Sunday, January 29th, 2023

I suffered an especially painful case of dry-eye last night and when I told My Darling B about it, she said, “Maybe you need a humidifier in the bedroom.”

What I heard her say was, “Maybe you need to make a fire in the bedroom.”

When she says something that doesn’t make any sense at all, I stop and let the decoder in my brain work on the problem for a while until it comes up with a translation. It’s sort of like Wordle: most of the phonemes are there but I need time to look at the gray areas to imagine how they should be filled in.

But that doesn’t always work. When it doesn’t, I repeat what I thought I heard her say. In this case when I told her, “I heard you say: Maybe you need to make a fire in the bedroom,” she nearly bust a gut laughing. Then, when she could breathe again, she told me about the humidifier.

build a fire | 8:28 am CST
Category: falling apart, My Darling B, random idiocy, story time
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Tuesday, January 10th, 2023

“It used to be that if I dropped something, I just bent over and picked it up. Now, I stop and think about how to pick it up. Is there something I can grab hold of, or lean on? Is it even worth the effort of picking it up? Maybe I should just leave it there.” — my boss, telling a story about getting old.

Worth noting that he’s almost twenty years younger than I am.

pickup | 6:29 am CST
Category: falling apart, random idiocy
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Monday, January 9th, 2023

I woke myself up this morning by stretching a little too far, giving myself a leg cramp that was like lighting all up and down my left leg. Twelve hours later it still hurts a bit. Pro tip: If you can possibly avoid it, don’t point your toes when you stretch.

yikes | 5:08 pm CST
Category: falling apart, random idiocy, sleeplessness
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Thursday, December 29th, 2022

Went for a very long walk around the neighborhood today because temps were in the 40s for the first time in about two weeks, if I recall correctly, and I was feeling so good about getting out of the house until I got all tuckered out while I was still about a mile from our little red house so I had to trudge home, huffing and puffing all the way. It’s what happens when you don’t go outside for two weeks because you don’t like the cold but you also don’t have a treadmill in the basement. You can’t buy stamina at the store.

tuckered out | 6:16 pm CST
Category: falling apart, weather
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Sunday, December 18th, 2022

I don’t know if this is the weirdest thing I’ve ever done, but many years ago while a medical doctor was trying to diagnose a little trouble I was having with my gastrointestinal tract, she asked me to keep a diary of what I ate and each time I pooped. She also wanted to know what kind of dump I had, i.e. was it firm, loose, runny, explosive, etc.

I did just what she told me. I got a pocket-sized spiral-bound notebook, kept it in the breast pocket of my BDU blouse, and each time I sat down to eat I got the notebook out and jotted down a list of each item I was about to consume. I had a very simple appetite and was a picky eater back then, so the list was usually short and easy to make. AND ALSO after each visit to the men’s room I would make a quick note of the visit and the ‘character’ of the expelled dookie. I did this for at least a couple weeks. I think it might have been a whole month.

On my next visit to the doctor I handed over the notebook, saying something like, “You wanted me to write down everything I ate and every time I pooped.” She acted puzzled as she flipped through the pages. “Wow, you really did it,” she said. It seemed to me this was the first time anyone had actually followed her directions. Weirdly, she hardly read the diary. She mostly just flipped through it, pausing to read two or maybe three pages before handing it back to me.

big log | 8:08 am CST
Category: falling apart, Farts & Farting, My Glorious Air Force Career, random idiocy, story time | Tags: ,
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Sunday, November 20th, 2022

So I’ve already written more than once about getting a song stuck in my head. Happens to everybody, but I’m pretty sure my brain takes it to an extreme most other people don’t experience. I could be wrong. This belief is not supported by even the tiniest shred of evidence. But it feels absolutely true.

More to the point: I’ve had three Aretha Franklin songs stuck in my head for the past two weeks: “Ain’t No Doubt About It,” “I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You,” and “Respect.” My brain’s been stuck on the first one more than the other two, but all three get air time on Radio Dave. Things could be worse, right? Those are three pretty great songs to have stuck in your head, right?

I guess. It’s just that, after two weeks of hearing those three songs on a loop, I have to say that even a fan of Aretha Franklin might get a little burned out. And I like to think of myself as a fan. But as much as I enjoy listening to those songs, I have to admit I’m getting … tired.

