I am always on the lookout for a nice topic for a column, to give the Man of a Certain Age (my competing columnist at the moment) a break and to keep my damn cat (A Cat of a Certain Age) from trying to steal my thunder. I found one recently.
Last week I had my “annual” physical at one of our nation’s great medical facilities. I put “annual” in quotes because I once went 4,015 days between “annual” physicals. 2006 – 2017. Unfortunately, I have never given this part of my life enough emphasis, and during the period of my late wife’s decline, I paid no heed to my health at all. That was my natural inclination anyway.
I believe in medical science, I believe in vaccines, etc., but I also tend to feel bulletproof and optimistic and that there’s someone out there watching over me. I am whatever is the opposite of a hypochondriac. All of that has worked pretty well so far, subject to some dissenting opinions, a few of which I heard last week.
The annual physical at this wonderful hospital is a requirement of my law firm for partners who get past a certain age. Before that age, it is an every-3-year event. It is also sometimes honored in the breach more than the observance, at least by me. It is also considered a “perk” by many of our lawyers. “Oh, isn’t it wonderful that we get to go to this place and not eat or drink anything for 12 hours and then we get poked and probed and prodded and interrogated by complete strangers while we sit around in our underwear!” I guess if this is a perk, the next thing the firm will do for us is an all-expense paid vacation in Kabul.
The first special moment of this “perk” this time involved taking blood out of my body for tests. I have been a blood donor for years and am not squeamish about the process, but at one point I was wondering whether there was going to be more blood in the vials than would be left in me. They stopped when I started to sag, I think.
The next step was my meeting with the nutritionist, an attractive woman shaped like a 3-wood, with a slightly larger head. Not surprisingly, she and I have fundamental differences about what is nutritious. She went through her litany of what I should be eating. She never mentioned cheeseburgers, much less chicken fried steak or country ham, so she obviously had zero credibility. I did hear the word pizza, but the toppings apparently were discussed in a foreign language. Anyway, we agreed to disagree and parted as friends. I think.
Next was my “life coach.” This is where medical science seems to take a break, and we get into the metaphysical. I was asked to grade on a scale from zero to ten my level of satisfaction with various aspects of my life, some of which I didn’t even realize I had. It ranged from work to spiritual. I am excellent at pulling numbers out of thin air, so I think this part went well. After a short while though, I realized my life coach was probably 20 years younger than me, so maybe I should have been coaching him on life rather than vice versa.
Next stop was the exercise physiologist. A nice young lady with lots of ideas. The highlight was when she was testing me for range of motion, and she told me to extend my leg in a certain direction as far as I could. I told her we were already there. I did not pass this part.
The experience declined from there with probing and more needles and other things I’d just as soon not discuss or revisit. It did remind me of my first trip to the clinic many years ago when I became “eligible” for my first colonoscopy. It was not quite the milestone that turning 21 had been. One of my contemporaries in the firm was with me, and he too got to enjoy this unique experience. When we were walking out of the testing area, he turned to the person who had administered the navigation and said, “Remind me to do something nice for you someday.” I asked if we tipped there or if it was added to the bill. This was close to 30 years ago, and when we left the clinic and compared reports, we decided we didn’t have much time left, so we came home by way of Pittsburgh and had a wonderful dinner at one of our favorite restaurants with lots of red wine. We then got good cigars and smoked them while standing on the banks of one of the three rivers and contemplating the meaning of life. Surprisingly, and fortunately, the clinic’s dire predictions have not yet been borne out.
After all of the stops along the way, my day ended with a meeting with the doctor assigned to me, who reads all of the reports, pulls everything together and then pronounces sentence. Reading his chart upside down, I am pretty sure I saw that he had scratched out “baseline” and written in “finish line.” I did not take that as a positive sign.
I like my personal doctor at the clinic very much. I was assigned to him in 2017 when I returned from my 11-year hiatus. He and I are about the same age and have many of the same interests. On my last visit, I had discovered that he loved baseball as much as I did, and we corresponded on the topic after that meeting. This time around, he noticed that I was wearing a Grateful Dead mask and he told me that he too was a Dead Head.
We had a nice discussion of the Dead and then a spirited debate over the change of the name of the Cleveland Indians to the Cleveland Guardians. Neither of us much liked Guardians, my doc favoring Spiders while I preferred Blue Sox. This led us to a final area of common interest.
As he read through my charts, apparently including my answers to the pre-visit questionnaire, he said, “Hey, I like beer too!” As he read on, apparently getting to consumption patterns, he said, “but not as much as you!”
In all seriousness, I am grateful for the efforts and attention of the entire group of prodders and interrogators. I just wish my doc and I had the same idea on the appropriate dosage of beer. I do note that four different folks at the clinic said I could drink two beers a day. By my calculation, 4 x 2 = 8 beers. I can live with that. Or not.
Evans “Buddy” King is a proud native of Christiansburg, CHS Class of 1971. He resides in Clarksburg, W.Va., where he has practiced law with the firm of Steptoe & Johnson, PLLC, since 1980. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.