During the last weekend of 2009, Gremlin the Younger, who had just turned seven, was complaining about a toothache. I peeked in that gaping maw and saw that his gums were a little red area, but not much else. When the next day rolled round, he wasn't complaining about pain anymore. After a while, we just sort of forgot about it.
This evening, I got a call from the Mom, and apparently the toothache is back. She took a gander in his gob and found some sort of red, infected-looking growth on his gums. We're going to try to get him into the dentist tomorrow, but in the meantime I've got the fatherhood flutters, imagining all sorts of horrible worst-case scenarios, from oral cancer to herpes, that result in the most horrid medical procedures: pulling a tooth, slicing out a growth and sewing his gums back together, chemotherapy, removal of his entire lower jaw. Sometimes it doesn't pay to have an active imagination.
This isn't nearly as bad as the time he literally cracked his skull and spent a night in the hospital after a playground stumble, but the worrying is definitely the worst part of being a father.
And I'd like to take this moment to apologize to my parents for every time I put them through this. Especially the time, that one summer, that I gave Beth a ride home after band practice — with a little half-hour unplanned 'diversion' on the way. Don't ask.
[Update Tuesday morning: Got the little guy to the dentist after lunch this morning. The X-ray showed that he had tooth decay between two teeth, and it had eaten down to the root of both. This decay had caused an abscess in his gums. (Imagine cutting the eraser off a pencil and shoving it up under your gums, on the outside. That's what it looked like, plus it was red and bleeding a little. Yuck!)
Anyway, the best course of action was pulling the two teeth, which isn't a big deal because they're both baby teeth. When I left him there with his mother, he had made it through the syringe-to-the-gums stage (the worst part), and they were waiting for the Novocain to kick in.
All in all, not even close to the worst that could have happened. Stomach flutters are flittering away.]