The weighting game … and the waiting game
Since I retired, the biggest change in my life is my lack of attention to detail.
Routinely, I find I’ve run out of butter or milk or bread. With laundry, it suddenly seems clean skivs have become either a faint hope or a distant memory. As for appointments? Well, I missed my last oil change — twice in a row.
Ultimately, this is no cause for concern. My mnemonic slovenliness is not due to any slippage of my cerebral prop, so much as to the total lowering of my GACQ (Give A Crap Quotient). Once I slipped the traces of academe, I found I cared as much about the mundane details of everyday life as I did about the Kardashians, professional sports and the Netflix’s latest offerings. That is, not at all.
This is not to say I space out on everything. One thing I never forget is my doctors’ appointments. Compared to a clean bill of health, clean skivs lack any importance. However, just to clear up any misunderstanding that might arise, clean skivs at a doctor’s appointment are vitally important.
So two weeks ago when my biannual exam with Dr. Tramantano came up, you can bet I was right there in his waiting room well in advance of the scheduled time.
A note about me and Dr. T: He’s my cardiologist and thus near and dear to my heart — literally. Not only do sterling wit and striking looks run in my family, but so does heart disease. I’ve had a bypass, my brother’s had two, and all the men in the previous generation never lived long enough to even hear about them.
Actually, our hearts are in fine shape; it’s our coronary arteries that are the miserable little traitors. Or as my bro puts it: We’ve got great pumps, but lousy pipes.
So given this nagging issue, you can bet your bip I don’t regard my appointments with Dr. T. with the same nonchalance that I do my supply of comestibles or tighty whities.
Plus, while I’m a creature of little to no faith in most realms, I have complete faith in Dr. T. He’s as sharp, caring and thorough as any patient could hope; plus he has a boffo sense of humor. (That is, he laughs at my jokes.)
There’s only one area of his care that falls short of my ideal, and it always rears its ugly head at the appointment’s end.
Saving the worst for last
The appointment of a couple weeks ago went according to plan. After a short wait, his nurse Patti checked my temp, weight and blood pressure, then wired me up for an EKG. After another short wait, there was a discreet tap on the door, and in glided The Good Doctor, hisself.
He had the same bright-eyed boyish look I know so well, but something had changed. It took a long moment, but then it hit me: He was decked out in black designer scrubs. He was the very picture of sartorial elegance, but with a faintly ominous aura. The effect was startling — like Young Doctor Kildare meets The Gunslinger.
I recovered quickly from my shock and after our initial greetings, the appointment proceeded apace.
First he looked over my EKG results; then he looked at my lab results and whatever else was in the folder. When he finished, he looked over at me.
“Well,” he said, “everything looks good. All your numbers from the lab are fine, and so’s your heart.”
“Great,” I said.
“Are you having any problems with shortness of breath, chest pains, fatigue?” he said.
“Nope,” I said.
“Have any trouble sleeping?”
“I sleep like a baby,” I said. “I wake up every three hours crying.”
OK, so that was an ancient Henny Youngman line, but I couldn’t resist.
He chuckled a bit. I shrugged — it was better than nothing.
“So, no concerns about your health?” he said.
“None at all,” I said.
“As I said, everything looks good,” he said. “But …”
Oh crap, I thought, here it goes, again.
“But,” he continued, “you could lose five pounds.”
Now it’s time for a wee grammar lesson.
“Could,” in this context is an auxiliary verb being used in the subjunctive mood. And what’s the subjunctive mood? Just this: It is used for conditional or imaginary situations — situations that are hypothetical rather than true.
In other words, to my way of thinking, his saying I could lose five pounds was the same as saying I could win a Nobel Prize, or could climb K-2, or could marry into the Bhutanese royal family. In other words, I could … but I won’t.
Yeah, I know that’s not how he meant it, but who’s the language guy here anyway?
Besides, when it comes to me losing weight, any amount of it, it ain’t gonna happen. Not that I haven’t lost weight in the past. Several summers ago, also on a doctor’s recommendation, I decided to shed my baby fat.
First, I upped my speed walking to between six and eight miles a day, six days a week.
Along with that, I cut out alcohol, sugar, white flour and about everything else except paper dolls.
For three months I dieted and walked my dupa off — literally. One day, back from a six-miler in 85 degrees, I happened to glance in a mirror and — Holy Moly! — there I was, glistening, an Adirondack Adonis. I’d become the Bernarr McFadden of the Blue Line!
I’d dropped a cool 10 pounds and two sizes and now had a washboard waist where before there’d just been a layer of lard.
Having gotten rid of my baby fat, I vowed to keep it off. And I did, for the rest of the summer and most of the fall. But when winter returned, so did all the weight I’d lost.
And then I made another vow: My weight loss days were over. Finis. Fertig. Finito.
Or to put it in clear medical terms: I’d start to lose weight again when the AMA starts lobbying for national health care.
While I’ve made a lot of vows in my life, my record of sticking to them isn’t all that good. But this was one I said I’d keep, and I did.
I didn’t bother sharing any of this with Dr. T. And why should I? He was just doing his best to look out for my health. Why be snotty about his good intentions?
So I said nothing, nodded as if I was not only paying attention to what he said but agreeing with it as well.
The appointment concluded, we said our fond farewells and went our separate ways.
I thought nothing more of that weight loss shtick till that night, when I suddenly recalled something. When I’d first gone to Dr. T., two years ago, I’d weighed the same as I do now, and at the end of the appointment he recommended I lose 10 pounds. Of course, I lost no weight, and at every subsequent appointment, 10 pounds was the magic number. But now, while I still weigh the same, Dr. T. has suggested a five-pound loss.
But what caused this? I doubt the BMI charts have changed; nor would The Good Doctor figure a 10-pound loss would make me dangerously underweight. So it can only be one thing: Smart guy that he is, he knows when to cut back on his suggestion.
And now the good news: Since he’s going to stay as smart as he is, and I’m going to stay as stubborn as I am, in another two years he’ll give up telling me to lose weight at all.