The nurse led me into the examining room, took my blood pressure and stood to leave.
“The doctor will be in to see you in a little bit,” she said and left, closing the door behind her.
A little bit is a relative term. To a mountain a little bit can be a century To an adult Mayfly that only lives five minutes, it can be seconds. The doctor’s little bit was closer to the mountain’s than the Mayfly’s. I was just getting ready to text my wife and tell her I might be late for Thanksgiving dinner—it was early October—when the doctor walked into the room.
“I hope I’m not bothering you?” he asked in a voice dripping with sarcasm as he glared at my phone.
“Not at all,” I said. “I was just checking the obituaries to make sure you hadn’t died.”
(Okay, a quick note: NEVER be a smart aleck to someone who is about to do a prostate exam on you. I know it sounds like whining for me to say he was overly aggressive just for spite, but I swear that two days later I pooped out his wristwatch.)
“I got some good news,” the doctor said as he washed his hands and arms up to his shoulders with soap, water, steel wool, bleach and some glowing green cream that gave off a radioactive hum. “Your prostate feels perfectly normal.”
“That’s great,” I said. “I have a bit of a sore throat. How did my tonsils feel?”
(Okay, another note: NEVER EVER be a smart aleck with a guy who is going to have his hands down by your genitals doing a hernia exam. “Turn your head and cough,” becomes “Turn your head and scream.”)
When I had my clothes back on, if not my dignity, the doctor sat me down for his consultation.
“You’re actually in pretty good shape for a man in his nineties,” he said.
I laughed. “I’m nowhere close to that age, Doc.”
He looked at my file again. “As I was saying, you’re in really bad shape for a man your age.”
“So what do I do?
“Make sure your life insurance and my bill is paid,” he said. “You might consider a prepaid funeral contract if you can get a short term plan that you can pay off quickly.”
“No, I mean something to improve my health.”
He started to laugh but cut it short. “Oh, you’re serious,” he said. “I like optimism, but you have to be able to distinguish reality from fantasy.”
“Come on Doc, there has to be something I can do?”
“Well for starters, I usually recommend my patients get a minimum of one hour of exercise a day,” he said.
“Not a problem,” I said. “You’ve got what? Maybe a couple hundred patients? Divide an hour by two hundred, and that’s what …? Maybe eighteen seconds a piece. Count me in.”
“I mean an hour for each patient.”
I looked at him for a moment shocked, then I laughed. “Ha. Ha. Good one, Doc. You almost had me there.”
“I’m serious,” he said. “You should have one hour of vigorous exercise that gets your heart rate up and the blood pumping.”
“I’m sweating and you got my heart racing pretty good right now just talking about exercise,” I said. “Is there anything else?”
“You need to change your diet.”
“In what way?”
“No more alcohol, tobacco, salt, caffeine, carbohydrates, fats, trans fats, cholesterol, sugars or free radicals.”
“Can I have the radicals if I pay for them?”
“Not even then.”
“How am I supposed to know what’s what? I’m not a trained dietician.”
“Well,” the doctor said. “You can buy books and charts that list all foods and what they have in them. Before you eat something, you can look it up to see if you can have it. Or you can follow one simple rule.”
“If it tastes good, don’t eat it.”
“So I can just eat kale, spinach and celery?”
“Go light on the celery.”
“And if I follow all this stuff I’ll live a long healthy life?”
The doctor shrugged. “It’ll add maybe six months to your lifespan.”
“Then why would I possibly do it?”
“Because with that bland and boring of a diet, it will feel like you’ve lived forever. In fact, at times you’ll wish you were dead.”
“Kind of like it was when I was sitting here waiting for you?”
The doctor snapped on rubber gloves and took a syringe with a needle the size of a railroad spike out of a drawer. “I think we need to draw a sample of your spinal fluid.”
(Okay, a quick note: NEVER …
Four months to go to the release of The Almond People.