I think the songs that get stuck in my head may have a bit to do with how infrequently I listen to my favorite music these days. I used to have a huge collection of record albums close at hand (it’s in storage in the basement now) and listened to them almost all the time. Even if I wasn’t actively listening, I had an album I liked playing in the background. As a result of that, I had a huge loop of songs in my memory. I still occasionally fell into the single-song loop trap, but not for long. And certainly not for two weeks, ever.

I have to admit, though, that I will sometimes go whole days without listening to much of anything anymore, and even then I’ll turn the radio on only to have music in the background. But modern pop music hardly ever gets stuck in my head because I’m not familiar with it. It’s literally just background noise to me. In that respect, pop music is very safe to listen to.

But when I indulge a craving, as I did about two weeks ago, to listen to favorite album (like the Best Of Aretha Franklin I dug out of the archives), I think my brain eagerly latches on to those familiar sounds and obsesses over the details it enjoys or perhaps hadn’t even noticed until just now. “Hey! We haven’t heard this in a while! Oh I love these musical phrases! Wow these lyrics are the best!” And it goes into a seemingly endless loop of re-listening to the bits it loves every waking minute of the day.

Eventually I have to seek therapy by listening to some other old favorite of mine in the hopes that it will bump the previous album out of my phonological loop. Trouble with that is, the relief is temporary. I’ve just replaced one loop with another, so I’ve got, at best, a week of relief, maybe two, before I get really tired of the new loop. So I have to choose carefully. Which album have I not listened to for the longest time? How long can I stand to have it stuck in my head? What if I totally burn out on it and this is the absolute last time I can listen to it? These questions must be carefully considered before I return to the archive to dig up the next album or two.

stuck in a loop | 10:09 am CST
Category: entertainment, falling apart, music, play | Tags:
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Wednesday, November 2nd, 2022

Everybody knows that old people are hard of hearing or that their eyesight has gone bad. It’s common knowledge because it comes up in conversation all the time, but for whatever reason I never heard anybody talk about dry eye. I never HEARD of dry eye until I was old myself and my own eyes dried out. And I want to tell you, that shit sucks.

Woke up in the middle of the night, rubbed my eyes to get the sleepers out of the corners. Stopped immediately because I felt like I was grinding broken shards of glass into my eyeballs. What the hell is this? Looked it up on WebMD the next day to make sure I didn’t have eyeball cancer. Nope, it’s only dry eye. Everybody gets it. Totally normal. Happens all the time to all kinds of people. Nothing you can do other than put some eyedrops in. Welcome to old age.

On the entire opposite end of the spectrum of eye moisture, my eyes get super weepy for an hour or so after I wake up, almost like they’re overcompensating for drying out. If you see me walking down the street in the early morning, tears steaming from my eyes, don’t worry at all about me, I’m okay. I’m not crying. Well, technically I guess I am crying, but it’s not because I’m heartbroken, it’s because I’m old. This is just how my crappy old eyes work in the morning now. I’m fine.

dry eye | 5:17 am CST
Category: falling apart, Life & Death, random idiocy, yet another rant
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Tuesday, November 1st, 2022

I had to get out of bed early this morning because My Darling B wasn’t making any noise AT ALL. I woke up from a dream, made a quick visit to the bathroom, climbed back into bed and, while I was waiting to return to Slumberland for what I was sure would be several more hours, I realized that B was making absolutely no sound. I couldn’t even hear her breathing.

This is not normal. Normal, on any given night in our house, is lots and lots of snoring. I’m as guilty of it as she is, and I know this because she has made a recording of me snoring so I could hear that I sound like a diesel dump truck downshifting on an off-ramp when I snore. She sounds more like a cartoon Dagwood: SNXXXX! SNXXXX!

So when she makes absolutely no sound at all, it can weird me out. Not always. There are lots of nights when I’m so oblivious of what’s going on around me that I can easily return to sleep after any one of my six dozen visits to the loo in the middle of the night, and thank goodness. Having Old Man Bladder would be a million times worse if I couldn’t.

But on a night like tonight after waking from a dream full of super-creepy twists and turns, my lizard brain sometimes kicks in. “She’s not breathing,” it says to me.

“Oh stop it,” I say right back. “Of course she’s breathing.”

