December 7, 2020

I’ve missed your smiles. We’ve been masked up forever now, thank you COVID19. Just stop. I don’t want to hear your thoughts about conspiracies and fake news and inflated death rates. If that statement pisses you off, then stop reading now. If you need to argue or vent, write your own blog. This is mine. This is about smiles. And I’ve missed yours.

They tell me that I wasn’t essential. Dental hygienists aren’t front line health care workers dealing with COVID19. But I’m dealing with a back log of patients who couldn’t be seen during quarantine, and honestly some of you people could not be trusted to floss during a pandemic. I’ve told you to Waterpik. We’ve talked about controlling oral bacteria. Are you even using your Sonicare?

So we have been back in the office since May. Thank you for being understanding about new protocols. Part of the protocol is that you wear a mask until treatment time. The dental office is the one place you can unmask without anyone fussing at you. I can’t do my job if you’re wearing a mask, and Zoom calls won’t work for your hygiene appointments.

But that unmasked time in the office is brief, and even when I run into you at the grocery, you’re masked up. I see your eyes squint up, so I think you’re smiling. And I hear you laugh. But I’m in the smile business, and here I am missing your smiles.

Paul and I both turned 50 this year. I had to cancel a surprise party for him, again thank you COVID19. But of course that let him off the hook for my big birthday. Regardless, he and the girls made my birthday wonderful despite the pandemic.

But I have this friend…she’s in the smile business also. I’ve been looking at her smile for 15 years. I didn’t expect to like my boss this much when she hired me. I just thought it would be great to work with a female dentist. It has been great. But she has turned into one of my dearest friends.

As Dr. Robinson, she’s hands down the best dentist you’ll come across. She’s a perfectionist who doesn’t suffer sub-par work. She has expected top notch care from me, and not only does she expect it, she empowers me to follow through.

As Andrea, she has been a phone call away during some of my most painful life experiences. She challenges me theologically. Sometimes I think she’s just arguing for argument’s sake and not because she disagrees, but because she wants to force me to really consider the validity of my positions. She has told me flat out when she thinks my views are not Biblically sound, and she has given evidence to support that. She’s not always as gracious in hearing if I disagree with her theology, but she will hear me out, and gives me the courtesy of considering my views. She’s quick to remind me in my lowest moments that “Gods got this,” and I don’t need to worry.

Since she is a mother and wife, she understands the challenge of trying to balance work and home. We’ve traded parenting advice. We’ve watched as our kids have struggled mightily, and we’ve prayed for Godly direction in our kids’ and husbands’ lives.

The morning of my 50th birthday, there was a huge, obnoxious sign in the front yard at work. “Happy 50th Birthday Sandie!” It made me smile when I drove past it. Maybe my patients couldn’t tell I was smiling since I’m doubled up with both an N95 respirator and a level 3 surgical mask, and I have a face shield, but I smiled all day. Andrea is a gift-giver, and she thoughtfully and deliberately finds just the right presents for birthdays and Christmases. She had a huge gift bag filled with presents for me.

Two of my favorite people, Alicia and Catherine Beal, arrived masked up knocking at the office door after my final patient of the day (uugghh…keeping the door locked is such a pain, thank you COVID19). In the true spirit of Beals and birthdays, they brought me a dozen Krispy Kreme donuts. I teared up and thanked them, and I knew they were smiling because they always do, but I couldn’t see their smiles. I lamented that I really wanted to hug them but I couldn’t, and that I desperately miss seeing their smiles (thank you COVID19).

The morning after my birthday, my friend Andrea gave me the most perfect gift in honor of working for Dr. Andrea Robinson Dental Studio for 15 years. Wowza! That’s a long time! Y’all, she handed me a Tiffany Blue gift bag. I’ve never had a Tiffany Blue gift bag before. Inside the Tiffany Blue bag, under the white satin ribbon, inside the Tiffany Blue box, beneath Tiffany embossed tissue paper, inside a Tiffany Blue sachet…a smile. That’s right. She gave me a sterling silver necklace smile. It’s that smile we used to draw on the notes we’d send to our friends in class in junior high. It’s the smile from Forrest Gump’s muddy t-shirt. It’s better than the Amazon smile because it’s not one-sided. My friend gave me a smile. She’s been doing that for 15 years.

So all of that to say that I have missed your smiles under the masks, beneath the worry, weighted by uncertainty, shadowed by questions and doubts. It hasn’t always been this way, and it will be different in the future. But it’s like my friend Andrea says “God’s got this.” Now, let me see your smile.

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