Dental care? How about our ears?

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Isn’t it odd how everyone seems to need hearing aids these days? I think the government should forget dental care. Either you’ve got dough and have a mouth full of good fillings or implants, or you don’t and have learned how to gum stuff.

Mind you, every kid should be given proper dental care and trained from an early age how to care for their teeth. They should regularly trot busloads of young school kids through old folks’ homes; the geezers lined up in chairs with their mouths open. Don’t have to say a word. Give them a few bucks to hold still. Tax free – what do you think? Makes perfect sense to me. All those old folks, broke and needing the work. Something to do too; I’m sure they’d love it. Suddenly they’ve got a reason to get up earlier each day. Just have to sit there with their mouths open, something a lot of them are skilled at. Besides, they’re just sitting around anyway. I’d better watch my tongue. My mother used to say, “Mocking is catching.” How right she was!

Yes, I should be careful here. I just need to remember my old buddy, Ernie Howard. He lived eight months shy of a hundred. He was very able physically. That wasn’t his problem. Within one month of going to “the home”, he was using a walker. He told me, “I want one of those pushcarts!” I said: “Be damned you do, pick up your feet and keep walking, Ernie.” My words were to no avail. Five years later he wouldn’t get up for breakfast.

One day, mid-morning, I came in behind him. He was in the middle of the hallway. He sensed my being there and said, “I’m finished.” I answered, “You’re right, you’re screwed.” Ernie and I were dear friends. We would go for drives, and I would stop so we could look at every cow, horse or donkey. Never saw any sheep. We did this until he didn’t want to go on drives anymore. It was all very sad;

I would trick him and say we were going to the doctor. Ernie was my neighbour. I loved him like my old grandpa. On Saturday nights I would sit with him sometimes to watch reruns of the Lawrence Welk show. All those smiling codgers gliding around the room or their blood stirred up dancing hotly to polkas!

In July, with the temperature close to a hundred on his windless porch, we would sit together, he in his long-johns and me sipping on rye and prune juice. I named that drink in honour of him, The Shoemaker. I still have his four-inch dagger and blackjack. He used to make blackjacks for the cops in Kingston. The dagger came from Poland before he left in 1929. He showed me how they would strap the sheath inside their sleeve for quick access before going to dances. Not to protect them from the women, of course, who were tough in their own way, as only Poles can be, but because the German Poles were not well liked. There were a lot of fights and you had to be prepared. I look at the four-sided blade sometimes and think of him. I said to him one time, “What happens when you die?” He said, “Lights out. That’s all there is to it.” I think he’s right. But I’m sure I’m wrong.