“Can you hear her breathing? No, you can’t.”

“Of course I can’t, my tinnitus is ringing off the hook.”

“Your tinnitus isn’t that loud.”

“Shrieking banshees aren’t as loud as my tinnitus. Quit bothering me.”

“So you’re not worried at all that she’s not breathing.”

“No, I’m not worried, because she is breathing and she’s fine.”

“Yeah, I’m sure you’re right. She’s perfectly fine. It’s just that tonight she’s really, really quiet. Happens all the time”

“No. It never happens. She’s never this quiet.”

“Well aren’t you going to do something about it then?”

“And what am I going to do? Give her a poke? That’d go over well I’m sure.”

“You don’t have to do anything as rude as poking her. Just roll over, yawn, scratch yourself, make a little noise, same as you do every night.”

That’s what I did: I made a little noise, then laid perfectly still to see what her reaction would be. Only she didn’t react at all. She continued to lie there, still as a statue, and made no sound. So I rolled over, yawned, stretched, adjusted the bed covers, did a little cat/cow, farted. Finally she made a tiny snuffling noise.

“There! See? She’s breathing.”

“Pffft. Corpses make a noise just like that when they get gassy.”

“You went there. I can’t believe you went there. How are you even part of my psyche?”

“Your psyche is totally screwed up and you know it. Now give her a poke to see if she’s alive.”

Well, dear reader, I didn’t poke her. At that point I gave up on sleep, rolled out of bed and headed to the kitchen to make some coffee. As I grabbed my pants on the way out, B whimpered in her sleep and shifted the blankets to get more comfortable.

Sleep well, B.

wakey wakey | 4:34 am CST
Category: dreams, falling apart, Farts & Farting, Life & Death, My Darling B, random idiocy, sleeplessness
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Saturday, June 19th, 2021

My feet are cracking really badly. I get deep cracks in the calluses that build up around the heels of both feet and on the very thick callus I get on the outside of my right big toe. The left big toe gets callused, too, but it’s not as thick and rarely cracks. Not yet.

This is not a new thing. My feet have cracked for ten, fifteen years, maybe twenty. Used to be, I had to deal with this only in the winter. I thought that was because I wore shoes more in the winter, which I believed made the calluses on my feet thicker. I believed thicker calluses plus dry winter air made the calluses brittle, therefore they cracked. Nobody told me that. I totally pulled that belief out of my butt.

It’s beginning to dawn on me that I know exactly squat about calluses and what makes them crack because I haven’t been wearing shoes much since Feb 2020. I was indoors pretty much all winter, usually wearing socks or slippers, and yet calluses thick as shoe leather continued to grow on my heels and toes instead of withering away to nothing if shoes had anything to do with making them. And my feet are still callused even though I’m padding around barefoot practically every day.

Also, I installed a whole-house humidifier last fall, and I rubbed my feet with coconut oil daily all winter long, and yet the calluses on my feet dried out and cracked deeply and painfully. They’re still cracking now, while the weather is humid and I’m slathering my feet in cocoa butter and bandaging the cracks after troweling them full of antibiotic unguent. It’s like they’re going to crack no matter how much I baby them. I’m starting to think I just have old, worn-out, shitty feet.

cracked | 8:02 am CST
Category: falling apart, random idiocy
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Tuesday, February 11th, 2020

I’m wearing my first-ever pair of bifocals now. Well, not right this minute. I’m nearsighted, so I don’t need corrective lenses to see a computer screen that’s right in front of my face. There are times, though, when I have to look at someone else’s computer screen and it gets weird because to get close enough to read it, I have to invade their personal space. Some people don’t mind so much, but some people do.

There are also times when I’d like to be able to read the various dials and readouts on the dashboard of my car. Some readouts I can look at and know what they’re telling me without actually reading them; the speedometer, for instance. I know when it’s pointing at “60” instead of “50.” But sometimes I want to know the name of the song on the radio, or read the map display, and to do that I would have to tip my head way back and peep under the lenses of my old prescription.

