It was raining slowly but it had been raining all day. We had made this same drive a few other times on a few other very memorable days. The dentist’s office was almost an hour away and today it took a little longer than that because of the wet roads. But today felt very different than any of those other trips.
Rain has a way of reflecting what is already there. The drops can feel somber and slow, soaking your thoughts into heaviness. They can also remind you of growth and renewal.
I have written before of the troubles Bug has had with her teeth and the trips we have shared to the dentist. In her short and fortunate life I would call them some of the more difficult days I have experienced as her father. In the last two years, this five year old girl has had several cavities filled. And this little girl, who has always had a close relationship with fear, has faced this challenge like a fucking warrior with her teeth bared.
Mind you, these have not been pleasant battles for her (as if there is such a thing), but each has marked a significant moment in her growth. She didn’t want to have her teeth drilled into. She didn’t want to be wrapped into a restraining blanket and “hugged” into immobility. She didn’t want these strange people with masks and gloves that taste of antiseptic indifference dig into her mouth. But she did. And she did with the kind of courage that came as a surprise to all of us, her included.
So, it was another difficult moment for all of us when we found out that she had two more cavities and would have to do it all over again. I worried about how she would react when the dentist told us. I worried about what the days between then and the appointment to fill these new cavities would say to her in her quieter moments.
But as the day to make that long drive drew near, there was nothing. No fear. No tears. No anxious questions. Nothing.
The rain had been falling all day as we got in the car. Even though there had been no signs that this was going to be a difficult trip for her, I still half expected the gravity of the situation to take hold of her as we made our way. I turned on a favorite cd and off we went. We talked a little about her day at school. We sang. She told me that 5+4 makes 9. She wondered aloud why nobody drives purple cars. We got to the office and she told me that she didn’t want help out of the car. Big girls don’t need help out of cars.
The same office. The same chair. The same strange women in masks and the same denim-blue colored smocks. Bug hopped into the chair and giggled when it seemed to magically rise into the air. She wasn’t wrapped into the restraining “hug” this time and I sat down near her knees, holding her left hand that stayed relaxed during a procedure that was anything but relaxing. She opened her mouth wide and I never once saw her so much as wince at the sound of a drill or pick or suction tube.
We walked out of the office back into the rain about an hour and two fillings later. She had in each hand new bathtub toys – a dolphin for her and a seal she wanted to surprise her sister with as a gift “because she didn’t get to come today”.
As I watched the rain fall onto the windshield and the trees and grass outside, I thought of my daughter. I thought about how much we all have experienced in her five years and how much has changed. Like those trees, she has felt the rain fall on her. She has been soaked through and left wet at times. Unto each life and all that.
And like those trees, she has grown strong. In my backseat today wasn’t a sapling anymore. She has laid down her own roots and her trunk has thickened a bit. She has been nourished by the love and sunlight as all children should. And she has stood tall in the face of storms in a way not everyone can.
Children are resilient, maybe more so than a lot of us give them credit for. They may be small, but they are mighty. She is mighty.
And her daddy is so proud of her.