On our recent trip to Texas, our first over-night stop was Abilene, where Dan and I went to college and where we met.
In the morning, while Dan was getting read for the day in our hotel room, I turned on the TV and flipped through the channels. A commercial caught my eye. It was for a dentist named Dr. Estes, and it was saying something like, "Dr. Estes is back! Come and see him for your dental needs." They flashed a photo of Dr. Estes, showing an older gentleman.
Now I don't know if this Dr. Estes is the Dr. Estes I remember from Abilene in 1971 or 1972, when we were newly weds and I was still finishing up my degree, but judging by his photo in the ad, it's possible. He was quite young at back in the '70s. Whether or not this is “my” Dr. Estes, the ad brought him, fondly, to mind.
In that long-ago time, I had been having a nagging toothache and, foolishly, was doing my best to ignore it. I was busy with school and we were on a pretty tight budget, with no dental insurance. Eventually it came to a point where ignoring it was not an option. The tooth, which was a front one, became abscessed, and I was in excruciating pain.
I didn't have a local dentist, but someone recommended Dr. Estes to me, telling me he was a good dentist and a fellow member of the church of Christ. I called his office. Because I was in such pain, he said to come in immediately, which I did. I was crying when I got there. I told him that I just wanted him to pull the tooth. Pain does funny things to your brain; I didn't care if I left his office with a gaping hole in the front of my face, as long as I wasn't hurting. Just PULL IT OUT, I begged him.
I remember Dr. Estes’ kind, but firm, words to me: “I’m not in the business of pulling teeth. I’m in the business of saving them.” He told me that he wanted to drill a tiny hole to release the pressure and then do a root canal. That was the first time I'd even heard of a root canal procedure, and I wasn't convinced that it would leave me pain-free. Plus, as I told him, we had no dental insurance and couldn't afford such an expensive procedure. "Just pull it," I cried out in my misery.
But Dr. Estes saved me from my own foolishness. Despite my protests, he performed the procedure. The instant he drilled into that tooth and released the pressure, my pain was GONE, and I could, at last, think more clearly. Then he took away my financial worry by telling me there would be no charge for his services that day. I wanted to hug him! In fact, I think I did.
I'll never forget Dr. Estes for his skill, his professionalism, his generosity and his kindness to me, a young, struggling college student, 40 years ago.
And now, I’m going to do my research, to find out if the dentist featured on the ad is, indeed, “my” Dr. Estes. And if so, I’m writing him a thank-you note.