When I had my annual physical last fall, my doctor of 20 years looked me in the eyes. Do you want to die? He didn’t say it out loud. We were using telepathy.

“Your sugar is high. Your blood pressure is high. You need to lose some weight.”

I’d been put on notice. And I took that to heart.


I started walking more.

Losing a little weight.

Eating less sugar.

Losing a little more weight.

Blood pressure going down.

All good, right?

And then you slip.

You screw up when you don’t mean to.

We have a ceramic cookie jar in our kitchen which is the repository for all things candy. It houses fun sizes of everything from Snickers to M&Ms. Everyone in the house knows when you’re accessing the jar because the lid – no matter how careful you are – makes a clink/clank sound when you’re taking it off or putting it back.

Still I tried.

And I was doing so good.

I got the lid off and it did its clink/clank thing, but I didn’t think it was particularly loud.

I was halfway through tearing open a fun-size bag of M&Ms when Judy came around the corner into the kitchen.


“What are you doing?” she asked rhetorically with one raised eyebrow.

“Nothing,” I replied as I continued to slowly open and consume the M&Ms. One at a time. In front of her. There’s 23 in a bag. I never lost direct eye contact.

You cannot stop me from being bad. I will do it right in front of your face. Judy will tell you that’s just one of her conundrums with me.

I should never puff up too much about my badness. Karma has a way of getting me back.

Not too long ago, I was in a state of discomfort. Sitting in a dentist’s chair. No longer able to eat fun-size anything. Waiting. Waiting for the verdict from my trusted dentist of 20 years.

I was left alone for roughly 10 minutes. Out of the recessed ceiling speakers, the muzak poured forth Queen. I half-laughed to myself that Queen was now considered elevator music. Then when I heard the opening guitar licks and thumping that introduces Freddy Mercury vocalizing on Fat Bottomed Girls, I did a full laugh even though it hurt me to do that.

“They are not really playing Fat bottomed girls, you make the rockin’ world go ’round! as background music,” I mused to myself.

Yeah. They are.

My dentist swept into the room with his assistant and standing behind my downward-inclined body, they studied my back right lower molar on a wall-mounted monitor – the problem tooth depicted bigger than my head via an invasive close-up camera training on my open mouth.

My doctor, who is considered the Cadillac of dentists in Charlottesville, walked around in front of me and put his hands on his hips. Never a good sign.

He pointed to the monitor behind me that I couldn’t see. “Doug, I do root canals all day long. You know that. I’ve done one on you before. But this? I’m not touching this. I’m referring you to a specialist.”

Music to my ears. Something else my health insurance won’t fully cover.

My right jaw was swollen. Painfully and noticeably so. Infected. My doc set me up with a specialist for a couple of weeks down the road, then phoned in a Z-pack antibiotic prescription.

I was advised I wouldn’t begin to feel better for another couple of days.

Teeth can be troublesome.

Off and on over the previous year, I’d had problems with that molar. The gum tissue would swell up around it, then subside and be okay for a while. I went to see my dentist and he looked around and surmised “The teeth, at least from the outside, look structurally sound. That’s not to say there isn’t some underlying problem festering.”

That blew up on me months later. The molar sits right on top of my lower right jaw nerve bundle. Over the course of a weekend, I went from fine to being unable to put my teeth together without getting tased by my own nerve endings. The surrounding tissue was inflamed.

I couldn’t eat.

By Monday afternoon, I was in a mild manifestation of agony.

By Tuesday morning, I was in the chair listening to Fat Bottomed Girls.

Long story made longer, because it was extremely painful to eat, I didn’t. Except for some tomato or split-pea soup here and there. I lost 11 pounds in 7 days.

At one point, Judy looked over at the candyman. “Well, Doug, you’ve finally found a diet that works for you. Not eating.”

It took days before the antibiotic offered some modicum of relief. I chewed. Soft things. Gingerly. Only on my left side. Swallowing some things whole. An old man reduced to eating child-sized portions of apple sauce.

After 4 days, I had to eat something substantial. Even if I could only masticate daintily on one side of my jaw.

We drove to a local restaurant and I ordered the breaded Country-fried chicken-steak. With mashed potatoes. And thick white gravy. I did order a side of fresh steamed broccoli florets, and I did eat them, but the stars of the show were the carbs. Judy was mildly amused/embarrassed that I left nothing on my plate. Yes, it took me a while, but I ate every morsel.

And I liked it.

Leading up to the day of my appointment with the specialist, as the antibiotic returned my bite to a compromised normalcy, I experienced several incidents of gorging. Almost animal behavior. I regained 2 of the 11 lost pounds.

The specialist had 3-D jaw scans done. By the time I was in her chair, they had my tooth once again projected bigger than my head on a monitor, but this time, the screen was mounted in front of me where I could see.

Man. Tooth roots are gnarly. Especially this one. You don’t wanna know.

“Okay,” she said matter-of-fact as she scooted back slightly and parked on her stool. “I can see why you’re in great discomfort. We’ve got a couple of things going on here. You’ve got infected gum tissue around the tooth. I can clean that out. If the tooth is cracked, then I’ll refer you to an extraction specialist. But I won’t know that until I drill down into the tooth. If I don’t see any cracks from inside, I’ll proceed with the root canal, but if there’s a crack introducing foreign elements, there’s no point in saving it.”

Fine. Let’s go.

Old jokes used to revolve around the discomfort of having a root canal.

My discomfort did not center on the root canal itself. No. As dental adventures go, that part was fine. It was the administering of the anesthetic that played hell with me.

I pre-warned her that I am a ginger and I implored her to not waste her time like she would on a normal person when it came to numbing me up. Go for it. Numb me. And numb me more.

She nodded like she knew all about gingers. No problem. Needles ‘r’ us.

