Tag Archives: life

I’m Not Sick, But I’m Not Healthy Either

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Dr. Lopez after my visits.

Dr. Lopez after my visits.

I recently had my summer checkup with my GP, Dr. Lopez. Even though I think the world of Doc, I don’t hate many things on Earth quite as much as I do going to see him. It’s definitely a top ten pet peeve of mine — nowhere near as loathed as Weed-Eating the yard but quite a ways above a slight paper cut. It’s not that Doc is a bad guy, because he’s not; I simply despise repetitive activity for the most part and my physicals are always extremely repetitive.

First, regardless of when my appointment time happens to be, I’m going to sit in the exam room for at least an hour. I wouldn’t mind if I was confined to the main waiting room. It’s much larger and cooler and the reading material is of a better selection. No, I have to cool my heels in the tiny, windowless exam room with the paper covered table and box of tongue depressors. I’m claustrophobic and after about ten minutes alone in there, I start hyperventilating and the walls begin moving towards me. Then, just as I am about to go bat-poop crazier that I already am, Doc comes in and wonders how my blood pressure can always be elevated no matter what hypertension meds he has me take.skeleton

I could endure the waitings, though, if the consultation wasn’t so negative. Doc always starts with the lab results from the blood I had drawn the week before. (Just as an aside, if you want to see your doctor flip completely out, instead of going in for labs fasting, eat three Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnuts and chug a pair of Mountain Dews about thirty minutes before they draw blood — they’ll send an ambulance to get you as soon as the results come back.) Now all I care about from my lab results is my A1C level and my PSA level. The A1C tells if I’m diabetic or not and the PSA lets me know all is well with Mini-Me down below. He could give me those numbers and the visit would last five minutes — tops. Instead, he starts off with my CHOLESTEROL and TRIGLYCERIDES. I take meds to reduce both and he still isn’t satisfied. Unfortunately, no matter how much I try to convince him I don’t give a tinker’s cuss what my LDL and HDL levels are, I still get The Speech.

The Speech is a variation on “you need to exercise; you need to lose weight, you need to eat healthier.” Depending on the time of year or his particular mood, one of the three will get more emphasis than the other two. The latest iteration focused on diet. Every time he starts the “getting healthier” spiel, I ask him why I need to be so concerned with cholesterol. He always says it’s so I won’t have a massive heart attack and die. That’s when I ask him the same question every time: “What is the single biggest indicator of longevity in humans?” Usually he mumbles a bit then comes out with “Family history,” at which point I say, “Okay, forget cholesterol and tell me my A1C.”

Here’s my line of thinking and it infuriates him to no end — I’m not scared of a massive heart attack. If your heart explodes, you die. Simple. Pour water on the fire and call in the dogs boys because this night’s hunt is OVER. On the other hand, I am terrified of Type II Diabetes or, as we say in the South, “The Sugar.” Diabetes doesn’t kill you — at least not outright. No, first they cut off your toes; then your feet, followed by your legs to the knee, then to the thigh. Before long, you end up looking like an extra from the 1932 Tod Browing film Freaks. Plus, the entire time leading up to your butchery, you have to stab yourself with needles two or three times a day. Needles are the main reason a Skittlesques pack of pills was my drug of choice rather than heroin or morphine when I was a young and reckless lad.

Getting back to family history, though, Granny Matt (my great-grandmother on Daddy’s side) had six sons: Uncle William, Uncle Bob, Uncle George, Papa Wham, Uncle David, and Uncle Jack. Of the six, FIVE died of massive heart attacks sometime between 72 and 76 years old. Daddy has already had one and a half heart attacks and he’s 63. On the other side of my family tree, however, diabetes and cancer, sometimes both, run roughshod through Mama’s side of my family. I’m trying to get Dr. Lopez to see I’m not fatalistic or reckless with my health, I’m just playing the averages and trying to help skew them in my favor.

Eat RightI could cut out everything I love to eat — red meat, ice cream, starches, sweets, cheese, etc — and I could exercise religiously like I see so many people doing around here, but WHY would I want to? Perfect health is simply the slowest possible rate at which you can die. In most ways, we’re dead already. Luke the Drifter said it best when he sang, “I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive.

