Bill Linnane: 'You can't handle the tooth! Why do I argue over my kids' dental hygiene?'
Friends, please join me now with heads bowed in a solemn moment's silence as we prepare to say farewell to my medical card. Obtained back in 2015 when I was briefly unemployed, I had forgotten I had it until it fell out of my wallet last week, giving me a moment to pause and regret that I never really got to use it, due to being tragically burdened with excellent health.
It's a bit like ending up at a free buffet but already being full, and you just sit there wondering if you could fill a gear bag with sausage rolls without anyone noticing, or turning up to the afters of a wedding just as the free bar is closing and feeling that sense of panic - just grab every bottle on the top shelf and pour a measure of each into a pint glass. I can separate them later!
Of course, what I didn't realise is that my medical card wasn't just for GP visits and reduced prices on certain medicines, as it also entitled me to dental work, and while my general health is good, my teeth are so bad that I try to do that weird closed-mouth smile that makes me look like an under-fire politician sprinting into a State car.
Even my close-lipped byline photo looks like it was taken in the middle of me using mouthwash, which is ironic as I don't use mouthwash or care all that much for my teeth. It's fortunate that, as a professional miserabilist, I don't smile much anyway, but if I had known I could get a bit of patching up work done on them for free, I might have gone for it, and transitioned from wonky canines and stubby incisors to something a little less shameful - less Jeremy Kyle, more 'Hollywood smile'.
Except of course, a medical card isn't going to get you a full set of porcelain veneers; just extractions and two fillings a year, so it's not like I was going to be getting gangsta grills on the taxpayer's dime.
Teeth are a hot topic in our house. My wife has perfect teeth, and her family went to great lengths to give her them through years of Marathon Man style sessions with an expensive orthodontist. She thusly expects teeth to be cared for and prized, and worries constantly about having any removed, as this would apparently cause her entire face to collapse in on itself like a supermassive black hole. I try to reassure her that with a grand, full face like hers, reminiscent of a full moon in the fog, she would need most of her jaw removed to even achieve cheekbones, but apparently that sort of contribution does not help.
What would I know about dental care, with those wonky little gravel chips I call teeth, jutting out at odd angles. These gravel chips work just fine, although they do give me a slight lisp that is not related to my fat tongue. And, anyway, as a dad you don't need good teeth, just grippy, expendable ones that can open the odd ketchup bottle or tear chunks off whatever mystery meat the kids failed to eat.
I apply this same terrible logic to my sons, and this is the point where one of the miracles of married life - the ability to argue about literally anything - comes into play.
She cares greatly about oral hygiene - I don't care if all my teeth fall out. We're the original odd couple - her beautiful smile obscured by her incandescent rage over my inability to wash the kids' teeth, me lisping Gollum-like apologiessss through the sinkhole I call a mouth, while in the background, our son does the floss from Fortnite rather than actually flossing. Oh the joys.
But while there are parts of parenting that I get wrong, I hope there are some I get right, like passing on the message that my father raised me with - that Ireland is a good country, and that while we are a work in progress, we are heading in the right direction (unlike my curiously askew premolars).
The demise of my medical card is a reminder that, even though I never needed it, nor did I use it, the State was there for me and my crumbling molars if I ever needed them.