It had never occurred to me that a visit to the dentist—any dentist—could be considered a pleasure. For that matter, it had been my custom to avoid visits to dentists, friends or not, at all costs, and for most of my life, I did. That is, until my wife and I established our residence in Fayette County several years ago. We are different in our view of dentists. She keeps a regular schedule of visits to have her bicuspids—I think that’s the word—inspected. I avoid it unless I’m threatened with the violent intrusion of some outside force.
Thus, it was some while before I finally met her dentist, Dr. John Blanchard, to have some kind of minor repair done, a loose filling, or something so life-threatening. We met. He was a jolly fellow, sort of reddish hair, a gentle smile that often broke into a laugh, and hockey fan. He grew up in Louisiana. How do you get to be a hockey fan in a state with so little ice?
After a visit or two, or three, I began to look forward to being sprawled out in Dr. Blanchard’s chair, where the patient is at the dentist’s mercy. He talked rapidly, punctuated his sentences with laughs, plumbed around in my mouth, and all I could do was listen. No snappy retorts. No laughing with him, just a gagging patient. Oh, he covered more than just his chosen subject of hockey. He spoke of the Braves, of Georgia football, and Evander Holyfield, who is a neighbor in our community. He loved having me in his chair, for this was his time at bat—clear the air on a lot of subjects he thought needed clearing.
Last time I was there we decided that when the Thrashers season fires up, I should join him one evening at rinkside. He owned a box at Philips Arena, and he wanted me to see what pleasure there was in watching these hockey players smashing the liver out of one another.
Well, sorry to say, we won’t be sharing his box at rinkside. Dr. John is gone. I answered the phone one day and it was an old friend in grim voice, and he said, “We’ve lost our dentist.” It was a shock. “Only time in my life,” he said, “that going to the dentist was a pleasure,” and on and on we both rambled.
John Blanchard, just 61 years old. Full of vigor and joy, both of which rubbed off on his, ah, er, victims? No, patients and friends. Sixty-one years old and gone, just like “swoosh.” It was some kind of blood contamination, something with which I am not familiar, but I’ll tell you this: It’s not fair. All of us deserved more of John Blanchard than we got, and we got a lot.
I’m just sorry I wasn’t able to give him a hug and apologize to him for all the foul things I have said of dentists. Before John Blanchard, of course.