I'm not worried. Leonard J. Arrington was a USU professor of economics who went on to be Church Historian for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and he is fondly remembered for ushering in an era of more candid "warts and all" historical scholarship and facing substantial pushback from some church leaders with a persecution complex. Frequently in his diary he expresses sentiments along the lines of the following:
"[W]e must be interested in obtaining all the information possible about personalities and episodes, even if in the opinion of a current researcher it might be harmful to the Church's interests. If we are anything, we are an organization dedicated to finding the truth about the Church and it shistory and we have complete faith that the Church will in the long run not suffer as the result of this activity. Perhaps this attitude is partly a product of my long years in a university setting, but I do not see how we can successfully counteract anti-Mormon articles and books without knowing the extent to which they are based on correct information, nor can I conceive of persons having confidence in our own publications unless they know that we are pursuing all avenues in the attempt to find out what really happened."
To which I say, amen.
In his diary he isn't shy about documenting the bureaucratic crap that goes on at church headquarters or the human weaknesses he sees at every level of leadership, but his faith in the divine element remains unshakeable. Some of his behind-the-scenes glimpses are fascinating gems, while others - mostly the ones having to do with administrative procedures, the organization and reorganization of responsibilities within the historical department, and budgeting - are very boring and account for my inability to get through more than one volume at this point. Then, of course, sometimes he just talks about his family, and sometimes his entries are just long tangents about his childhood or military service or whatever. One entry starts off with the random and questionable sentence, "As I awoke this morning, I was thinking that it might be interesting to our children to know something about their conceptions and births." Most people, to my knowledge, want to do as little thinking as possible about how they were conceived, but my knowledge is admittedly limited. But now I know that his sons were both allergic to the ammonia in their own urine, so that's a cool piece of trivia.
In one entry he writes, in part, about his dental history:
"Because our family have been impressed during the past few weeks with our new dentist, Dr. Newell Warr and his efforts to get us on a good program of teeth care, I might record in this diary that in the family in which I was reared I do not remember any attention to teeth care. The first time I ever visited a dentist was during a summer leave from the University of Idaho - perhaps between the time that I was a sophomore or junior at the university. I went to Dr. Luke. He looked at my teeth, asked how I could stand the pain, and said I would have to have six teeth out immediately. He proceeded to pull all six teeth at that time. I do not recall that he gave me any instruction on teeth care, but I do know that from that time on I brushed my teeth every morning - not at night. I think I have lost only one tooth since that time.
"My parents appear to have taken it for granted that during his thirties or forties a person would have to get a set of false teeth. That's what we called them in those days. I think people refer to them as dentures today. I remember the occasion when my father had his few remaining teeth pulled and a set of dentures made. I also remember the same with my mother. I was very small at the time so I would think my mother was in her thirties and my father in his forties. I am sure our teeth deterioration is related to our use of water from a cistern filled with water from our irrigation ditch. I am sure that that is also related to our contraction of typhoid fever and diphtheria and other diseases.
"When we went to Logan after World War II, I began to go to a dentist regularly - maybe once a year, and over the past 26 years we have had four or five family dentists, but not a single one of them ever gave us instructions in teeth care and not one of them did more than simply repair our teeth as best they could. Not until our experience with Dr. Warr did any of us begin to use dental floss. Grace for several years has brushed her teeth twice a day and has excellent teeth. She must have had far better teeth instruction than I."
I thought that was interesting for a couple reasons. First, every time he writes about his childhood in rural Idaho I'm struck by how backwards and crappy it was even before the Great Depression hit, and how grateful I am that I wasn't born in 1917 in rural Idaho. It seems like he may as well have been born in the Middle Ages. It seems like God didn't love anyone born before at least the 1950s. Yet I was five years old when he died, so he bridges a gap from this archaic other world to the modern one and that's fascinating. Second, his first experience with the dentist reminded me just a bit of my visit to the dentist last week, when he replaced a filling that I got to replace a filling less than a year ago. He looked at it and asked if I had throbbing pain that kept me awake at night. I didn't this time. Last time, as the filling came loose, I did have throbbing pain that kept me awake at night, recurring every couple days or so. Then the filling came out altogether and the pain stopped.
That was nice, but from my perspective it appeared that half my tooth was gone, so that was disturbing. As long as I didn't touch the inside - a mistake I only made once - it felt fine, but I assumed the remaining half of my tooth was unsalvageable. I called the dentist (a different dentist) and told them I needed a tooth pulled. And I was pretty chill about it. Maybe because I had a positive attitude, or maybe just because this was less than two weeks after the worst day of my life, and thus my spirit was too dead to care. In any case, the tooth was way in the back where hardly anyone would notice, and I'd already learned to chew without it, and I'd get it back in the Resurrection, so this wasn't an ideal situation but whatever. I was only concerned about the cost without dental insurance and whether it would hurt. Then the dentist said he could fix it and didn't need to pull it, so that was nice, until I went to another dentist just recently and he told me the filling was coming out again after less than a year. This time he put on a crown and it cost four times as much, so this time the fix better be permanent.
Both dentists said that I might need a root canal. I Googled root canals because they have a reputation for being very unpleasant, which made little sense to me because this is the twenty-first century and anaesthetic is a thing that exists, and it turns out they're really not that unpleasant for most people and I'm not worried about that anymore. But again, no dental insurance, so I'd really prefer not to have to deal with that. I hate this country.
On the plus side, Brother Arrington's diary assures me that a woman isn't necessarily out of my league just because she has excellent teeth.
I used to receive a lot of encouragement at church to keep a journal. That's like a diary, but more manly, I guess. I never had the stamina to keep at it consistently. This weekly blog has served that function instead, and I've shared more about myself sometimes than prudence or self-respect would dictate, and in the unlikely event that future historians want to know about me this will probably be the first place to look. Maybe my kids will want to read it so they know where to place the blame for their upbringing. To them I say: Hi, kids. Say hi to your excellent-toothed mother for me if she's still alive and hasn't remarried. I know the world sucks and will continue to suck until Jesus returns and burns it all, but aren't you grateful you weren't born in the nineties to live through the age of Trump and coronavirus? Aren't you grateful I never spanked you because I subscribed to the radical leftist notion that teaching children through violence and fear is wrong? Aren't you grateful you've never experienced the horror of dial-up internet? I may as well have been born in the Middle Ages.
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender Christian male, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic and asexual, so you can't, unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.