Monday, May 29, 2023

The Soapbox: The Case of the Missing Teeth

Brandi Chambless

A recent Facebook story became a viral sensation when a young bride named Tara Foley secretly flew to her dying grandmother with an unaltered wedding dress in tow. In on the scheme was Red Door Photography who captured Tara’s private visit with her Nana that would inevitably be their last. Nana passed away just 27 days later.

On Tara’s wedding day in Austin, Texas, she presented the framed photo with Nana to her mom, dad, brother, and sister-in-law. Even though Nana was not there physically, she made a surprise appearance on Tara’s wedding day that touched everyone.

It is no secret that I have been tracking the aging antics of my 95-year-old Granny and the tales of the people who see about her needs. So there is no doubt that Tara Foley’s story activated not only my tear ducts, but thousands of others.

Thankfully, at this time, there is still enough humor in Granny’s new normal in the nursing home that we have found solace and laughter with only a touch of panic on occasion—like the time she was almost put on hospice and miraculously was revived when she overheard us talking about the cost, or the time her 70-year-old beehive hair-do was cut to the ground by one scissor-happy hairdresser.

Up until now, these little incidents have been minor until Granny’s teeth went missing. Yes, Granny has dentures. There I said it.

This is something that nobody, but nobody, ever talks about.

I mean…does J-Lo have hair extensions? Yes. And Granny does too along with the smile that has been glued in since 1969. We women have our beauty secrets that are not even discussed among friends or family and Granny’s teeth were certainly one of those.


It wasn’t until a fateful hospital stay in 1991 when I was her 19-year-old overnight nurse that my childhood questions about Granny’s perfect smile were indeed confirmed. Here we were, deep into the 3 a.m. hour when Granny was suddenly violently ill due to an obstruction. I didn’t expect what happened next when everything was flying. I tried to keep calm and oops there they were….Granny’s teeth on the floor of the rural hospital where I had come into this world. Granny’s beauty secret was out—literally.

I cleaned those babies up and fixed-those-dents back in her mouth so fast that in her compromised state she never knew that I saw them. I never told a soul until the recent days of late when Granny’s teeth became quite the topic of discussion at her new home.

The story begins with one ordinary personal habit of Granny’s disdain of tuna salad. Granny’s aide Kiki noticed that on tuna sandwich day the plate was always left untouched. That is until one day when the plate was completely clean and Kiki called everyone together to celebrate the consumption of one tuna sandwich. It was only later at bath time when the next shift realized that Granny had stuffed that tuna sandwich into her bra so that everyone would quit bothering her about eating—the same bra where it is believed that Granny also stuffed her dentures just before they were gathered up into the nursing home laundry bin.

The teeth went missing for days until they were recovered in the laundry after being featured in corporate emails with a subject line that might as well have read, “Here Lies Granny’s Teeth.”

In the aftermath of the case of the missing teeth, it wasn’t the finishing touch of Granny’s being put back together on the outside that made the greatest impression on me.

The resiliency of women like Granny and Tara Foley’s Nana is something to strive for in the modern aging woman who battles to keep her hair, her breasts, her teeth, and her dignity intact. They did this without the aid of bicep curls or Pilates classes whilst their generation ate cake and mashed potatoes freely.

There is an ancient scripture that reminds us that even to your old age and gray hairs I am He who will sustain you. This is the beauty of our grandmothers’ generation. They seemed to understand something that we have lost when it comes to the greatest building blocks of a woman’s private boudoir.

For those of us who were blessed enough to have had this kind of relationship that has either already succumbed to or is currently being challenged by eternity, nothing is ever lost but a few mortal years that will someday be restored. Until then, we will always model living the life we witnessed along the way from the influential women one generation removed.

Brandi Chambless
Brandi Chambless
Read Brandi's column each month in The Cross Timbers Gazette newspaper.

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