by Peter Kravitz
I needed a wisdom tooth pulled. Over the years, two of my molars had been yanked quickly so I figured this would be easy, too.
I scheduled my extraction for a summer Monday, the night I play ice hockey in a competitive pick-up game. Ages vary from twenty to sixty-four, though for most sessions I’m the oldest player in the game at fifty-nine.
My father in law, Stephen Green, thinks I’m insane for playing ice hockey. Whenever the subject slides into conversation he says, “You should stop.”
Retire from ice hockey because of possible injury? It’s the only team sport I have left. I need the camaraderie of the locker room—though it’s pretty smelly.
I figured after my tooth—or “Chiclet” as hockey players refer to it—was plucked at 4 p.m., I’d hit the ice at 9:30. I’ve played through worse. And I have a new helmet.
I grew up playing ice hockey without a metal cage protecting my face, but after an early 1990s game at Manhattan’s Skyrink, with speedy Russians ripping pucks by my mouth, I realized I didn’t want to lose any of the teeth my parents forced me, against my will, to align with braces. I’ve worn a cage since. (The only player I was better than in that game was actor Mike Myers. His play was not shagalicious that night. “What do you expect from my game?” he said to me. “I’m a Canadian who learned to play in LA.”)
The oral surgeon for my procedure, Dr. David Jurman of Plainview Oral and Implant Surgery, was highly recommended by my dentist, Dr. Lawrence Rosenzweig, who had done a great job with me and my family for three decades.
I kept thinking about Dr. Jurman’s surname. As a high school teacher for the past thirty-one years, the only Jurmans I’d taught were twins, class of 1994. So I asked Dr. Jurman if he had relatives from Wantagh, New York. “Yes,” he said. “My first cousins.”
“Twins Barbi and Marni?” I said, amazed that I had wrenched their names from the abyss that has become my memory.
“That’s them,” he said.
Dr. Jurman spent some time getting the tooth out. He drilled, wriggled, and pulled at it, then drilled some more. I didn’t like the drill. He warned about impending cracking sounds. But I’m a hockey player. NHL guys spit broken teeth on the ice and are back for the next shift. I felt no pain, thanks to the Novocaine. Soon enough, it was out. After two quick stitches, Dr. Jurman told me I could drive home. He said the roots were deep and curved making the procedure slightly tricky.
“Hey doc,” I said, timidly, “Could I work out tonight?”
“Lifting weights?” he said. “Sure. Take it easy.” I didn’t tell him the precise nature of the workout.
I didn’t want to miss a game due to a tooth. Though my defensive partner, Mike Sweeney, would gleefully rustle up a new right defenseman, my goalie, Jim Carey—neither the actor nor former NHL goalie—might miss me. I had made a nice defensive play the week before, saving a goal. Our team’s player/coach, Ned Meagher, would be annoyed that my absence might force him to play defense, though. Ned is better at stickhandling and hitting twine with his quick shot as a winger.
I feared that if I played and had an accidental collision with an opponent (it’s never my fault) I might open up the incision, which was healing nicely. I didn’t want to risk Dr. Jurman telling Marni and Barbi that I was an idiot.
My wife didn’t like my ice hockey plans. She had made a delicious-looking dinner. My mouth was swollen and numb, so I couldn’t really chew or taste it, however. And in attempting to chew, I kept biting my lip. At least I think it was my lip. I finally resigned myself to missing the game and having a relaxing evening with my wife binge watching the Brazilian sci-fi thriller 3% on Netflix.
It was the right decision. Brazilian actress Bianca Comparato, the star character Michele, hiked through sand dunes, passed out face down in them and that proved far more entertaining than my smelly, sweat-stained teammates would have been in the post-game locker room. Sorry boys.
Photo by silversneakers.com and Dix Hills Ice Rink