It was a good tooth. It held its important position as First Molar, Lower Left, for more than half a century. Sure, when it was 10 it came under attack and was wounded, but the tooth was strong and it recovered. It bore the scar of its battle, a fine, silver amalgam filling, proudly.
For many years it worked hard every day, doing its part. It never complained. It stood up under the onslaught of Pez and jawbreakers and sour apple bubblegum. It masticated countless hamburgers and French fries, Cokes and chocolate milkshakes. It cracked ice and crunched up potato chips and Cheetos and worked over pepperoni pizza and burritos. Later there were steaks and Chicken Kiev and steamed vegetables and brown rice and tofu, but the good tooth never once complained.
But in its 55th year, it developed a deep crack in its foundation. For quite a long time it said nothing. It just soldiered on, maintaining a stiff upper lip. The crack worsened, however, and finally one day the tooth broke. It died and abscessed. Its long life was over.
Yesterday, with the whole left side of my face swollen up balloon-like and startling, I went to an emergency dentist. He wasted no time pulling that good old tooth right out of my head. It was done in minutes and with a minimum of pain and trauma. Shuddering, I left my old tooth, sawed into pieces, in a sterile silver kidney pan in the clinic. There will be no funeral.
But its memory remains. The gap the old tooth left in my jaw is deep. It feels far larger than the tooth itself. I miss the little fellow. It was a dear and trustworthy friend. Once the tissues heal, I’ll be fine, but chewing will always be a little bit harder. A good memorial.
Farewell, my old friend. And thank you.