The Observer had to go in last week to get the last wisdom tooth out, the humdinger that we'd been putting off forever, hoping it would stay asleep; the one seen on X-rays parked on its side, mostly buried in the jawbone, like a tiny bus with its nose peeking out of a shed. Soon after The Observer turned 41, however, that mean mother started a slow, forward slide into the molar living happily beside it — a quiet and well-behaved neighbor, encroached on by the reckless and slovenly drunk next door — and we knew it was time.
The Observer is doctor-phobic to the point of being petrified at the sight of a white coat, a trait that hasn't served us well over the years. We tend to be a put-offer and a wait-laterer, hoping, somehow, that we'll experience a Miracle at Lourdes to cure our ailment without having to ever fill out a form or sit on white paper. Never works out that way, though. We're getting older now, too, so we worry. While modern medicine can do amazing things and has lengthened the span of American lives to an almost ridiculous degree, if you never take advantage of it, chances are your lifespan is going to be lengthened by only as much as whatever you can get over the counter at your local Walgreen's. Some of that stuff has been on the shelves since 1887, and an 1887 lifespan is nothing to write home about. And so The Observer finds himself at a crossroads, between fear and fear of death. It is no place to be.
But we digress. The dentist. The X-rays. The tiny bus, with stops in Opiatetown, Hurtsburg and the Liquid Diet Cafe. We went in, nervous as a cat. Because Junior has an inexplicable, incomprehensible love of llamas, Spouse had bought a tiny plastic one somewhere for his Christmas stocking. The Observer picked that up on the way out of the house, and shoved it in a pocket. Luck llama is lucky.
We don't remember a lot. Going in. Sitting down. The needle stick. The anesthesiologist saying, "I'm going to give you some medi —" and then then void. Next thing we remember is being at home, in a chair, with a mouthful of gauze.
It's strange having a gap in your memory, like a black hole. Try as we might, we remember nothing of four or five hours other than flashes: a nurse leaning into the car as we saddled up to leave the dentist's office, and the square rump of a black SUV sitting ahead of us at a stoplight. The amnesia is probably a good thing, too, because Spouse said The Observer sobbed like we'd lost our last friend — wept, purged tears like steam — all the way home, all the way up the stairs, all the way to the chair. Anesthesia is a funny thing, friends. Don't ever let anybody tell you different. We're clearly not meant to sleep like that, to be that under, down and down to sleep like the drowned. It's probably a medical miracle in itself that we can go there and come back, like Odysseus journeying to the gray wastes of the underworld, out of the reach of pain.
The recuperation has been rigorous, mostly due to how much they had to blast to get that sucker out. Not weeping like a baby bad, but bad. We spent days floating on a little cloud of Oxycodone, writing questionable Facebook comments, having text arguments with friends that we only vaguely remember now. A week later, we sit here at our desk, and the ol' jaw still feels like we got dinged with a cue in a pool room brawl, down quite a bit from "spike through the cheek," which is where we were last Thursday, when the jumbo-sized bottle of narcotic goofballs we'd been prescribed suddenly grew a bottom. We're hoping that by the time comes to carve the turkey later on this week, we'll be ready to have something more substantial than mashed taters and cranberry sauce.
The good thing, however, is that the bus has departed, and will not be coming back. It has motored on over the hill, with the last painfully earned reminder of our age and wisdom we will get until we get sent back to terra firma for the next life, which we're hoping holds off until human beings either evolve our wisdom teeth away, or gain enough wisdom as a group to simply zap those suckers to dust with lasers, soundwaves, gamma rays or some damn thing.
Ah, modern medicine! Is there nothing it can't fix, eventually?