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Jim Bishop: Thoughts on waiting, anticipating and decelerating

Column by Jim Bishop
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I’m sitting here in the waiting room . . . waiting.

I’m not good at doing this, especially if I reflect too long and hard on reasons for my waiting in the first place.

My 32 teeth – give or take a few – those amazing biting, tearing and chewing utensils that served me well for so long, slowly decided they had paid their dues and started to bid adieu – by breaking and requiring crowns, by loosening up as a result of the aging process and gum disease.

I was long aware that my trusty food processors were in jeopardy but deferred repeated warnings from my dentist. The primary reason – lack of funds for the necessary surgical procedures (my health coverage offered little help). What a bite.

Finally, I visited my friendly neighborhood periodontist, who examined my pearly whites, shook his head and promised no miracles. Then, having survived the initial oral surgery, including having several molars yanked, I soon discovered that this was but the beginning of a long-term relationship with Drs. Saunders & Saunders. The real fun began with quarterly maintenance appointments, obligatory if I didn’t want to subsist on a diet of applesauce and oatmeal.

But things didn’t stop there. My front lower teeth began loosening their poli-grip, and if certain steps weren’t taken, I would eventually lose them despite regular oral care.

Finally, I decided to bite the bullet (probably not a good metaphor). Over the last three months, my “regular” dentist, Dr. Dunaway, extracted the four lower incisors, had an impression made (the procedure made a significant impression on my wallet, with virtually no insurance assistance) and on the third visit, fit the permanent bridge.

I gazed into a hand-held mirror and could hardly believe my bloodshot eyeballs. It was hard to tell where the bridge dropped anchor and my real teeth hoist sail. Only problem now, my upper set of picket-fenced teeth look especially out of place. Dr. Dunaway quickly assured me he could remedy that problem too. Thanks, Doc!

En route to my office after the dental appointment, I stopped at the local Social Security office . . . and waited some more. Some of that waiting was self-inflicted; I deliberately postponed responding to the notice that accompanied my last Social Security report advising me to apply for Medicare three months before turning 65. Deep down, I don’t want to acknowledge the reality that that benchmark is drawing nigh – and I don’t want to take it sitting down.

It didn’t help matters much that this same week our hot water heater was providing lukewarm service, our TV cable service went on the fritz and the stitching on the seams on the convertible top of my Miata was coming unraveled – a lot like me.

I can’t – and shouldn’t – complain about any of this. Dr. Dunaway says that with proper care my new choppers will outlast me. Medicare is not expected to expire anytime soon (even though the obstacle course of determining Part “B” lies ahead). Our reliable plumber Ray said we didn’t need a new hot water heater but rather an inexpensive replacement part. Larry, the polite Comcast Cable Guy, found the problem with our poor

reception even though it requires digging a trench to replace a defective stretch of cable. We now have the sharpest picture we’ve ever had on our TV (even though program content on the many channel options still needs fixing). And, a canvas “artist” of sorts worked his magic on the convertible top – coinciding with the arrival of some gorgeous weather.

I know that I’m having difficulty accepting these lifestyle and life stage changes that are occurring – looking back, my dad went through the same struggles – but then I realize that the journey will go easier if and when I come to grips with the fact that I can’t turn back the hands of time for even one minute. But this odd mix of oil and water, of certainty and the unknown, is equally emboldening and unnerving.

The bottom line: things, and people, slowly wear out. That’s the hard reality of life we all face, the rock-strewn pathway we trod. How we respond – with fear and loathing or with confidence and strength, praying for divine guidance, grace and boldness for the journey – makes all the difference.