His cell phone has a hinge. He’s been driving the same minivan for 15 years. His dinner is water and a bologna sandwich. He has a twenty inch TV without cable. Every dime scrutinized, every penny saved. Never uses credit. Nothing wasted. He checks his savings and 401K every month. Each year he analyses his Social Security payout statement. His sacrifice will pay off in retirement. It’s going to be done right. Travel anywhere he wants, eat anything he pleases. He won’t be dependent on anyone. For his 64th birthday his doctor gave him a surprise gift of six months.
I asked you this morning how you felt
Though I already knew the answer
You smiled and gave me eggs and sausage
I did not need to ask for them
These once youthful, nimble fingers
Have pinned diapers on your behind
Swatted the misbehaving toddler
When you got out of line
Held your hand on the first day of school
Applauded loudly as the graduate passed
Waved goodbye when you moved on to face the world
Prayed for your happiness to last
Used words to paint my memories
So you might know how it all began
But now these once so nimble fingers
Can barely hold my pen
So I want to tell you one last time
Before these hands of mine go
I’d like to give you one last rhyme
To tell you how I love you so
When I was a child, I knew how to fly
But I chose for myself a safer road
I trudged on through the tedium of life
With feet firm on the ground I bore life’s load
I let money and possessions rule me
Now where is the boy who knew how to live
Too afraid of what other people see
So frightened that I have nothing to give
Perhaps that is what is wrong with the world
Too afraid of what other people think
To be what we are, in the eyes of God
Innocent children playing on the brink
I will not slip into oblivion.
But kick and scratch to get every drop
Hold on to youthful ways and try to fly
Maybe I’ll fail, but I will never stop
The lobby of the Mountain View Family Healthcare was clean and well lit. There was music playing in the background and a vase of brightly colored flowers sat on a small wood table just to the left of the entryway. The room was warm, inviting, and smelled a little like Magnolias; it reminded me more of a boutique than a doctor’s office. I smiled and thought what a nice touch. But I bet it cost them a pretty penny to keep fresh flowers here in the dead of winter in the middle of Montana.
At the counter, the receptionist, a very cute little blond of about twenty with a very large smile and a name tag that read Nancy asked, “How may I help you today?” Her voice was pleasant and it at least seemed to me that she genuinely cared about my welfare. I immediately decided that I liked her and I would make a point of telling Dr. Johansen so.
“Brotherton,” I replied. “10:00”
She quickly flashed her fingers across the keyboard in front of her and looked up to make eye contact with me, that huge smile still spread across her face. “Why yes, Jerry. It looks like we have all the information we need. Please have a seat and someone will be out in a moment.”
Everybody is so friendly here. I thought.
After a bit of small talk with her, bordering on flirting, I turned and stepped through the archway and into the waiting room. Holy crap what the…, it looks like every sick person in town is in here. More than a dozen people nearly filled all the chairs along one wall. They stared into space, with oozing red eyes half closed from God knows what kind of diseases. They looked like some kind of zombies from a sci-fi channel horror movie. They had their hands stuffed with wadded up tissues and I could almost see the millions of germs flying around the room from all the coughing, sneezing, and hacking going on. A middle aged redheaded woman with too much makeup was struggling to keep a child on her lap. The kid was screaming and she looked like she was just too worn out to even care. In the corner under the television, several toddlers were playing with a small plastic box filled with toys. Small bubbles of mucus puffed from their noses as they breathed. They wiped their green slime onto everything in sight.
I was limited as to the seating arrangements but I managed to squeeze into a seat between an elderly man with an oxygen tank and a teenage boy with his left arm in a cast. It was as far away from the zombies as I could get and I figured these two were the least likely to be spreading influenza, or cholera, or the black plague. I sat there staring at my shoes and making a conscious effort not to breathe too deeply.
What a giant waste of time, they could’ve just sent me an email with my results. I guess that would be too easy though. If they did that, they wouldn’t be able to bill the insurance for another office visit.
After what seemed like an eternity of reading ‘Field and Stream’, ‘National Geographic’, and ‘Clifford, The Big Red Dog’, all the while a constant exposure to a myriad of life threatening diseases that have no cure and could turn my mind into mush; a short, black haired nurse finally stuck her head through the doorway of the waiting room.
“Jerry,” she said in a lifeless tone not even bothering to look up from her clipboard.
About freakin’ time.
“Here!” I said, so relieved to be rid of my germ-infested neighbors I nearly knocked over a table as I all but ran toward the door.
“Follow me please,” She said, still staring at the chart in her hands. She walked briskly down the brightly lit hallway and nodded her head toward an open door. “Please remove your shoes and step onto the scale.”
I sure hope my feet don’t stink too bad.
“Okeydokey, are you having a good day?” I asked, trying to engage her in some friendly banter.
What a real sour puss. Would it hurt you to smile once in a while?
She still hadn’t looked up from her clipboard and made no indication she’d heard me or was even willing to give a reply if she had.
I could have three eyes and a horn coming out of the top of my head and I bet she wouldn’t even notice.
She quickly flipped the blocks across the scale and jotted a few notes on that precious chart of hers.
265 pounds! What the hell… man this thing isn’t even close.
She moved the slide up and took a quick measurement of my height. “Five feet, nine inches,” she mumbled to her all-knowing clipboard.
Well, at least she got that one right.
She led the way to another room farther down the hallway. Her white shoes made no noise on the brightly polished floor. My shoes however seemed to echo through the building like a tap dancing elephant on steroids, playing with a squeaky toy.
I have to remember next time to wear tennis shoes.
She motioned with that damn clipboard of hers for me to have a seat on the edge of the examination table. She checked my heartbeat with a stethoscope that she’d obviously stored in the freezer. She proceeded to take my blood pressure, nearly squeezing my arm in half and jotted some more notes in that damn top-secret chart.
“Can you supply a urine sample?” she asked.
Actually, I had to piss like a racehorse.
“I guess so,” I said, “but I just gave one last week. I’m only here for the results of my physical.” By now I’d given up all hope of trying to engage her in any type of friendly conversation.
“It’s just routine…nothing to worry about,” she said, finally looking up from her precious clipboard. “Please come this way.”
Something smells a little fishy in the steak house, if you know what I mean.
“No problem.” I said.
Sure, let’s just bleed me for some more money. Maybe they should put in one of those rides like at the carnival, you know, one of those that turn you upside down to shake the coins from your pockets. At least I could have a little fun while going broke. Maybe that way, they could afford to get a scale that actually worked.
I followed her down another hallway to a bathroom where she pulled a cup from the cabinet and opened a sliding door in the wall. “When you’re finished just place the cup in here and shut the door. Return to your room and the doctor will be there shortly.” She opened the door to leave but suddenly turned. “And you have a nice day, Mr. Brotherton.”
Hey, maybe she’s not so bad after all.
I made my way back down the hallway and I heard a familiar voice drift out from a half opened doorway, “Please remove your shoes and step onto the scale.”
I wonder how many more of those poor, three-horned creatures are going to be squeezed, prodded, and herded into their little stalls, with their information hidden from them on other little secret charts.