It was the fifth and final shot that got my attention. The fourth one had been dicey. She’d had to put that down into the lower jaw root bundle. Tender area. But the fifth one was going straight into the infected gum tissue around the tooth.

“I’m going to touch several places here. Let me know if it gets uncomfortable.”

That’s code. Not good code either.

I came out of the chair. I have never ever had a visceral reaction like that. I didn’t just scare them, I scared myself. Thank goodness she was instantly adept at getting the syringe out of the danger zone as I bolted upright, coming close to smacking my forehead against the observation equipment floating over me.

WTF. Man, that stung.

But she’d hit her mark. I numbed up. The root canal went as well as one might hope for.

I was inclined for over an hour. Trying to focus on the muzak playing overhead. And then I heard it. Queen. Another One Bites the Dust.

If I didn’t have a rubber dam blocking my cakehole, I would have laughed. What the hell. Do these dentists all subscribe to the same Queen muzak mix tapes? And then – and THEN – the doctor and her assistant hover and form a canopy a foot over me, softly singing the song together while they work.

No, they’re not.

Yes. They are.

There are days I find it effortless to keep my sense of humor.

When the procedure was done, I was advised more than once to not chew on that side and if chewing at all, I should pursue soft foods only. At least for the first 4 days.

Well, what can I say? More weight fell off. I got to a weight I haven’t been down to in more than a few years. Not to say I couldn’t stand to lose more. But at least I’ve been kick-started.

Right about the time I was finally able to chew normally, I got into a conversation with a younger guy in his 30s I see at work on more or less a daily basis. He was a Marine captain in a former life – got blown up in an IED incident. Soft spoken. Quietly humorous. Thoughtful. But I’ve got 30+ years on him. He lets me tease him when I discover he doesn’t know who Perry Mason is. Or Roy Rogers or Dale Evans. He’s not alone in his ignorance. We all have our periods and what we know. But at least with this guy, he’ll go off and do the research and come back and talk to me about it.

“Do you know how many Perry Masons there were?” he asked after looking it up, knowing he was stumping the band.

These are the moments that string humanity together. “Why, no, I don’t,” I replied. “Please educate me.”

And he would.

And we’d laugh about Perry Mason.

We created a touchstone in the process.

For me, life has been chock full of touchstone processes.

Everything works if you let it.

Well, this guy who is now Perry Mason literate, was talking about raising goats on his property. I laughed and said if he let me come over to visit, he could have an old goat loitering around.

He arched an eyebrow. “Old goat? What’s that?”

That stopped me in my old goat tracks. “Really? You’ve never heard that?”

“No. What does it mean?”

“It’s an expression they use to describe old people.”

“Oh. Well, define old. Because you don’t seem old to me.”

They say Google is your friend. Most of the time it is. You can look up anything in seconds. So we looked up old.

Old equals elderly. That’s the word they use. Elderly. And what does elderly equate to?

65 or older.

I turn 68 in July.


Not only am I old, I’m a little practiced at it.

And yet I don’t feel old. Tired some days, yes, but not elderly. My mind still pings like a pinball machine, although from time to time, I must admit my occasionally errant game could use some internal GPS maintenance.

I still mow the lawn. Weed-whack. Take the trash out without being asked.

James Taylor once said the secret of life is enjoying the passage of time. Jack Nicholson once said the secret to getting older is not caring how you look.

I think I’m good on both counts.

I live a life I used to dream of. Judy and I are still madly in love with little Sally who has been with us for 8 months now. That seemed to go in the blink of an eye.

There was a day a few months back where we both looked down at our little rescue and blurted out at the same time, “What’s happened to her hair?”

She’d fluffed out with new hair on her sides and underbelly. Like overnight. It only enhances her exotic beauty. Makes her even softer.

Sally enjoys her daily walks through the neighborhood, continuing to go batshit at the random parked car or person out working in their yard. She is fond of her routines and so are we. Neighbors wave and comment on what a cute dog we have and laugh at her unhinged outbursts.

My 50th high school reunion up in Maine was barely a week ago. I didn’t make the trip. Not that I didn’t want to, but a number of elements came into play that prevented me from going. As a consolation prize from the official yearbook class clown, my classmates got to see what I shot beginning 30 years ago. No one had seen the movies including me. And it is the only film ever taken at any of those events. I was dumbstruck as I watched, especially when someone who is no longer with us popped up. Bittersweet indeed.

Last weekend, we were enjoying some peace and quiet. Our youngest granddaughter spent the night on Friday. We had a great day, and she was energetic as hell, passed out and dead to the world after asking to go to bed shortly after 7 PM. She was giggly exhausted.

As I wrap up, I’m thinking back to the beginning of this where I got caught with my hands in the cookie jar.

Just to let you know, after that incident, I attempted to exact revenge.

I waited.

For days.

I was out in the kitchen finishing up dishes and Judy was in the back room with Sally curled up in her lap.

Time to toss some chum into the water. I had no intention of eating candy, but I needed to exact my pound of revenge flesh.

I not-so-quietly took the ceramic cookie jar down from the top of the fridge. I clinked/clanked the lid and waited for Judy to call me out from the other room.



I gave it a few more seconds for her to come around the corner of the kitchen and “discover” me being bad.


What the hell, man?

I clinked/clanked the lid louder.


I did it yet again.


After wiping off the counters, I turned off the kitchen lights and retired to our back room where we spend most of our time.

As I sat down in my chair, Judy asked, “So. Doug. How much candy did you eat?”

I manifested a sly grin. I’m the cat that ate the canary. Vengeance is finally mine.

And then Judy said, “Or, was that just you trying to bait me?”

Then she laughed in the face of my vengeance.

You see, that’s when you know you’ve been married too long.

Or maybe just long enough.

Judy knows the old goat has scruples.

Most days.