I go see my precious Granny every Tuesday. She can’t talk to me anymore. She can just barely feed herself and not even that some days. She can’t walk; she’s in diapers. I love her more than words can describe, but I don’t want to end up that way. Many of the inmates in the nursing home where Granny lives are the last members of their family. No one comes to see them. They are just taking their time dying in a warehouse of obsolete humanity, and there’s not a thing wrong with that, I just don’t want it to be me. Anyway, I was raised all my life to believe this live is just a dress rehearsal for what comes next. That’s where Mama is. That’s where I want to be. Right now, the only thing keeping me here is my Budge. I won’t leave her alone if I can help it.

So, see why I drive Dr. Lopez to distraction? Love y’all; keep those feet clean.

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Clarification of Terms

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Um, yes, you DID leave me.

Sometimes I hear people using terms and phrases and, as Inigo Montoya puts it so aptly in The Princess Bride, “you keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Today’s post is an effort to clarify one such phrase. The phrase that needs clarification is “I left your mother (or your father), but I didn’t leave you.” Now, I’ve heard this little chestnut all my life and it’s always used for one parent to justify the crushed soul of his or her child following a divorce. Please allow me to clarify this term.

“I didn’t leave you” is a baldfaced lie. It’s quite simple and children understand even when adults do not. As a child, if I am sleeping in MY bed and Mommy (or Daddy) is sleeping in her bed and you are sleeping in some other person’s bed then, by definition, you have left me. If two people are in the same location and you walk, drive, fly, or camelback ride away from that location, you leave them both. You cannot leave one without the other.

Now, I realize that you might be feeling guilty and have some inner need to assuage the guilt you have accumulated by ignoring your marriage vows or, in the case of the new unmarried “modern arrangements”, ignoring your parental responsibility, but please don’t confuse a five year old by saying, “I’m not leaving you, I’m leaving X.”

Children aren’t stupid. If you aren’t here and they are, YOU LEFT THEM, and they are very unlikely to ever forget it and it is going to color their experiences throughout life, especially their relationships with the opposite sex, FOREVER. Now, if you can live with that, fine. If not, find some other way to explain away your extramarital dalliance to your children.

Sorry to be so harsh, beloved. Must be the pollen. Yes, that’s it . . . pollen.

So wash those green toes and remember who loves y’all.

Of Tragedy and Old Friends

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I stopped by Kentucky Grilled Chicken (?!?!?) today for a three honey BBQ snacker snack at lunchtime. I was done with the tater wedges and halfway through my second snacker when an old friend showed up in the KFC (KGC . . . KGB . . . ???). Now when I say “old friend”, this chicka is quite possibly my second oldest friend in the world. She and I literally have known each other from right near the cradle. We went through twelve years of grade school and K5 together. I distinctly remember talking her out of playing with the toy kitchen set in Miss Coggins’ room so she would come play in the sandbox with me. Birthday parties, McDonald’s parties, swimming dates. We go way back.

For the purpose of this story, her name will be Nadia. First, I don’t want her real name plastered all over the Internet because she’s a private person and second, I didn’t go to school with anyone named Nadia at any time that I can remember, so people won’t be running to the old yearbooks (as if they cared) to see who I’m talking about.

Nadia was one of my first kindergarten crushes. I thought she was beautiful with china blue eyes and long snowy blond hair, but even more, she was cute and funny. She was a lot like me. Her parents were the first couple in my dinky little home town to get divorced after mine broke the ice. It wasn’t much of a loss for the family since her dad was, as Papa used to put it, “not worth the powder it would take to blow his brains out.” Still, not much ever seemed to get her down. She was the middle child of three, then the second oldest of four when her mother got a bit of a surprise when Nadia and I were beginning sixth grade. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the only surprise Nadia’s family would get that year.

