Goodbye, Dr. McLendon

I just learned today that our dentist, Dr. Bill McLendon, passed away last week of a heart attack. I know it might seem weird to some of you to be so sad about the death of a dentist, but this is a man who has been a part of my life for 35 years. I know a lot of people don’t like dentists, but I love my dentist.

Maybe it’s because of the way we met. When I came down to Texas from Indiana for college, I knew I had tooth issues because I could only chew on one side of my mouth. The other side hurt too much. It never occurred to me to see a dentist. I just lived with the pain.

Then I started having earaches. The pain became so severe that I went to the college nurse, and she sent me to a doctor. He couldn’t find anything wrong, and suggested I see a dentist in case I was having “referred” pain. The college-approved dentist was a very young Dr. McLendon. He and his assistant, Shirlene, squeezed me in and took a look at my mouth. I had a massive abscess and the infection had spread to my jaw. By this time I was in so much pain that I had to sleep sitting up—if I could sleep at all.

Dr. McLendon gave me an antibiotic and told me that if I didn’t have relief from the pain in 24 hours, to give him a call. He wanted to give the antibiotic time to work before he attempted the root canal. After a sleepless night in agony, I called and talked to the receptionist, Vickie. When she heard I was still in pain, she told me to come in right away.

My boyfriend (now my husband) borrowed a car and took me to Dr. McLendon’s office. They made everyone else wait so they could help me. The local anesthetic didn’t work because my gums were so swollen. He started drilling and I thought I was going to pass out from the pain. Then, he hit the abscess and the pain turned off as if by a switch. It was the first and only time that I ever wanted to kiss a dentist. When you’ve been in pain so long and it suddenly stops, the sensation is just unbelievably wonderful.

That was back in 1979. I’ve been going to Dr. McLendon ever since, as has Walter. Of course all seven children went there too. Back when we started, fillings were either $15 or $30. Now they cost a lot more! Dr. McLendon and Vickie and Shirlene were a part of my life. Most years, I saw them at least twice for cleaning and a checkup, then more often when we had kids. I greatly enjoyed our conversations, the excellent care we received, and the fact that they let us pay in installments for major expenses like a root canal or crown. Every time I came in, they asked about the kids and wanted to see pictures. I feel so bereft right now. I wanted that guy to keep taking care of our teeth forever. He was old school in the best possible way.

In other news, I am still struggling with my cold/sinus infection, but I believe I detected a slight improvement today. I also got a call saying my sewing machine was ready, and the shock almost killed me. I don’t think it has ever taken less than a week before. I haven’t tried it out yet, but considering what I paid it better run like a dream!

Lucy is spending the evening at a “lock-in” at the library. Should be interesting to hear about that tomorrow!

Oh, and I am writing this on the kids’ computer, because mine has no memory of ever having met the internet. *sigh*


2 thoughts on “Goodbye, Dr. McLendon

  1. That breaks my heart a little bit. I’d honestly been thinking all this time that I wouldn’t even bother finding a dentist here; I’d just always wait until I had a trip to Longview scheduled and get dental work done then. He really was a special blessing to our family.


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