There’s something vaguely appropriate about getting a root canal on your 50th birthday. I knew it was coming (both the root canal and the birthday) and couldn’t figure out why it was bothering me so. The root canal, not the birthday. I’d been kind of looking forward to being 50, to stepping across that symbolic threshold to a second half century. Couldn’t imagine being 35 when I was a teenager, now, I still can’t really imagine being 50. Somewhere in my head, I’m still 24. Always have been.
But the root canal – that was bothering me. More than the dull, throbbing pain in my tooth, I mean. Dentist said it was a good thing, that a root canal leaves the tooth better and stronger than it was before. A bit of anaesthetic, drill out that pesky nerve and put in a nice solid core with no more risk of infection or inflammation – what’s not to like? I mean, other than the Novocaine, whine of the drill, and the smell of smoke coming out from inside your mouth during the process.
That part didn’t bother me, though – I’ve always been fine in the dentist chair. Took me a while to put my finger on it, but when I did, there it was: an itty bit sense of loss. As I’ve aged – quite gracefully, thankyouverymuch – I find myself watching my body the way a pilot monitors his aircraft: fuel flow looks normal, cylinder #3 is running a little hot – better keep an eye on that – maybe open the cowl flaps a little. Headwinds seem to be increasing – check the charts, check the forecast – no, we’re still good for intended destination.
As I’ve watched myself get older, there have been plenty of little setbacks. My right knee is a bit more dodgy, and I’ve been through a few bouts of physical therapy to get me back into running shape. It gets worse, it gets better – I can’t run as far or fast as I used to, but I can still run.
The tooth thing, though – it feels like letting go of something. An itty bitty part of me that will never feel again. It’s gone for good. And somehow that feels important, and a little sad. Perhaps a reminder to take better care of the fully-functioning parts that I have left as I turn the corner into my second half century.
Anyhow. Speaking of birthdays, it was a lovely one, filled with little, unexpected joys. Like pie. Have I told you how much I like pie? A lot. And there I was, completely overloaded from a of back to back meetings at the office, when I got a message that Jenny ominously “wanted to chat”. You remember Jenny, right? From my old team – the folks I’ve had so many little adventures with? Well, sweet innocent Jenny lured me right into their apple pie and raspberry-rhubarb crumble ambush. With candles. And ice cream. And – frankly – the worst rendition of “Happy Birthday To You” that I’ve heard from adults unhampered by alcohol. But someone who didn’t know me well might have mistaken the quavering in my voice as a touch of sentimentality.
I had already been surprised by candles and an improvised Reeses Peanut Butter Cup “cake” from Lacy, Chris and Paul in the morning, and I knew – strongly suspected – that there was a carrot cake with my number on it waiting at home. There are resolutions to give up sweets and sugary desserts. Then there are people saying “We love you” with pie, cake and chocolate. I surrendered to the hypo/hyperglycemic rollercoaster and hung on for the ride. Thank you. All of you.