Nadia was the most graceful gymnast I knew in my short life. She was athletic all around — great runner, champion swimmer, etc. — but her true gift lay on the floor exercise platform. I still recall our sixth grade talent show when she did her floor routine and absolutely floored everyone else. Her dream was the Olympics. She had her sights set on Los Angeles and 1984 and none of us, young or old, doubted her ability or commitment. We joked in math class about how much tickets to LA would cost. Our closest airport wasn’t even equipped for that kind of trip then. Nadia had big dreams and we all dreamed with her. Somewhere boxed up I’ve got a wallet sized picture of her in her leotard with her rhythm hoop. She’s smiling that spotlight smile and looks for all the world like she was posing on the podium getting the gold medal.

If iPods had been around in 1982, I don’t doubt for a minute she’d have made LA. Nadia, her mother, her mother’s best friend, and Nadia’s three sisters, including the baby, were on their way home in a car driven by Nadia’s oldest sister, who had just gotten her permit. The cassette they were listening to reached the end and automatically ejected. It came out of the player and fell to the floor beneath the sister’s feet. When her sister glanced down to mark where it fell, the car was in the beginning of a curve and drifted into the path of a fully loaded gravel truck  from the local quarry.

The Highway Patrol statement said there were no skid marks visible from either vehicle. Neither driver had touched a brake pedal. The truck was stopped by climbing atop the car and sliding several hundred feet until both vehicles went into the ditch. The truck driver was physically unscathed and everyone, including Nadia, have always maintained there was nothing humanly possible he could have done to avoid the collision. In any event, I heard the accident drove him to the bottle. Whether that is true or not, I can’t say. You’ll hear anything in a small town.

What is a fact is Nadia’s Olympic dream ended in a tangle of sheet metal and diesel fuel. Her spine was severed right below her belly button. She would never walk again. Her mother, the friend, oldest sister, and the baby, who wasn’t in a car seat because she didn’t have to be in those days, all died at the scene. Nadia’s next sister, seated at impact between the friend and Nadia, walked away with a cut over her left eye that required five stitches.

I don’t know many well adjusted grown men and women who could have withstood a tragedy of that magnitude with all mental flags flying, but Nadia seemed to. I don’t pretend to know what nightmares have ridden roughshod through her dreams these last thirty years, but I know she took to her wheelchair like the proverbial duck to water. After some therapy, she was riding rings around her grandmother and grandfather’s home. She even came back to school and finished the year.

In those pre-Americans with Disabilities Act days, our beloved principal and several of the more “handy” fathers came to the school several days over the winter break and built ramps to every place they could imagine Nadia wanting to go. She was given a key to the faculty bathroom because it was the only restroom in the school large enough to accommodate her and her wheelchair. One of her trusted friends would always accompany her in case she fell making the transition from chair to commode and back. That’s how we did it back then. We took care of each other.

Nadia was the first handicapped person I knew up close and personal. She could have been the poster child for how to deal with the biggest poop sandwich I’ve ever seen handed to one person in one lifetime. She was, and still is, a survivor. She and I graduated the same night and I lost track of her for some time. Then I started running into her at local stores and such. She was still pretty as ever. In time’s due course, she married a very kind and decent man. He was with her today. They have four children and the oldest was graduating tonight, just as his mother and I did these twenty years gone.

So I told y’all Nadia’s story to tell you, and myself, this little tidbit — it could ALWAYS be worse. What’s more, when it GETS worse, it’s up to you how to handle it. If anyone in this world has ever had a right to end up hooked on drugs or completely depressed or suicidal, Nadia was that person. That wasn’t how she rolled, pun intended, though. One dream and most of her family had died, but the woman I saw today still had a head held high and her china blue eyes still sparkled. The snow blond hair had some grey streaks, but mine does as well and my life has been a cakewalk compared to Nadia’s. So don’t take anything for granted folks. Life moves at the speed of love and it moves by very fast. Nadia is moving right along with it. She’s been an inspiration to me for going on thirty years now. I hope her story inspires some of y’all as well.

So, love y’all bunches and now that summer’s here, when y’all come in from chasing fireflies, don’t forget to wash your feet! 🙂