I've never been a fan of the extreme professional distance school of thought. My patients are much more than random people with "the same set of teeth."
Often, I wonder how medical and dental professionals can push aside attachments to their patients. I refuse to do that. Over my 34 years as a dental hygienist, I've treated the rich and the poor, the famous and the not-so, the angels and the curmudgeons. I've seen pictures of children, grandchildren, pets, gardens, travels, and homes.
My patients--this deep well of friends--listen in turn to my ramblings: plot lines, characters, all things unreal. They've cheered me on and stood in endless lines at book launches. To see those cherished smiles--ones I help to maintain--grinning at me: priceless!
They've also comforted me after the loss of my sister and both parents. Sent cards and flowers when I suddenly fell ill and required serious surgery. Lifted me up on days I didn't feel worth a "plug nickel."
Most know I'm an author, and often share some tale I might include in a novel. One volunteered to pose as a character model for "Hot Mama Jean in her high-healed boots and jeans," a woman I will include somewhere.
We've laughed often, cried a few times, and shared news of births, weddings, graduations, and deaths. Somewhere in there, I managed to do my work, making sure I contributed to their dental health.
When I lose one of my people to The Other Side, I grieve. Then I recall his or her smile, some story we shared, some way we reached across the void to link our humanity. And I feel honored to have been even a 50-minute, 6-month part of their lives.
Godspeed to you, my friend. May we meet again.
Fiction with a Southern Twist