Saturday, February 26, 2011

Have a heart

My wife scheduled herself for a health screening today at Lexington Memorial Hospital. And why not? It was free (what in health care today is free?) and it seemed like a good idea, considering the long trail of heart disease in her family.

So while she went for her screening, I went to the Black Chicken Coffee, one of our favorite hangouts. We solve the world's problems there. Day after day. Only nobody listens to us, so we still have the same problems, day after day. Anyway, Kim said she would meet me there when she was through.

I'd hardly arrived and noticed right off that Kim wasn't there (I'm clever like that), even though it was nearly an hour since her scheduled appointment time had passed. So I was a little concerned.

"Kim isn't here?" I asked one of my fellow roundtablers. I explained that she had gone to the hospital for a health screening, but was told that the process should only take a few minutes. I figured she'd be here by now.

"Great. I'll probably get home and find out she's had quadruple bypass surgery," I said smugly.

"No," said Joe, one of my friends. "She'll call and tell you that you need to make an appointment, too."

I swear to you, within two minutes, the Chicken's barista handed me a wireless phone with a call for me. It was my wife. "You need to come here right now. It's not busy at all. They said they could fit you right in."

There must have been a look on my face because my coffee compatriots were smiling broadly. When I asked Kim if there was a line of people at the screening, that was all the clue they needed. The table erupted in raucous, almost uncontrollable laughter — including myself.

But Kim, I could tell, was impatient. "Get your ass over here right now."

That's pretty serious stuff. "If it was me," said Joe, "I'd go."

So I did.

I arrived at the hospital, registered, and within minutes had my finger pricked for a blood test. Then I got weighed and then measured for height. I'm now 66 inches tall (or short), which means I'm shrinking. And that was with my shoes on. I remember the days when I was 5-7.

I'm also overweight, but we knew that.

Then I went to the blood pressure station. That turned out to be OK. I was 128/78.

Then it was back to the blood pricking table to get my results. My cholesterol is high, significantly over 200, although my good (HDL) cholesterol is 57, which is fine.

But my blood sugar was 58, and normal should be over 70. The nurses acted as if I was going to collapse at any moment, so they rushed me to the breakfast buffet and told me to pick out a danish and drink some apple juice. Oh boy, free food. I really like this health care.

Still, the reading puzzled me, since I had a bowl of Wheaties for breakfast, along with a banana, which I always considered to be essentially a potassium bar coated in sugar. I still don't get the reading on that one. Neither did the nurses, but they probably figured, like Dr. House, that everybody lies. Except I wasn't lying.

Anyway, it was off to the electrocardiogram, which was part of the screening. I'd never had one of these before. The nurse there knew me from my sports writing days at The Dispatch, although I didn't know her. In fact, I had covered her husband when he played baseball at Central Davidson more than 30 years ago. Maybe I need to change my name.

She hooked me up to the ECG machine, turned it on and, instantly, the first thing out of her mouth was "Oh my."

Oh God. I'm the one who needs the quadruple bypass, I thought. Just 20 minutes earlier, I'd been a perfectly healthy male — I thought. Haven't smoked in 30 years, walk everywhere, what happened?

Turns out I have an irregular heart beat, something called atrial fibrillation with rapid ventricular response. I thought that only happened when the Phillies won. They sent me off to see the cardio doctor.

The doc looked at my ECG, told me what I had, and said, untreated, eventually it could lead to a stroke. But there was something I could do right now to help myself — so she put me on aspirin therapy. Full dose, one coated tablet every day. I can do that. And, of course, it would be a good idea to have a complete physical sometime soon.

I can do that, too. Just watch.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

House husbandry

Thursday is my day to vacuum, dust, polish, change the cat litter and take out the garbage and other sundry tasks.

Unless, of course, there are additional chores my wife can uncover.

I really don't mind doing this stuff. I call it my house husbandry and I guess I've been doing this for about 25 years of our 30-year marriage. When I tell people it's my day to vacuum, some look at me cross-eyed, as if to ask, "Why are you doing the vacuuming? Shouldn't you be playing golf? Wimp."

Actually, I probably should be playing golf, being retired and all, but my wife is still gainfully employed in the work force. That means, hidden somewhere in the small print of the marriage contract, it says I do the things I can to make her life a little easier. She does not need to worry about whether or not the house is clean this week when she's worried about being the best she can be in the workplace, or concerned about taking care of her 80-year-old father.

(The small print, by the way, is set in invisible ink. Which means everything the small print says is understood. Understand? )

Well, OK, she does do the laundry. Only because it's not a good idea for me to be anywhere near a washing machine or an ironing board. I never could iron out wrinkles without ironing in new ones, and who knows what the heck I'm dumping into the washing machine? I once thought fabric softener was laundry detergent. So there. Underwear may not have been clean, but they sure didn't itch.

So, yes, I do the vacuuming and whatever else needs to be done around the house and don't think twice about it.

I know what you're going to ask now. What about those first five years of our marriage?

