6 de Agosto 2021


Teeth and a tongue are pretty important. I have my teeth cleaned twice a year and daily I brush my teeth and tongue. This having been said, I wasted little time to find a dentist here in Panama. I looked through an online directory, filtering for location and language and I came up with a dentist just a stone’s throw from my apartment.

The dentist himself did the cleaning. I suppose he also did a check up as he scrambled his watery way from one tooth to the next because when he was done, he said that he didn’t see any problems although he was concerned about how I clean a bridge and about how, as we age, our gum tissue recedes.

He was aware too that I ‘suffer’ from bruxism, this is that nightly grinding of teeth while sleeping. My lower set of teeth evince the effect of such long-term intense action. To combat the grinding, I usually wear a mouth guard. (Too much information?) Anyway, I lost mine somewhere in my travels and so I had an impression made to make a replacement.

The friendly bi-lingual aide filled the impression tray with a pasty gel, applied it to my upper teeth and held the tray there, her thumb tapping the gel to judge its hardness. Normally, when I have this procedure done, the dental technician will say something like ‘bite down.’ My Panamanian friend said, ‘lower.’ She was indicating that I should lower my head, but I took it to mean, ‘bite down.’ So, I bit her! She was ok, no skin broken. I was as apologetic as I could be with a huge tray of goop in my mouth. We all were humorous about the incident, but this was nevertheless another great lesson in the intricacies of language.


Some people I’ve met claim a memory that reaches back nearly to embryonic moments. My memory goes back to a place and a time that are still somewhat foggy. As I mentioned, I was born in Grand Forks, North Dakota. At the time I was the third from the top of what would eventually be eight siblings. My paternal grandparents also lived in Grand Forks where they had a first floor walk-up apartment. My two older siblings and maybe a younger brother were at my grandparent’s apartment for what I imagine was Christmas because my memory involves playing with a gift, a bowling set not of pins, but of plastic cats. I must have loved it because for some reason I remember those cats. It may have also been my birthday because that falls pretty close to Christmas.

I also remember that the cats were set up in the hallway outside the apartment. At one end of the hallway was the small set of stairs that led to the main door and, at the other end, a communal bathroom. In those days, most apartments included a toilet in the apartment, but a bathtub outside the apartment. So, there I was bowling between a bathroom and an entryway to an apartment building. Voilà, my earliest memory! Not very glamourous but why that recollection?

Published by Thomas

Retired from active priestly ministry in the Catholic Church; former Benedictine monk; francophile; Holocaust researcher; Delta One Million Miler; Ex-Patriated American to the Republic of Panama

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