Dave’s childhood dentist was a butcher and a quack, and as a consequence Dave’s teeth are mostly not original material. But only a few in the front are actually removable. We were headed out for a constitutional this morning when he remembered he should put them in. “Good idea,” I agreed, and the next time I turned around, he had his teeth in, but wasn’t wearing any pants. “I only have one rule, going forward,” I told him. “We go out, you have your teeth in and your pants on.”

Just as soon as words like that leave your mouth, you realize you have stepped over some kind of a line. You have entered new territory in your life. Things are going to be different from now on, and you might have to do some fancy stepping. It won’t be for the faint of heart.

For Dave, the moment he became old happened a long time ago. He was pushing forty, or maybe had just started pulling it, and we had gotten our truck stuck in the snow in the driveway to our cabin. He fetched the square shovel and started trying to dig himself out enough that the back end wasn’t hanging out into the road. He was a strong, tall man, and although there was a lot of snow to move, he seemed to me to be making fine progress. Just then a short convoy of Cherokees and Broncos and the like came up, unable to get by our pickup, and several young men hopped out to see what was happening. Dave leaned on the shovel for a moment while apologizing for blocking the road. “Here–let us get that for you, sir,” the young men said, taking the shovel. It was the “sir” that blindsided Dave. Why, he was in his prime–or if not in his prime, at least prime-ish, or maybe more primate. That was it: for sure there was nothing about him that had ever gotten him called “sir” before. Dave stood by, spluttering a little, but neither of us could help but notice that the young men had the truck completely dug out in no time. They waved merrily, let fly with another “sir”, and took off in their shiny red four-by-fours. Dave retreated to the cabin in a sullen silence and opened the first of a series of beers.

So we just had another episode requiring a lot of shoveling at the cabin, and Dave came through like a champ, methodically removing about a thousand cubic feet of snow. He hasn’t lost any height, and he’s still plenty strong for a 58-year-old man, but he does have a frozen shoulder and a few other complaints. “You can never find a whippersnapper when you need one,” he observed, leaning on his shovel and recalling an earlier time. By cracky, he’s right.