Tag Archive: Life Lessons


Messaging

Guardian Writers Ed Pilkington and Tom McCarthy wrote a stunning byline.

“When the definitive history of the coronavirus pandemic is written, the date January 20, 2020, is certain to feature prominently. It was on that day that a 35-year-old man in Washington state, recently returned from visiting family in Wuhan in China, became the first person in the U.S. to be diagnosed with the virus.

On the very same day, 5,000 miles away in Asia, the first confirmed case of Covid-19 was reported in South Korea. The confluence was striking, but there the similarities ended.

In the two months since that fateful day, the responses to Coronavirus displayed by the U.S. and South Korea have been polar opposites.”

In the months since, U.S. leadership dithered, procrastinated, became mired in chaos and confusion, got distracted by the individual whims of its egotistical leader, and now faces a health emergency of daunting proportions.

Let’s face it, Coronavirus messaging has sucked. On one hand, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (N.Y.) extended the order for non-essential workers to stay home until April 15. One the other, Lt. Governor Patrick (TX) urged a return to work, saying the vulnerable should sacrifice themselves for the greater good. 

In the political world, messaging either looks good or bad. In the real world, messaging is hollow. Until a few hours ago, I didn’t understand how consequential America’s lack of preparation.

I reside in a heavily impacted State. The lake looks peaceful from here. Eerily calm. Inviting. Save for a hearty lone soul; everyone’s disappeared, including Sunday afternoon joggers, walkers, hikers, and lovers. For the residents of my building, messaging meant little. Going to the store, I noticed how empty our underground parking was. Empty parking stalls meant an empty building. Everyone left, probably wishing to spend time with those closest.

Disasters do not respect messaging. Coronavirus has no respect for messaging. Neither does it distinguish victims by age. The economy will return, but a person who dies stays dead. I’m reasonably positive Chef Floyd Cardoz (59) would not appreciate Lt. Gov. Patrick’s message. Neither would CBS Journalist Maria Mercader (54), nor singer Joe Diffie. Likewise, I presume Jeffries Group CFO Peregrine “Peg” Broadbent (56) would have loved a few more years just like the Illinois infant (under a year old).

A March 29 tweet from Trump was different but claimed a similar, yet subtle message.

Because the “Ratings” of my News Conferences etc. are so high, “Bachelor finale, Monday Night Football type numbers” according to the @nytimes, the Lamestream Media is going CRAZY. “Trump is reaching too many people, we must stop him.” said one lunatic. See you at 5:00 P.M.!

If any of you have read my blog posts, I often claim to remind myself of Rabbi Brad Hirschfield’s comments from “Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero:”

“You want plan? Then tell me about plan. But if you’re going to tell me about how the plan saved you, you better also be able to explain how the plan killed them. And the test of that has nothing to do with saying it in your synagogue or your church. The test of that has to do with going and saying it to the person who just buried someone and look in their eyes and tell them God’s plan was to blow your loved one apart. Look at them and tell them that God’s plan was that their children should go to bed every night for the rest of their lives without a parent. And if you can say that, well, at least you’re honest. I don’t worship the same God, but that at least has integrity.

It’s just it’s too easy. That’s my problem with the answer. Not that I think they’re being inauthentic when people say it or being dishonest, it’s just too damn easy. It’s easy because it gets God off the hook. And it’s easy because it gets their religious beliefs off the hook. And right now, everything is on the hook.”

Truthfully, part of me wishes that either Trump or Lt. Governor Patrick (TX) would give their ‘message’ to any family having lost a loved to the Coronavirus. I wish Patrick would explain, face-to-face, how that family should be proud that their loved one took it for the team. In the words of Hirschfield, “At least that would be honest.”

On March 27, Dan Patrick published the following tweet. 

“If you encounter any type of fraud or price gouging, you can contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at (866) 720-5721 or by email at disaster@leo.gov. You can also contact the @TXAG’s Office here: https://bit.ly/2WMxgA0.”

