Calculating the gains and losses

In the end, it took a piece of Star Burst candy – strawberry, I think – to finally do the trick. I heard a commotion overhead, then a noisy descent down the stairs, and there she was, holding tight to a Kleenex that held the proof of the matter.

“It came out, Mom!” she told me breathlessly. “My very last tooth!”

And so it had, that 12-year molar the orthodontist had warned her about just last week.

“Try to loosen it up,” he had encouraged my daughter, tightening a bracket somewhere in that mine of silver. “It’s past time for it to go.” At least, that’s the report I got. These new HIPAA laws keep us parents out in the waiting room, you know.

A few days following the tooth loss (and a $5 compensation request) it occurred to me that something significant had happened. Our youngest had lost her last tooth at the same time our grandchild was gaining her first. It was one of those moments when you wish your life had a soundtrack.

I could almost hear the Lion King’s “Circle of Life” playing in the background.

Just another fine example of the gains and losses incurred in this business of child raising.

And while we’re on the subject of teeth, here’s another song to add to the soundtrack – the O’ Jays 1973 hit, “Money, Money, Money.” While we applaud the pea-sized pearly white poking its way up through our granddaughter’s tender gums, the truth is teeth are high-maintenance.

There will be, more than likely, a lot of check-ups, fillings, sealants, fluoride treatments, orthodontic apparatuses and wisdom teeth extractions before her senior photos are taken. And that’s barring any accidental injury to her mouth involving errant softballs or elbows.

Oh, well. Gains and losses.

But I came across some news this week that puts things like dental bills and momentous occasions involving teeth – both new ones and loose ones – in proper perspective. Heard about the Napkin Note Dad?

It seems Garth Callaghan has been writing notes on his daughter’s lunchbox napkins for years, like “Remember that guy who quit? Neither does anyone else.” “I am never too busy for you.” “Be kind whenever possible. And it’s always possible.” “Yesterday’s homeruns don’t win today’s game.” (That last one is courtesy of Babe Ruth, by the way.)

But now that the dad’s been diagnosed with a hard-to-beat kidney cancer, he’s storing up a few – 826 – just in case he’s no longer around to write them. That way 14-year-old Emma should have enough to look forward to reading at every lunch break until she graduates from high school.

Callaghan told reporters, “This isn’t a story about cancer, because any parent at any time could be hit by a car or have a heart attack. This is really about leaving a legacy so that she can understand some of my life philosophies and how much I love her.”

What a gift. One source I read commended Callaghan for focusing on his daughter’s needs at such a time, rather than pitying himself. I’d have to agree. He apparently takes this parenting business very seriously.

Gains and losses. Gains and losses.

Wesson resident Kim Henderson is a freelance writer who writes for The Daily Leader. Contact her at