That old saying, everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die, pretty much describes a universal human condition. None of us can stop the march of time as it tramples across our bodies, leaving distortions of our former youthful selves. I have a simple antidote for this eventually fatal condition: laugh!
Nothing funny, you say? Come on now, just begin at the top. For example, how many humorous false teeth stories do you know? I’ll start.
When I was a kid, my Aunt Jo had the unthinkable happen to her pearly dentures. She made the mistake of leaning over the sink when the garbage disposal was grinding away. For some unknown reason, her teeth leaped out of her mouth and down the dark hole before she could flip the switch. The thing I remember most about that crushing event was her attitude. She could hardly tell the story without going into gales of laughter over the absurdity of the whole thing.
Another relative, Aunt Sarah, has had so many hilarious fake teeth episodes we’ve begun to expect there will always be a new one on the horizon. Her stories usually revolve around the fact that her choppers don’t exactly fit and she often removes them to eat…no matter where she is.
The first time I was aware of this, she had joined us for a lovely lunch at a split level restaurant where we were seated at a cloth-covered table up the stairs. She discreetly wrapped them in a napkin and laid them beside her plate. When we got up to leave she accidently dropped them at the top of the steps and they bounced all the way down to the main floor--with her giggling and chasing the impish things as if they had sprouted legs and were escaping. These many years later, that story can still bring the house down.
Another time, in another restaurant, she was enjoying a birthday lunch with her sisters and dropped them again; this time right smack into a big potted plant. Her loyal siblings, hysterical with uncontrollable laughter, tried to shield her as she rooted around to rescue the slippery teeth. She did not return them to her mouth.
One of the funniest denture-adventures happened when I was a young nurse working in a home for the aged and infirm. In no way does this mock the sadness of the dementia that can waylay a senior citizen, but to be honest, if we didn’t laugh at some of life’s harsh realties that make us inclined to do foolish things, then we would simply cry all the time.
One of the patients must have gathered eggs or garden vegetables in her youth. She would pull up the skirt of her dress as if it were an apron and use it as a receptacle to haul things. Sometimes it would be socks or knickknacks from her room, but one morning as she shuffled past where I was pouring pre-breakfast medications, her load seemed strange looking.
I felt compelled to investigate. After the immediate impact of her possibly felonious activities had hit me, I gave in to the kind of bent double laughter that only comes from something being so bizarre it just can’t be true! She had gone from room to room and pilfered as many false teeth as she could from the other patients. I was stunned by all that unrelated, simulated enamel clacking around together in her make-do basket.
“Oh honey,” I exclaimed, not having a clue where to start fixing this mess, “What have you done?”
She gave me such a beatific, proud-of-herself look I just had to give her a hug. I don’t recall how we got that mess straightened out, but from then on I sat her down at a desk near me in the mornings with a paper and crayons project. At least it gave the other residents time to wake up and claim their dentures before the false tooth fairy could.
If growing old is a process too hard to accept and the end seems to be rushing at you at warp speed, please consider that even the worst things in life often have a counter balance, and it’s usually found in the humorous part.
For every sad and pitiful story provided by our journey into geriatrics, there are twice as many funny ones. Just begin at the top and work down. I guarantee you’ll be laughing before you reach your feet.
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