I called and reported Lt. Governor Dan Patrick was fraudulently posing as a caring politician. “Yeah,” the respondent stated. “You’re not the first.”

In the aftermath of Hurrican Harvey, I was in southern Texas. I worked for several weeks. I will say that when people came to get a hot meal, they’re hungry. They weren’t looking for prayer. Simply giving them a bottle of water and asking them how they are doing provides them an opportunity to talk. And before you know it, you’re hugging people, giving support, and offering something more durable than a blessing.

“Fuck off” is not a spiritual message.

Just prior to summer, my intern informed me he had received an opportunity to interview at Google. Asking for my advice, I told him to, “Go for it.” We went through pro’s and con’s, the fact he may have to ditch his girlfriend should she not find Seattle appealing, and whether he liked Seattle’s Best or Starbucks. (Seems like one on every corner). Inquiring of how to prepare, I told him, “Drink four of your favorite beers in 30 minutes and watch Fantasia backward.” In all seriousness, “There are lots of websites with tons of sample questions out there. Maybe they’ll ask how you would decipher a provider’s ‘Explanation of Benefits (EOB).

An EOB is a health insurance provider statement describing the costs it will cover for the medical care you’ve received. In reality, it’s a ‘swindle sheet.’ I received my EOB (or lack thereof) for February’s tumor surgery this past Saturday. I envision the EOB creator found the most niche way of paraphrasing just how beautiful one’s benefits are while simultaneously informing how much is not covered.

“Greetings, Member. Had you had no insurance, the original cost of this surgery would be over $5 grand. However, since you chose a physician and surgical center under contract, and the fact you chose to check yourself out versus staying overnight, we’ll knock off $2 grand. 

Costs were calculated based upon the full moon cycle during the week your surgery was performed, the associated gravitational pull, multiplied by the total square miles of depleted water in the California basin, then divided by the remaining number of brine shrimp in the artic. In summary, we’re covering half. Therefore, your estimated costs are $1,500.

Thank you for allowing us to be of service. Remember, we believe you’re special, but so are we.”

The exact cost was $1,540, for there was a forty-dollar copay.

The American Bar Association claims healthcare is a human right. Understanding the EOB is not. Having worked in healthcare since 2006, there’s no rhyme or reason for the EOB. The average ‘Joe‘ can’t make sense out of it. The facility would better serve by saying we’re ‘f•••ing you’ for half the bill. ‘Being F’d‘ is something the average ‘Joe‘ understands. Just once I would love a Trump supporter to hand Trump an EOB and ask him to explain it. But here’s the catch, Trump has promised that repeal will end with “a beautiful picture” – a beauty that ends upon receiving the EOB.

Here’s what I wish the hospital said:

“We’re sinking our tentacles into your a••, and we’re going to drain your bank account of every possible dime. And, if that isn’t enough, we’re going to drain the gas from the car used to drive here. We understand you’ll have to push the vehicle upon departure. However, on the positive side, your physical therapy gets off to a great start.”

Next time you receive an EOB, remember that top administrators at U.S. hospitals are paid exceptionally well. CEOs make $400,000 to $500,000 a year, not including benefits (such as stock options). Administrative expenses eat up as much as 25 percent of total hospital expenses we pay (much higher than in other countries). For all the chatter and talk about free healthcare, no single candidate has explained how they will prevent the average ‘Joe‘ from getting tentacled up the a••. Neither GOP, Democrat, Socialist, nor Independent has been able to state how they would turn the good ship ‘Healthcare‘ around.

I’m fortunate. I can pay the bill. Millions can’t. And spiritually speaking, I believe in healthcare reform, but we need a robust framework, not a ninety-second campaign pitch. The average ‘Joe’s‘ of the world demands it.

Because It’s Wednesday

Understanding ‘down days’ has been easy. I ignored them. For the past five or six years, I never understood why I felt great one day while stuck in second the next. Since doctors readily dismissed my symptoms, the only avenue left was ‘out of sight, out of mind.’