I don’t have to do that now, but it’s a bit of a struggle overcoming the muscle memory. I keep peeping under the lenses when all I have to do is dip my eyes to look through the lower half of my new lenses.

bifocals | 6:00 am CST
Category: falling apart, random idiocy, TMI Tuesday
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Sunday, January 26th, 2020

I went to the eye doctor yesterday afternoon because my prescription seemed a little out of whack and it had been about five years since I’d had my eyes checked last. The office I went to last was in a Shopko that closed last summer, but the office moved to a strip mall about two blocks from our house so I guess even that minor catastrophe had a silver lining.

Before the doctor did her examination, a tech took me into a side room to check me for glaucoma with that goddamn machine that hit my eyeball with what they always describe as a “puff” of air, and which I describe as being punched in the face by an evil spirit. She had another machine that projected an image on the back of my eye but she didn’t say what that did; and she had a camera that took a picture of the retina of both my eyes. She had to take two photos of my left eye but she didn’t say why.

Once the tech was done with me, the doctor took me to a separate examination room and did the usual examination with the goggles that flip between better and worse, then she got behind a scope that shined a bright light into my eyes so she could examine the retinas live, one at a time, under magnification. She spent a bit longer looking into the left one than the right one before she explained that she was looking for a whitened area on my retina that showed up on the photos. It was probably totally normal, she said, most likely a myelinated nerve fiber layer and probably not A CANCEROUS TUMOR, but the only way she could be sure was to look at it live under magnification. Trouble was, it was in a part of my eye that at such an acute angle to my pupil that she couldn’t see it without dilating my eyes.

Luckily for both of us, I walked to the examination, meaning that driving home with dilated eyes wasn’t even part of the equation. Therefore, yes, please, go ahead and dilate my eyes so we can find out if one of them is full of cancer or it’s only a benignly myelinated nerve. I am only too happy to have this cleared up in exchange for having to squint all the way home.

And it turned out to be the benign thing, whew. So what might have turned out to be a slightly more exciting day than I had planned was instead routine. All I got out of it was a new prescription and a new pair of glasses.

myelinated | 11:17 am CST
Category: falling apart, Life & Death | Tags:
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Monday, December 9th, 2019

I called mom last night and one of the topics of conversation was my upcoming 60th birthday, which is in fact a year and three days from now but I didn’t correct her because, you know, 59, 60, what’s the difference?

She brings it up the topic of my age more often than she used to because she can’t get her head around the idea that the child she gave birth to seems to be as old as she is. “You can’t be 60,” she said. “I’m 60!” I totally get what she means. I usually feel like I’m about thirty years old, until I throw my back out bending over to pick up a cat toy, or stop to catch my breath as I’m scrubbing the bathtub. Being 59 (or 60, whatever) feels like that shouldn’t happen, but it does.

Fifty nine | 6:04 am CST
Category: falling apart, Life & Death
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Saturday, December 7th, 2019

We still have the plague here. B thought it skipped her but she started feeling sick maybe three or four days ago and yesterday her boss sent her home from work. She’s got the same symptoms I had, stuffy head and hacking up gobbets of gross gunk.

I keep saying I’m on the upswing now and mostly that seems to be true, but I still have episodes when I can feel a pocket of something deep in the back of my head give way and the next few sloppy minutes will be me continually blowing hard through my nose into yards and yards of toilet paper, sooo gross.

plague update | 6:38 am CST
Category: falling apart | Tags:
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Saturday, November 2nd, 2019

I am never going to eat fried food again. And when I say “never,” I mean that I will, on occasion, eat certain fried foods, because there are some worth suffering for, like the tater tots they serve at the Vintage Brewing Company over on Whitney Way. I don’t know how they do it, but their tots are exactly the right kind of crispy-crunchy I will always say “yes” to.

But other than a few special exceptions like those tots, I have unfortunately advanced to the age where my gastrointestinal mechanism no longer produces whatever chemicals or enzymes it used to make to deal with deep-fat-fryer grease. I used to be able to eat all the french fries. Really, *all* of them. Now that I’m apparently becoming a decrepit old geezer, I can safely eat only about half a dozen without any ill effects; any more and I feel as though I’m carrying around a bowling-ball-sized lump of lard in my belly for the next twenty-four hours. It’s not a good feeling, particularly when I make the mistake of ordering a side of fries with my dinner, thinking “It’ll be all right, I haven’t had fries in a week,” and then I have to try to sleep with that bowling ball in my stomach. Doesn’t happen. Easier to sleep with a pile of bricks on top of me.

