I peeked in on my little lady around 10:30AM. She’s been sleeping later and later. But this time I found her sitting on the edge of her bed looking very confused. I checked back in five minutes and she was still there. Five minutes later I found that she had moved to her comfy chair beside her bed.
She still looked puzzled, so I asked her if she was okay. The conversation was a bit difficult because she hadn’t put in her hearing aids yet. She quickly held out her hand, as if to explain her confusion and sort of mumbled, “I lost my tooth.” There in her hand was a bridge of two teeth, screws protruding. She took it back from me and fitted it back into her mouth.
I left the room and went to call one of the daughters. I knew that they several of them would have gathered for dinner the night before and probably knew something about the “loose” tooth. Sure enough, the bridge had come loose and someone was going to be calling the dentist. She just didn’t know who. She would have to get back to me.
It was now time for lunch. I carefully selected a meal that wasn’t crunchy, in hopes of not irritating the now gaping area of her gum. Part way through the meal, she fiddled with the bridge and it came out. Still with no hearing aids in, I tried to explain that it had come loose and we were trying to get her into the dentist. She put the bridge in her now empty med cup.
What happened next brought tears to my eyes. As she ate, right after each bite, she would look down at the cup and puzzlement would come across her face as she tried to figure out why those teeth were in that little cup. With every bite. After two more tries at explaining, I simply watched as the paiful process continued through the remainder of the meal.
My heart just ached for her and her inability to recall. How horrifyingly sad. When we were done eating I scooped the cup up with the rest of her dishes, hoping that perhaps if she didn’t see the teeth, she wouldn’t be so confused. I was wrong. After we ate she returned to her room and her comfy chair and I found her there three, maybe four times, digging at the empty spot. “I guess I lost a tooth,” she finally said to me one time when I checked on her.
I was still feeling the sadness when my daughter stopped by with my 5 year old grandson. We don’t often see them on Mondays, since it’s her day off, but he needed to wrestle with Pepa. Boys are like that sometimes.
In the middle of the tickle fest, Pepa stopped and asked Asher how his tooth was. Asher, who just recently started kindergarten, has his very first loose tooth. Just last week he bounded out of the school building when I picked him up, and his very first words were the excited declaration regarding this new milestone in his very young life. He fiddled with it all evening. The way he was working it, I thought I’d be hunting down dollars for the Tooth Fairy’s first arrival. But he didn’t lose it then, and it was going anywhere tonight–even with all the rough housing with Pepa.
After they left and Pepa was in bed, I was alone with my thoughts of the day and the image of bookends came to mind. On the one hand, I experience the exuberance of life through the energy and excitement of my grandson, and on the other, the sad reality of life quickly slipping away both in time and memory, while I live somewhere in the middle.
Sometimes it seems hard to live in the middle. There is much press and encouragement to live in the moment, being very present in the here and now. My struggle comes as the reality of being closer to the end than the beginning presses in on me. I don’t have an official “bucket list,” but there are things I still think I’d like to do, while not forgetting the precious things I’ve experienced. It all gets my head to spinning.
I know this for sure: I don’t want to lose touch with either! My prayer today is: Teach me to count my days that I may gain a wise heart (paraphrase of Psalm 90:12, NRSV).
I looked this verse up in several translations, and the New Living Translation really helped me focus my thoughts: “Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.” Life is short, and often seems to go by so quickly. I need a wise heart as I face all the phases: beginning, middle, and end.