My mouth was wide open, and I wasn’t saying a word. That surprises some folks. I was sitting in my dentist’s chair, and he was doing what dentists do. And I, who have never enjoyed being the recipient of dental work, was feeling thankful.

Since I couldn’t utter a word, I entertained a bunch of unrelated thoughts that led to thankfulness. In the spirit of Thanksgiving Day, here are some reflections that emerged between the drill and the bill.

I am thankful that as unpleasant as I find having my teeth sandblasted (at least that’s what it feels like), I have access to and can afford good dental work. We know that many Americans, especially in our region, cannot afford needed professional care for their teeth. I am also thankful that our community has excellent medical care for most health problems, which is part of the reason that Maury and I will enjoy this Thanksgiving.

On the topic of health care, I am particularly thankful that over a half-century ago Congress added Medicare and Medicaid as amendments to the Social Security Act. Medicare protects older folks from unexpected medical bills. It’s not a freebie, but requires co-pays, deductibles and more. I would be thankful if more Americans had decent, affordable health care options.

The loud noises around my ears reminded me of the raucous and fractious state of American politics.

I wish we could be more civil and cooperative. Yet, I’m utterly thankful that I live in this amazing country formed basically by poor immigrants. The rich and powerful didn’t need to immigrate across the ocean in barely sea-worthy ships.

Election thoughts crossed my mind. What a mess! Yet, I’m thankful that we can vote (more of us should) and openly raise the problematic issues regarding our ballot boxes and candidates.

Problematic issues reminded me how thankful we should be for America’s free press and our First Amendment rights. Real freedom requires our media to speak out openly and honestly. I am personally thankful for the opportunity to write op-eds for two decades and never being told what to or not to write.

Speaking of media, a recent news photo of Iranian women protesting in Tehran reminded me that American women always have not been on an equal footing with men in work or personal life, but thankfully our country does not dictate what women may wear, with whom they may associate or what work they may do.

Thinking of antagonistic foreign governments reminded me how thankful I am for our military and veterans, living in a friendly and forward-looking community and having first responders who have our backs daily.

Perhaps, because I knew I wouldn’t be eating until the novocaine wore off, I started thinking about my next meal. That led me to feeling thankful for always having enough food. Not everyone in our country, and certainly not everyone in this world, can say this.

My food thoughts segued to Thanksgiving dinner. Over the holiday weekend, not only will we celebrate with food, fun and football, but thankfully will have the joy of being with our entire family.

My dental experience gave me the chance to digest some ideas about thankfulness. Wishing all a Thanksgiving Day with many things for which you can be thankful.

Diane W. Mufson is a retired psychologist. Her email is

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