Being a man of a certain age, experiencing notable chest pain and exhaustion, I made an appointment with a cardiologist. “Just in case,” I said to my Primary Care Physician.”
“At your age…” he agreed, a bit too quickly for my sensitive hide.
Two weeks later, I found myself shirtless (not a good choice after fifty), wired-up, heaving and hoeing on a treadmill set at the impossible level; the Alps.
Before I knew it, the short, frizzy haired technician slammed me onto the vinyl upholstered table as the beige haired ‘echo’ technician shoved a baby monitor into my chest. She pressed hard, rolling it to and fro. Occasionally winking at the other technician, she smiled; pleased she’d located the kink in my pump room plumbing.
A week later, under the hospital’s harsh fluorescent lights with my privates exposed for all to see, I lay facing heaven as two angel faced nurses shaved, prodded, pricked, and prepped me for surgery.
“Don’t get your hopes up,” the surgeon informed me, his steel blue eyes dancing like a wolf’s when he’s cornered his prey. “Ninety percent chance you’ll need stents or balloons to unblock those arteries.” The three of them stood over me, bearing their dazzling white teeth with pride, confident in their scientific findings and abilities to right my wrongs. White sheeted up to my chin, I felt the shame and quilt churning in my gut.
“Hereditary!” my sister’s words slapped me back to reality.
The operating room was sub-zero as they rolled me onto the icy slab to prepare me for a long winter’s nap. “An extra potent cocktail,” I begged the anesthesiologist as he jabbed a tube into my pick line.
I find it terribly disconcerting when a person’s lips are covered when they’re talking to me. A masked avenger, with feathery eye lashes, hovered above, babbling on about the tube they were about to thread into the main artery to my ticker. However, I couldn’t hear a single word because I had upped the volume of the “La-la-la-ing!” I was belting out in my head.
Immediately, I turned to the ever reliable sheep I once counted as a boy to drift peacefully into ‘Sleepy Town.’ To my horror and dismay, the sheep had grown old, mangy, and weary. On shaky legs, they strained to push each other over the fence. Embarrassed for them, I pretended not to notice and immediately retired them to a grassy meadow were they could spend their last golden years with dignity.
What was left? Blessings? Count blessings? “How Anne of Green Gables,” I scolded myself before I caved.
I counted the countless loves and great lovers of my life, those joyously mad adventures and scrapes I barely survived, and the precious moments with friends dear to my heart. I barely touched the first two decades of my life before my eyelids, hanging heavy, dropped defenselessly shut.
In the recovery room a few hours afterward, I awoke to the doctor calling my name.
“Surprise!” he said as if he’d just uncovered Cleopatra’s tomb, “You didn’t need them after all!” He puffed his chest high and grinned.
My thoughts spinning and mouth twisted into a cockeyed ‘Q,’ I screamed inside my hazy head, “WHAT THE HELL?!”
“You never know,” one of the angel nurses said as she slid a straw into a can Ginger Ale and wedged it between my teeth.
“You never know,” the other angel nurse relied, unhooking me from the monitors buzzing with news.
“You never know,” I agreed. “You never know.”
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