Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Bike and The Breast Exam

Bets woke up yesterday morning and said she's had her training wheels for long enough would I please take them off her bike, which I did. Two hours of practicing later she was riding a two-wheeler. Next stop college. She did this with her pacifier too, crawled into bed one night and said she was done with it and that was that.

Waiting in a blue johnnie for my annual physical today I of course sat contemplating life and death. Johnnies do that. Put them on, open in either the back or front, and instantly you're sifting through your life insurance policies, your social security benefits, the pros and cons of cremation over burial.

I've been feeling lately that we are all just insects in a huge ant farm. Working in a hospital is a lot like being an ant in an ant hill, a bee in a beehive. There're lots of critters walking purposefully from one place to another. Going going going. That's what the hospital is like. We're all always going from one place to another with our cell phones and pagers. It wouldn't surprise me if one day a giant foot came down and squashed us all.


A nine year old medical student saw me first. The good thing about having a nine year old medical student evaluate you is that they spend an awful lot of time deliberating and probing and discussing. They are just so earnest. My physical lasted 45 minutes, what with my actual doctor having to come in and listen to the nine year old's report of my corporeal life. Had I rejected the medical student experience, I would have been in and out of there in 15 minutes.

The most baffling and annoying piece of my physical existence is my stomach. I was unexpected hostess of a stomach ulcer last year and once you get one you're prone prone prone. So these days I can ingest no caffeine, no alcohol, no citrus (couple this with my having both a partner and a woman I co-parent a child with and I'd say I'm a stone's throw from becoming a full-fledged mormon). The nine year old had quite a time with all this: a lesbian with a stomach ulcer and a child. She reviewed with me the results of the tests I've had done in the last year: two endoscopies, a colonoscopy, a CT scan, an abdominal ultrasound, a pelvic ultrasound - all negative. No h. pylori. No celiac disease. No real reason why I should suddenly host a stomach ulcer. But there you go. The nine year old furrowed her brow.



No more dairy.

No more soy.

I've tried them all. What worked was the milky stuff I had to drink before the CT scan. For some reason after two bottles of that my stomach was great for three months.

Go figure.

Anyway, thinking about death always gets me thinking about my mother. As if death were a state somewhere in the midwest, a vague place I've heard of all my life but only have flown over and never visited. And then my mom moved there and provided us with no forwarding address or telephone number. Death? Oh, I wonder how mom is.

There was a woman in the waiting room who was so thin my legs quivered to look at her. I heard her tell her husband she lost two more pounds, "I weigh 96 now."

Oy vey.

My mother was deathly thin in the end. Literally.

I'm a firm believer that anyone over 50 should carry an extra 10 pounds on them just in case they get sick. You need weight to lose.

So there are sick people and dying people and you have to go in and have your own body evaluated to see if it is sick and dying and meanwhile you have a 6-year old entirely dependent upon you and it's all almost too much to bear. Living in a body is sometimes like a bad joke. Our minds are housed in these temporary flesh sacks. Geez. It's incredible we accomplish anything given we're all going to die one day.

And so we go about our business, back and forth, back and forth, busy little bees.

My doctor gave me a prescription for a low dose antacid she thinks I might need to take for the rest of my life (i.e., until I move to that town in the midwest). The nine year old and I bid each other good-bye and good luck.

When I got home Lucy and Bets were practicing the 2-wheeler. Moments later, Bets was off and running. It was 70 degrees. We had the first barbecue of the season. I got to sleep in my own bed. I got another day. I hope the days are as sweet in that town my mom moved to, the place where we all are going.

Until then, I will sip my ginger tea. Tell myself it's wonderful to never have to worry about a hangover, or to have to choose between pink and yellow lemonade. My daughter will continue to be the most determined person I know. Next week we meet a cocker spaniel named Cricket.

Life goes ever on in such a sad sweet and tender way.


the little medic said...

I hope you made the most of your "9yr old" you won't ever get that much attention in hospital again ;)

Ms. Moon said...

You're such a good writer. I am always happy when you write a new post.
Thanks for this one.
My old anatomy teacher in nursing school used to tell us we were all "bags of salt water," basically. I prefer to think of myself as filled with nothing but white light. Going to the doctor interferes with this fantasy which is one of the many reasons I resist going.

Sara said...

ten pounds? how about 15?

funny, I don't want to think aobut my dead mother in a town somewhere. for me, I need her dead.

loved her. need her dead not accessible by connecting flights.

I had an ulcer as a 16 year old. It can get better. it's about keeping your head quiet.

because life without pink lemonade and a growling belly holding you hostage isn't much fun.

Are You My Mothers said...

oh at least 10 pounds
pink lemonade? it's the mojitos i really miss.

Anonymous said...

Is the accompanying picture a self portrait, by your daughter? excellent picture. A dog called cricket, is it named after the sport(cough) or the insect..

kingkong said...

I also enjoyed the picture. The human figure is simple, but that is a rather sophisticated drawing of a bike!

The "bag of salt water" image struck me as very funny. I kind of like it. I'm going to stock my bag with some lobster and nori seaweed, and drink a few mojitos to keep it from getting too saline.