I have no excuse, really. I probably haven't evolved much beyond male chauvinistic pigism. That's because all of that was before I learned how to read invisible ink.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Some things I think I think

Every once in a while I'm going to post tidbits of the ridiculous, the sublime, and the ridiculously sublime that occur to me without notice.

• For example, several months ago, I was cited for not wearing my seat belt. It was the perfect storm of all the elements of this event had to converge at one location at one particular moment to make this happen.

I was on my way back from the grocery store, which is less than five minutes from my house. I had bought two cartons of ice cream — buy one, get one free.

As I'm traveling on Center Street toward my house, I notice a marked North Carolina State Highway Patrol car approaching Center from a lightly traveled side street. This in itself is unusual, since the Highway Patrol, as far as I know, very seldom comes within the city limits. Maybe he was on his way to somewhere else.

In any event, as I passed by him, he must have noticed I was without seat belt. Within an eyeblink, he was on Center Street and caught up to me, the ominous blue light winking at me just as I turned off on to Williams Street. I pulled into Dr. Ratton's parking lot, within agonizing sight of my back yard.

He politely asked me why I was not wearing my seat belt, and I told him I'd been in the car just a few minutes and was close to home. No excuse, I know. A law is a law. He said he was going to give me a citation. I waited patiently while he checked me out with his onboard computer and then printed out the citation. This all took about 10 minutes — my ice cream melting before my eyes. I almost asked him if he'd mind while I walked my ice cream home, since that's my back yard over there, but thought better of it.

A seat belt citation does not go against your insurance, as I discovered, but between the fine and the court costs, it does relieve you of about $125. Sigh.

What makes all of this so aggravating was that about a week ago I got a phone call from a representative of the Highway Patrol. I thought this was going to be some kind of follow-up report. Turns out, they were offering several levels of sponsorship to support our brave and loyal servants in gray who daily put themselves in harm's way and how much would I be able to contribute?

Are you kidding me? That was the wrong phone call at the wrong time.

• With the uprisings sweeping across the Islamic world, I got to wondering why Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi is still a colonel. He's been the country's leader for 30-plus years. C'mon. He can't give himself a promotion? Does that plateau in his pay grade affect his pension?As far as I know, this issue hasn't come up in Wiki-leaks yet.

• Cherry Yum Yum is an odd name for a dessert. If it's less than tasty, does it become Cherry Just All Right?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Winter distraction

My Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition arrived yesterday.

OK, OK, I know where you're going with this: you thought it took me 24 hours of leering at my SI before I even considered posting a blog about it.

And I might not even bother to deny that. The real question, however,  is where am I going with this?

Well, let's see.

I've been a subscriber to SI since my junior year in high school, which means I'm approaching my 45th year of leering at SI swimsuit models. I hope to make it to 50. I'm wondering if then I would qualify for a free lifetime subscription to the magazine. If they don't offer such a thing, they should. I should at least get a watch out of it.

It used to be great fun to get the swimsuit issue because a few weeks after its annual publication, SI would print a lengthy sample of letters from irate readers wishing to cancel their subscriptions, as if they were totally surprised such a thing existed in the first place even though the swimsuit edition has been around since the mid-1960s. You'd have to have lived on Jupiter not to know about the swimsuit edition. Those letters made for some great reading.

Many complaints, if I recall, came from women wondering why SI was so sexist and how come there were no men in swimsuits? SI was clearly pandering to the prurient interest of its male readers, etc, etc.

Lately, however, SI gives its readers a heads-up that the special section is approaching and now subscribers have the option of refusing delivery of their swimsuit edition. I can proudly declare I've never entertained that option.

In my mind, no model ever generated more personal heartthrob than Cheryl Tiegs in her unbelievably revealing fishnet suit, back in 1978. I can close my eyes to this day and...wait. Why close my eyes when I have Google? Time for a break...

OK, I'm back.

Good to see Cheryl again. What was I saying?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Now the real work begins

Valentine's Day.

Nope. Not gonna get syrupy and saccharine (or is it Splenda-ed now?)

Today, the eating season concludes. The eating season, at least on my calender, begins on Thanksgiving Day (great meal, Kim), quickly jumps into Christmas (great sugar cakes, Pam), and  carries over into January with nearly two weeks of bowl games, then into February with the Super Bowl (great chili, Kim) and an endless string of relatives' birthdays (great banana Bundt cake, Kim). We finish off the orgy with chocolate treats today (great raisin clusters, Jeanne).

Burp. 'Scuse me.

Through all this, I've watched my waistline expand without restraint. My butt has gotten so big that truthfully I should spell it now with three T's — a triple T buttt.

So now I start work on reversing this ugly process. This is going to require eating smarter and lots of exercise.

There's no thought here to pay for a diet plan, diet pills or diet drinks. Usually don't work for me anyway.

What does work is taking in less calories and then burning off most of the ones I do consume, which means exercise. This is no secret formula.