Yeah. I get it. The approach wasn’t the best plausible approach, but it was the most effective.

How do you feel today?”
I am feeling slower,” I’d respond.
Any idea why?
Hell, I don’t know. It’s Wednesday.

I’ve written about this before: For close to a decade, pain has been a companion. Legs were stiff as far back as 2010; neck stiffness graced my presence in 2014; neck and shoulder pain announced itself in 2016; and arm spasticity followed in 2019, with on and off twinges of the foot, hand and finger issues. During such times, mental fortitude and daily, a multi-daily dose of pain medications were downed like M&M peanuts in a snack bowl.

As the years drifted by, and while doctors could detect the problem, fortitude and drugs allowed to forget. With them, I was equal. No one knew.

A year ago, I was informed that only two good years remained. “Prognosis is poor,” the report stated. Post-surgery, I thought the surgeon might have bought additional time. Last Friday’s Parkinson’s diagnosis was a shot across the bow, a reminder to accept the frailty, the beauty, and the levity of life.

The tumor was my blessing. Maybe via that and Parkinson’s, I can relearn the opportunities of profound growth and how to access gifts untapped. Maybe in the next year, I get more family photographs, visit Zion and Bryce Canyon, and walk along the Snake River Canyon.

I know there will be some dark days, some scary twists and turns. And I will find comfort in the kindness of others. They will be my angels along the highway – never forgotten. God and Ms. K. will provide strength and support from which I always drew.
Lastly, there’s my internal staff: Fortitude. Always had it, always will.

In whatever you do, I wish everyone health and an appreciation for all that life offers.

If that doesn’t work, blame it on Wednesday.

Silence

Parkinson’s. … Parkinson’s. Another crossroad of life – my life. Four days post-Parkinson’s, I remain quiet. Not a word. Not a soul. And unlike my tumor, to which I told only a selected few, nothing.
Like my tumor, I don’t want Parkinson’s to by my identity. I know it will (eventually), but not now. Not yet. I can’t handle this being the forefront of life. Just can’t.
I don’t want to be dependent. In Tuesdays with Morrie, author Mitch Albom noted the loss of control that leads people to rely upon others unconditionally. For me, Parkinson’s represents a loss of self. Maybe it’s the fact someone gets to wipe your a••. Not sure if that’s good or bad.

Albom’s work was about his conversations with a former professor, Morris “Morrie” S. Schwartz. One night, Schwartz was talking to Nightline host Ted Koppel.

“Well, Ted, one day soon, someone’s gonna have to wipe my ass. It’s the ultimate sign of dependency. Someone wiping your bottom. But I’m working on it.”

In my way, Parkinson’s scares me more than my tumor. Depending upon the story, Parkinson’s is slow. And while cancer can be as well, the thought of losing my mind, my thoughts, my most inner secret is worrisome.

The good news is that I know I will die. I have too much negativity in this old body to make it too much farther down the road—arthritis, Cervical Stenosis, a tumor, and now Parkinson’s. But dying is more than negativity; it’s about the positivity that I understand my death, and that to live better despite it.

A significant part of me is not to whither against the hard rain darting past my hat. I aim not to disappear. The key for me is the daily query of one repetitive question, “How do I make the best of it?” I believe in the life hereafter. I believe Ms. K., will meet me. I believe in a spiritual force. I believe in God. I believe in love.

And that’s where I want to live. And that’s why I will probably say zilch until I absolutely must. I prefer to live in the center of those items just listed then in Parkinson’s. I should have done that all along.

Lies We Believe

The two days post-Parkinson’s diagnosis was spent reflecting. Admittedly, I accomplished little. Yeah, 2019 taxes remain partially complete, but there’s laundry, mail, and several medical bills. Prima facially, I accomplished little, but inwardly, I accomplished much. 

