Way back in the 1980s, one Sunday evening Cheri and I made a nice big bowl of popcorn and sat down to watch some television. We were munching away when suddenly I moved my tongue around in my mouth, and discovered that a rather large hole existed where there was a tooth a few moments before. I was not pleased. The next day, I called around and found a dentist who was able to give me my first of three crowns I have collected over the years. He told me that my teeth were in good shape – no cavities – but that their hardness meant that they could at times become kind of brittle. In fact, he commented, I was more than likely to collect few more crowns as time went on. I was not pleased again, but crossed it off to one of those things.
Like I said, I have managed to collect a crown in Fargo in the 90s, and one in Rapid City in 2000. That was enough, I figured. About four years ago, however, I touched my tongue to a back molar, and discovered that it too had decided to lose a small piece. Could I really be swallowing my teeth that much? Well, that one didn’t hurt at all, and with my commitment to simply eat on the other side of my mouth, it has behaved itself. I figured that until it became a bother, I wouldn’t bother with it. This tentative peace treaty has held up for almost half a decade.
So last night, it happened. No – not on the right side, but while we were eating chicken fettucine alfredo – not your crunchiest meal – I again touched my tongue on the left side, and it’s a doozy. I must have again swallowed a good bit of the tooth, and what remains is pretty sharp and jagged. While I was satisfied to keep the peace on the right side of my mouth, apparently the left side went into full rebellion.
This was not something I needed or wanted or even preferred to happen during this season of pandemic. First of all – pandemic. I have avoided going and doing all sorts of things out of respect for a disease of which there is not vaccine or real cure yet found. I’m sure, back in the 1700s, I would have probably not gone to town as long as the smallpox epidemic was going on. Secondly – dentists. You see, I grew up in South Carolina in the 60s, and we all would go to see Dr. Penney, the dentist in Sumter. Dr. Penney was not what you would call either kind or gentle. We all, like most kids back then with non-fluoridated water, had a number of small cavities in our baby teeth. Dr. Penney was really old school, and drill those cavities without Novocain. Just grin and bear it. I went through braces, and having four wisdom teeth pulled – while I was awake, with only Novocain that time. I won’t go into the details of what that is like, but it’s not pretty.
So, my love affair with dentists has best been kept long distance. I know, I know – it’s like making sure you go to the doctor once or twice a year, even if you are feeling fine. It’s never been a thrill, or even something enjoyed, and I am private enough that it always feels like an invasion.
All that being the case, my tooth will not regrow its broken off spot. It’s time for crown number four, and I hope that they don’t want to throw in the small break on the right, for number five. I went online to the dentist I saw for my crown in Fargo in the 90s, and he is still working, so I requested an appointment to see him. I guess that will happen this week. Sometime.
So, lets’ see – this week we had to buy a new freezer, the car is making a ticking sound that it’s never made before, it decided to turn cold and snow, and I broke my tooth. Not bad for October. So far. You know, there are those seasons we go through, and sometimes they are only weeks, or even days, when things seem to pile up and make a mess out of what should be an orderly and peaceful life. No, we haven’t had hurricanes or car accidents or terrible diseases or lose all our money in swindle or hardly anything like that. However, for most of us, living without those things pounding on us is what we want to have as the norm of living. When things go outside those narrow boundaries, there are time when it feels like the sky is falling or the world is collapsing, and life is unfair and picking on us.
The fact is – it’s just life. Anyone who thinks that the sun will always shine on our shoulders, and nothing will hurt or die or change is eating self-deception for breakfast – and sooner or later, they will break a tooth on the Raisin Bran. I’m not saying that we need to wake up every morning and wrap ourselves in bubble wrap and fear anything that moves or crawls in front of us – I’m just saying that we need to realize that life happens, and in that life there will be tremendous joys and dreams fulfilled, and also significant disappointments and challenges to be face and hopefully overcome. I’ve said it a bit lately, and I’ll repeat myself: it is not what happens to you in this life that matters. It is what you DO with what happens to you that makes all the difference between living a life of despair, or one of integrity and victory. One way throws us accidentally through life, and the other allows us to marshal all the intentional power of a life of faith, and move forward through and beyond those icky parts of living.
So – I’ll go the dentist this week, pay a lot of money, and fix my mouth. In the grand scheme of life, it’s not worth even fussing over. I’ll for God to guide me to brighter things, and happier, more joyful ways of living. I’ll pray for you too.
Word for the Day: saltation. Pronounced sal-TAY-shun, it’s another one of our Latin language favorites. It’s kind of a happy, energetic word. It’s from the Latin, salus, or saltare, which means “leap or jump,” or the verb “to leap.” Saltation isn’t only the ability to leap, jump, hop, dance or such – it’s the actual action of doing so. Isn’t it funny that little children, like baby animals, spend most of their time in saltation? They hop and jump and throw themselves into the air! Usually, when they are little kids in public places, it’s met with a stern look by their parents and a quiet order to “simmer down.” Throw that saltation away, and act like an adult, who has forgotten how to leap and jump – or hardly ever hop. I wonder who is living the better life – the one who is down to earth, or the one who tries to fly, even if it is only a foot in the air?
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.