My exercise plan is simple enough, because I've done it before. Walk. I enjoy walking. It's low impact on my knees, and if I keep a steady pace, it's a decent cardiovascular workout. (Although I was once passed by two pregnant women on walking trail I use despite the fact that I was be-bopping along at a pretty good pace — I thought. I was close to being disillusioned). I try to walk an hour each day, which usually covers about four miles.

When I feel like I'm starting to get in shape, I'll tack on another half hour or so and crank it up to about a six-mile workout. Some days might even see 10 miles. A morning walk, and an afternoon walk. It can be, umm, addictive.

Fortunately for me, there's a walking trail not far from my house at Grimes School. It's a half-mile walk through a beautiful residential area for me to get there, and I seem to know a lot of people who live there, which makes it fun. It's also a great way to get some mindless thinking (huh?) done.

Ultimately, I know this plan works for me.

It fits me to a T.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Nick of Time

There's a wonderfully insightful song, written by blueser Bonnie Raitt more than 20 years ago, called "Nick of Time."

The song is written by a woman — and perhaps aimed primarily at women — with an undertow of a love theme caught in the current.

But I think there are some gender-exclusive lyrics within that song that have enveloped and captivated me through all these years:

"I see my folks are getting on and I watch their bodies change
I know they see the same in me and it makes us both feel strange
No matter how you tell yourself, it's what we all go through
Those lines are pretty hard to take when they're starin' back at you
Scared you'll run out of time...

"When did the choices get so hard, there's so much more at stake
Life gets mighty precious
When there's less of it to waste
Scared to run out of time"


So here I am, today, at my 60th birthday. I've noticed my body changing (beyond the baldness and grey hairs) each time I shave. The skin around my neck has lost some of its elasticity and wrinkles easier than I would like. And so does the skin on the back of my hands, when I can get past the age spots that are showing up. What day did that happen? How come I wasn't paying attention?

"'s what we all go through"

Just food for thought here.
And speaking of food for thought, hey, it's my birthday.
Oh boy. Cake.

Friday, February 11, 2011

To my wife on her birthday

I know
This day makes another appearance without your invitation
And causes you some dismay.

I know
You can't help regard this moment without some inclination
To show it on its way.

I know
Any real celebration is not on your calendar of events;
With no bother or fuss.

That's OK.
But if you were never born then it really makes no sense —
There'd be no us.

And so
While I ponder what it is I can give to you, thoughts drift,
As I'm sure you can design.

It's clear
The way things turned out, your birth, your love, your life, are the truest gift
From your heart to mine.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Did I really say that?

In less than 48 hours I turn 60 years old.

Numbers don't lie.

Sooo, what hits me between the eyes right now is an email comment I made to a friend the other day, and upon which she commented on in her reply. I would like to comment on that.

I was discussing something with her that had me somewhat frustrated and I carelessly blurted out, via my keyboard, "Well, back in my day..."

Did I really say that? That is something my grandfather would have said. And he did, as I recall. Numerous times. I know I promised myself over and over that that was the kind of response that would never come from me. After all, I'm young, hip, with it, and cool (and no doubt dating myself right there by using those very ancient and tired adjectives). How could I have said that? It must be a human conditioned response located somewhere in our DNA. (In this case, in regards to aging, I can only guess that DNA must mean Do Not Acknowledge).

My friend, who is 50-ish, replied, "...I have caught myself saying the same thing as of late."

Another friend of mine, slightly older than me, emailed to me something about aging that sounded something like, "I'm too young to know better and too old to care." I think that's what she said. She emailed that a few days ago and I just...can'

Anyway, I need more friends like these two. Because of them, I'm starting to learn something else about numbers: there's safety in them.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Welcome to my world

Trying to construct a blog for the first time without any help from my wife, friends, techno geeks, other bloggers, or even complete strangers, is a bit intimidating. I like having my hand held when walking through cyber landscapes I've never seen before. But I also bet I'm the only one who might actually care about this, so bear with me while I muddle along.

Mistakes will be made, no doubt, both in content and in execution. I might want to attach a photo, for example, and end up attaching my social security number instead. That's how comfortable I am with computers and all that goes with them.

At any rate, the plan is to blog often. I want this thing to be a platform to express any random thoughts that happen to pass my way. I hope most are amusing. Or even insightful, which doesn't sound like me. Some might be serious, although that really doesn't sound like me, either. But it could happen.

Here's an example of what to expect: A few weeks ago, my wife and I went to the mall to do some birthday shopping for a niece. While strolling through the mall, we came across a store called "Forever 21." Really? Who knew? My wife, who last saw 21 some 30 years ago, went inside while I waited in the concourse to people watch while simultaneously feeling conspicuously out of place. She was there to check out some headbands one of her co-workers — who might actually be 21 — had admired.

After a surprisingly few short moments, my wife stepped back out.

She: "I don't think that's a store for me."
Me: "Didn't really think so."
She: "So where should we go shop?"
Me (without missing a beat): "Forever 50?"