Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Difference Maker

Today has me wishing a melancholy goodbye to the man who was our dentist. Unfortunately, a battle with cancer took him way too soon, he was in his 40s. I felt like I knew the man all my life even though I didn't. He was just that personable. He could talk to anyone about anything knowledgeably, and was a staunch advocate for preventive medical dentistry.

You know how when you say, "Yeah so and so is a doctor, or lawyer, or mechanic", and you get that mental picture of what they look like? Our dentist was born to be a dentist. He just looked the part. A little disheveled, but not sloppy, a little nerdy, but not in a bad way. He could have never been a teacher, or just didn't fit him.

As campy as it sounds, he changed the way I clean my teeth by actually taking time to show me the right way to floss and brush. He did his own cleanings, x-rays, and of course whatever surgical procedure you needed. He was the first dentist who didn't just come in after the hygienist finished ripping out your gums and say, "Hmm, yep, ahem, well, we'll see you in 6 months Mr. Jacobs". His only assistant merely handed him some things and made you rinse that disgusting fluoride wash at the end of your session.

It's strange to write about someone I feel so close to, yet know nothing about. He was just one of those positive people who made differences in other people's lives. He was kind and extremely benevolent. I once heard a story that he married a lady from somewhere in South America, and then paid to have her immediate family sent to America so they could join the "American Dream" and not be separated.

Meghan and I would often joke about how long our dental appointments would last. Honestly, he'd take 90 minutes a piece cleaning your teeth, making you feel really bad you didn't floss correctly, and patiently review how to floss, brush, and do whatever you needed to to promote dental health. When I first started going to him, he started giving me discounts because I was a friend of Meghan (who had been going to him since she was a child). He understood I was a poor student without dental insurance. Later, when I had insurance, he still gave me courtesy discounts.

Funny enough, last summer we even snuck our dog into his office. I don't think he really knew we were going to do that, and I'm sure he wasn't psyched that his practice could get shut down if the health department found out. But his office assistant gave the green light and said, "Where is your wife?" I said, "Well, we brought our puppy and she's in the car keeping watch". "Oh, bring the dog, we'd love to see her, Dr. Orbach wont mind". The look on his face was priceless as our little Boston Terrier puppy came bounding past the waiting room door and started sniffing his crotch(I was at that moment having my gums ripped out). Of course we apologized and placed the dog in the empty waiting room. He just smiled and said, "She's a cute pup".

Meghan and I both work in a field where too many assholes live to see another day, beat another wife, and suck the life out of the taxpayers so they can keep living on welfare. And we see people just like our kind hearted dentist, die an untimely death. My farewell to Dr. Orbach is quite lonely for me, as most farewells often are. His death appropriately has me asking the question of why things happen the way they do to so many good people, and the not so good people get to keep living?

It's a faith shaking question, but the thoughts of everything good that he did, within his short window of life eases the unsteadiness of that question. To me, everyone is here to die but not everyone around us is here to make a positive difference. For whatever those positive differences are worth, what he did was worth quite a bit to me. And I guess I come to the epiphany that he wasn't on earth just to help people have better overall health through dental hygiene. He was here to make us all be better people, his craft was just the vessel he used to accomplish that feat.

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