A Catholic Monthly Magazine

The Toe and The Tooth

By Anne Kerrigan

A Week in the Life of a Senior Citizen

My age doesn’t bother me.
It’s the side effects.
- Anon.

It was mid-January, 2020, when I started to feel a slight ache in my left middle toe. I ignored it, because as the golden years continue, it’s not advisable to pay too much attention to the small aches and pains. I save the concern for the big ones! I thought I might have stubbed my toe, but I didn’t quite understand how one stubs a middle toe. No matter. But, as the days became weeks, I had to pay attention to it because it really started to hurt. I could hardly walk barefoot. The pain would just shoot up my entire leg. I couldn’t believe that such a little toe could cause significant pain! When I had shoes on, the pain became tolerable. I made a ‘to do’ list, with calling the podiatrist at the top of it. I would have to hobble through the weekend and hope I would be able to get an appointment for Monday.

As well as my gradually increasing toe pain, I became aware of the fact that my front tooth was starting to feel less firm than normal. Actually, it was feeling a little shaky. It looked fine, but I couldn’t shake the feeling (pardon the pun) that this tooth would be a problem soon. This issue really bothers me because I have always been rather fanatical about caring for my teeth. Ever since the age of sixteen, I have been to the dentist at least every six months. Literally, every six months. I should be having no problem with my teeth. But I added the dentist to the ‘to do’ list. I became aware that these two doctors who had jumped to the top of my list were in addition to the regular and routine doctor visits already scheduled. Oyvey! It was promising to be a difficult week. I tried not to think about it and just move on, trying to relax and enjoy the weekend.

Then, the pièce de résistance. As I was brushing my teeth that Saturday evening, the front tooth just caved in. A large portion of the tooth just disappeared. As I looked in the mirror, I was horrified. There was a big gaping hole where one portion of the tooth used to be. I envisioned that this is what a survivor from the zombie apocalypse might look like. I could hardly breathe. I called for my thirteen year old grandson to take a look.

“That’s disgusting!” he said. Appropriate reaction. It was disgusting. I could hardly talk for the rest of the weekend, and I certainly could not laugh! Monday couldn’t come fast enough.
On Monday, the appointment gods smiled upon me! I was able to schedule the podiatrist visit in the morning and the dental meeting in the afternoon.

The podiatrist seemed to empathise with my toe pain plight, but as he took out the scalpel, I started to wonder if the toe would hurt more or less when he finished utilising his surgical prowess. A few minutes later, as I hesitatingly stood up and walked a few steps, I realised that the pain was gone. The podiatrist, with his magical scalpel, had wielded a miracle! The plantar wart had been excised and I felt ready for a four minute mile (in my dreams!). A little tenderness was the only remnant of my tortured toe.

When I finally arrived at the dentist’s office, I was walking nimbly, and filled with the hope that the tooth problem would be able to be solved as quickly and as efficiently as the toe problem. The dentist took one look at the tooth and said, “Oh”. He sounded calm when he made that observation, so hope remained within me. He then numbed my mouth and started drilling. The drills were various shapes and sizes, varying in sound, speed and intensity. I was very anxious. After what seemed like an eternity in the chair, he stated that he was all done. I was afraid to look at the finished product. Would I still look “disgusting?” He handed me a mirror. I was surprised, shocked and eternally grateful in one fell swoop! The front tooth looked as it had before the cave-in. The dentist had worked his magic and artistry. It seemed almost nonsensical that I would feel such gratitude for scalpels and drills, but I am so very grateful. It is now over fourteen days since that fateful week when the toe and the tooth became my nemeses, reminding me that many body parts frequently show their wear and tear. The tenderness in the toe has totally abated and is pain-free when I walk – just wonderful! I am still very careful about the front tooth and I treat it with lots of tender, loving care, including yogurt and soft food.

It also seems irrational that my experience of a tortured toe and a fractured tooth has, in the end, become a positive experience. I feel as if I have always tried to be a grateful person, grateful for the many gifts in my life, but I don’t recall being thankful for toes that don’t hurt and teeth that remain intact. This experience has reminded me to be appreciative of all the little blessings in my life, remembering that they are all gifts of a loving God.

Meister Eckhart, a 14th century theologian, once said, “If the only prayer you ever say in your life is 'thank you', that will be enough”.

Thank you, God, for your talented and gifted servants, those who dedicate their lives to helping others. I am very grateful.

Dear God, help me never to take the little things in life things for granted, such as toes and teeth. I pray that I am always ready to thank you for the many gifts in my life, and there are so many!

My cup runneth over
- Psalm 23

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