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Friday, October 26, 2018

A trip to the doctor, mortality and an awakening, it was a busy day.

Last week my wife made me go to the doctor. My knee hurt, a lot, and she said I had to go. She was right, the pain was keeping me awake, and walking is difficult. But, going to the doctor makes my skin crawl, the place is filled with sick people, and doctors. Groups that should be avoided.

So, I called. And the woman who answered the phone said the doctor didn't have any appointments until late November, but I could see a Nurse Practitioner if I wanted. I didn't know what to do, so I panicked, and told her I would call back the next day.

In those cases, the times I don't know what to do, too many options, all of them bad, I call my wife and ask her.

"Call back and make an appointment with the Nurse Practitioner." She said, she was certain that was the right thing. And when she is that confident, even if she is wrong, there is no reasoning with her.

"I told them I would call back tomorrow. Maybe I should wait." A man of my word.

"They don't care, Tim. Just call." She was losing her ability to see reason.

So, I called back and tried to disguise my voice. However, my birthday and name proved too much to overcome.

"Oh, hi, Tim, I was helping you earlier. Help me out, which knee is it again?" She sounded happy, but there might have been an ember of anger and resentment somewhere in there.

"It was my right knee. I know I told you I would call tomorrow, and I'm sorry, but my wife made me call back today. I can call tomorrow if that's better." This might work, if I play my cards right.

"No, that's fine. We can schedule you right now." And, she did.

When I went to my appointment I checked in at the desk, everything was going as well as could be expected. Hardly any sick people and not a doctor in sight. I could start breathing again.

The woman at the desk looked at my name.

"Oh, hi Tim. How are you?" She smiled kindly, her voice was warm and friendly, she seemed sincere. And I panicked.

"I"m OK. How are you?" I said, looking behind me, finding the nearest exit sign, in case things went bad.

"How's your knee?"

"It's sore." Damn, things were taking a turn for the worse.

"I helped you schedule your appointment." She was smiling, cheerful. But, there might have been some latent hostility, I couldn't be sure.

"I'm so sorry! I know I told you I would call back the next day, but my wife made me call back the same day. I normally don't go back on my word so quickly..." five minutes of really going in for myself, laying it out there, I covered everything from my disappointing performance in the third grade Christmas Program, I was  Shepherd #5, and stage fright made me nauseous, until I thought I was going to pass out, to my difficulty staying in one job when I was older because of my resentment of authority. There was no way I could possibly be held responsible for this minor oversight.

Finally, she said. "It's ok. We don't mind." But, she seemed a little angry.

Then, I went back and had my appointment.

"It's arthritis. Osteoarthritis." She said, and I guess Osteo means aged. And she said the "x-ray shows some detritus in the joint that might need to be cleaned out."

In that moment I saw it all. The beginning of the end. I felt the icy fingers of the dark hand closing
around me. I almost cried. This was the first thing I have ever had that there was no coming back from. It wasn't going to get better, only worse.

I've done a lot of stupid things in my life. Stitches, sprains, breaks, times when I should have learned and didn't. But, they always got better. Not this time. Slowly, inexorably my body is going to start to fail. One joint, one organ, one twinge at a time, until someday it just gives up, surrenders to a light so much brighter than its own.

Then I thought, I'm not done yet. I will "not go gentle into that good night." So, I will limp if I have to, I will crawl if I need to, but I'm going to be around. It is going to get better, and better, even if it slows down a little. Hang on, it is about to get interesting.