No fried foods means that most of the food at the brewpubs we like to visit is off limits to me: it’s not just fries that bloat me up, the chicken tenders that I love at most places do the same, and I’ll probably never enjoy another Friday night fish fry, although a Friday afternoon fish fry isn’t entirely out of the question; so long as I have time to walk it off, I’m good. But other than that I’ll be eating lots of wraps and salads from here on in. So long, french fries, and thanks for the fun times!

fried | 1:22 pm CST
Category: falling apart, food & drink
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Tuesday, October 8th, 2019

When I came home from my walk the other day, I dug into my pocket for my key ring, selected a key as I climbed the stoop to the front door, then depressed the “unlock” button on the ignition key for our car.

From the garage, the car answered with two beeps. The front door did not respond in any way.

open sesame | 6:33 am CST
Category: daily drivel, falling apart, random idiocy
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Sunday, February 24th, 2019

Just a few words while I’m waiting for my chance to use the bathroom. Nobody’s in there, but I need to wait until I’m ready, if you know what I mean. I’ve never been what you’d call regular. It happens when it happens, y’know? And if that’s more than you wanted to know about me ever, I’m going to use the excuse that I’m woozie from being sick since last Thursday. Finally succumbed to the nasty coughing crud that’s been plaguing My Darling B for the past two weeks. Slept all day yesterday. Well, not all day. I got up to totter off to the bathroom, or to stuff some bananas down my neck and guzzle some water, or to take medicine that made my headache go away and dried up my sopping-wet sinuses. And while I was in bed I spent a lot of time hacking up crud from my lungs. It’s not easy to sleep when you’re doing that. Well, this has been fun but my eyes are starting to cross. I’ll type some more drivel later when I can focus.

argle barble dribble burble | 8:32 am CST
Category: falling apart
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Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017

The other day I peed my pants like a little boy and survived to tell the tale.

It all started with breakfast at the Avenue Club, a venerable Madison supper club on East Washington Avenue. We went there to take advantage of their New Year’s unlimited pancake breakfast. They brought each of us two freshly-baked pancakes as big as a dinner plate, invited us to visit the table where they had set up dishes heaped with toppings such as pecans, almond slivers, chocolate chips and the like, and said if we wanted more, we could help ourselves to the mountain of hot cakes on the steam table they were continually refreshing.

As it turned out, “all you can eat” means the two giant pancakes they brought me in the beginning. This was a classic “eyes bigger than head” situation. I was really very proud of myself just for finishing those two.

I ordered a tall glass of orange juice with my breakfast, and after we stuffed ourselves full of pancakes, we lingered over coffee for a little while. That was my third coffee of the day, after our customary hot cuppa (or two) to wake up as soon as we got out of bed. My kidneys were doing their best to keep up, and I made a couple stops at the club and again as soon as we got home, so I sincerely thought output had caught up with input. I was so very wrong.

I was maybe four blocks from home when I began to replan my route. I’d thought of going as far as the library, which reminded me there were no public buildings open anywhere today. Maybe not such a good idea to get too far from home. By the time I was walking along Winnequah Road down by the shore of Squaw Bay, I was sure than shortening my route was a good idea.

I had the stop sign at Maywood Road in sight, two blocks away, so picked that as my turnaround point, hung a right at Kelly Place and squiggled through its twisty turns until I got to Panther Trail, which I followed up to Bridge Road, a total of maybe three blocks. By the time I got to Bridge Road there were enough alarm bells going off in my hind brain to make me nervous.

It’s a two-block walk up Bridge Road to Frost Woods Road, and one block along Frost Woods to Sylvan Lane. I was speed-walking all the way. By the time I was in the home stretch I was sure there was going to be an accident in plain sight of the whole neighborhood, but I managed to hang on until I unlocked the front door of our house and stepped inside.

I remember playing in the living room with our son Sean when he was maybe three or four years old. We were on the floor setting up a skirmish with a bunch of plastic dinosaurs or something like that when all at once he jumped up and began a fast march across the room as if he’d just received a coded message by radio wave from the mother ship. Halfway across the room he yanked his pants down and tried to manually stop himself from emptying his bladder on the way but failed, squirting a trail that pointed into the hallway and continued into the bathroom.

