Grandma was born in 1896. Very progressive, she employed higher standards of hygiene I do today, possibly because she’d barely survived typhoid in her mid-forties. Like me, washed her hands frequently as she cooked, but she scalded instead of merely rinsing her dishes, and boiled her whites, linens, and towels when doing her laundry with home-made lye soap in a huge cast-iron washpot outdoors until she got a washing machine.
Despite her excellent hygiene, Grandma developed gum disease, loosing most of her teeth before she was sixty. Her doctor prescribed snuff dipping as a curative, but she couldn’t stand it. On her own, she gargled salt-water, feeling that helped. It had to be better than the snuff. She endured loosing her teeth as they fell out one by one, a humiliation for a proud woman.
Sometime in 1953, Grandma received a Godsend, a three-hundred dollar inheritance. She immediately decided to get “false teeth” a luxury she’d never have been able to afford, otherwise. My older sister, Phyllis, was enthusiastic at six, just at the age to understand tooth loss. She brought Grandma a pulp magazine, which surprisingly featured an advertisement offering dentures by mail. Grandma wrote away for those dentures, received impressions by return mail, and within weeks, had her proud smile back. She was so thrilled to be herself again, proud of her beautiful smile