That was me as I ran across the living room. It’s kind of funny when it’s a four-year-old, not nearly as funny when it’s a fifty-six-year-old.

kegle | 6:29 am CST
Category: daily drivel, falling apart, random idiocy, Seanster, TMI Tuesday | Tags:
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Monday, January 2nd, 2017

The hardest thing about growing old, or at least the stage of growing old that takes place in one’s 50s, is bending over. I think I can say that in all confidence. Lots of other things suck, too: eyesight’s getting fuzzy, hearing’s going bad, can’t remember the word I want to use, my nostrils are in a race to grow bushier hair than my eyebrows.

But bending over is something I have to do dozens of times a day to tie my shoes, to scoop kibble out for the cats, to sweep dust and dirt into a pan, to empty and load the dishwasher. Each day is an endless series of calisthenics. You’d think I’d be getting better at bending over, not worse. But my hamstrings say otherwise.

Such a simple function: a fold at the waist. I can do it if I concentrate, but if I stop thinking about it for one damn second, my knees bend of their own will, I take half a step back with my right foot, and I’m genuflecting before I know it. I was raised Catholic but it didn’t take. In spite of that, the nuns would be pretty happy with the way I genuflect these days. It’s pretty much the only way I can bend all the way to the floor.

I’d like to say that the yoga classes I’ve been going to have made it easier for me to bend over, and maybe they have. Sometimes I get to feeling cocky about how much easier it seems to be, and then the instructor challenges me to do staff pose, and I realize I’m about as flexible as a block of concrete.

gumby | 9:42 am CST
Category: daily drivel, falling apart
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Monday, April 20th, 2015

teethI have only ever heard old people talk about their crowns. I am about to talk about my crown. Ergo, I am now an old people.

One of my molars was giving me twinges when I bit down on it and had become super-sensitive to temperature. Worried that it might be infected, I went to see the dentist right away.

No infection, he told me. It’s just cracked. Perfectly normal. Teeth crack all the time.

To him it was just a cracked tooth. To me it was a potential root canal. To me, teeth are chunks of bone that stick out of my head. Most of them are riddled with holes, and now one of them had a crack in it. To see just how badly it was cracked, he put a “bite stick” on the tooth and asked me to bite down on it. I bit down rather gingerly, because I knew I was going to get what felt like an electric shock right through the top of my head.

Anything you can do about that? I asked him. He said he could put a crown on it. I’ve heard people talking about crowns for as long as I can remember, but I had only the vaguest idea what they were. On the other hand, I now had a very clear idea what a cracked tooth was, so I said, Let’s go for the crown.

Turns out that a crown is a replacement tooth they make out of porcelain and glue into your mouth to replace the cracked one. They weren’t going to remove the cracked one, though. They just wanted to grind it down to a stump.

When I think about medical science, I tend to imagine skilled professionals delicately working my tender living tissues with precision instruments that do not produce smoke and noise. That was not the image I got when he told me he was going to grind my tooth down to a stump. And the reality of the operation was pretty much smoke and noise, just as I imagined. Maybe someday they’ll have those neat little flashlights and salt shakers that Doctor McCoy pointed at his patients to make them all better, but today they’re still grinding and glueing.

They also had to take an impression of the cracked tooth, before and after they ground it to a stump, and impressions of all my upper and lower teeth. That was kind of cool, except when they filled a big tray with goop and schlupped it up against the roof of my mouth to get an impression of the uppers. A long finger of the goop oozed down the back of my throat and I came close to gagging up my stomach, liver, gall bladder and kidneys.

It took two weeks for the lab to make the crown. In the meantime I had a plastic cap on the stump that I was afraid to chew on. They said it was okay, but with the caveat that I couldn’t chew on anything hard or anything really sticky. I knew that if I let myself chew on it at all, I would probably forget, bear down on an unpopped popcorn seed and CRUNCH! There goes my temporary. So for almost three weeks I chewed on only one side of my mouth. That gets old after just two or three days.

You’ll be able to chew on this as soon as you leave, they told me after they glued my crown in place this morning, so I went straight to Java Cat, bought myself a walnut scone and tried it out right away. No electric shock, and the other side of my mouth has never been so relieved.

crowned | 11:07 am CST
Category: falling apart
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