Much like my tumor, I’ve told no one of my Parkinson’s diagnosis. If revealed, one would probably curse my doctors, tell me to sue or at least write a well-thought nasty letter. Sure, I could spit in my original neuro’s face. Yeah. That doctor who blatantly told me in April 2015 told me to see a psychiatrist. I could have done that. I didn’t.

I could have attempted an angle. As a former rescueman who risked his, I effectively calculated all aspects. I was known for quickly summarizing the best outcome, and often, beat back the face of death. Doing such was a lie I told myself and others.

Such lies bring comfort. If you’re dying, you want comfort God will dispatch angels to comfort and carry you. A young mother wants to believe doctors will heal their child or husband. If you lost your medical insurance, you’ll gladly listen to and swallow a politicians’ lure’ of free health care.

I could blame my neuro for all my ills. I could. I won’t. Why? Because I was the lie, I told myself. I’ve known for years my back was stiff, stiff leg muscles and pain, a left stiff arm, bad dreams, the nights I couldn’t sleep, and the ever so slight internal and left-hand tremor. I dropped more coffee cups and glasses than I could count. I just lied.

You need to see a neurologist,” She urged.

Ah, I don’t want to waste anyone’s time. They’ll tell me nothing’s wrong.”

I don’t know,” she frowned. “There’s something about your symptoms that don’t make sense.

I relied on my ability to elude danger. Like forty years prior, Celecoxib, Gabapentine, Tizanidine, Tylenol 1, and Tylenol 3 were my lies. Arthritis drugs killed the pain but didn’t treat the disease. The tumor forced me to address the pain. 

I didn’t have much choice. The surgeon who removed my tumor stated I required a neuro eval. And coming full-circle, I returned to the very clinic that ignored me years prior. In less than an hour, I went from viewing doctors’ confusion to hear, “We believe you have Parkinson’s.;” to hearing, “You have Parkinson’s;” to “I’m sorry.”

William Shakespeare said, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.What Shakespeare is referencing is the drama everyone lives throughout their lives. He reduces life to performance or acting. To which, oftentimes looks ridiculous.

Is there some connection between truthfulness and personal integrity? Possibly. Spiritual men and women often had a disdain for lies. In fact, “not lying” one of the fundamental training practices of his path of self-transformation. “Not lying” might raise some ethical issues. For instance, what if a Nazi guard asked if Anne Frank was in our attic? Would I have lied? Of course.

The practice of deceiving with myself of true inner healing via false medication was like a sailboat anchored to the shore. I had a role in my own lie. I lived to the act, and my decision making was ridiculous. All of us need to focus on good days – living as many good ones as possible. Tomorrow, I promise to have a good day. 

Promise me you’ll live only good days.

 

“It is in the nature of medicine that you are gonna screw up. You are gonna kill someone. If you can’t handle that reality, pick another profession. Or finish medical school and teach.”

~ Gregory House ~

Dr. House’s comment while substituting as a guest lecturer. Unfortunately, Dr. House’s statement to the interns occurs all too often. It happened to me this past Friday. I likened it to something out of Charles Dickinson’s Tale of Two Cities.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair . . .”

I returned for my post-operation evaluation. Good News. The operation was successful. Bad News. The symptoms remained relatively the same. My neuro was positive that removing the tumor would make some positive impact.

Studying the medical history, a sharp, bright, neurological nurse looked at my medical history, then she squinted and studied further. Her first poke went unacknowledged. With careful forethought, she grabbed a piece of the neuro’s flesh, twisted slightly. Turning to look where she pointed, the neuro read. He read again. And again. He pulled up the MRI from 2015. And he read. Read again. And again.

They excused themselves.

Ten minutes later, several doctors, en mass, poked and prodded. They left, leaving the neurological nurse and me to kill time quietly. After eons of seconds, she sympathetically smiled me. “We believe you have Parkinson’s.”

Pause . . . Long pause. 

I must have had this WTF expression, but just as she was about to follow-up, the flock of physicians returned.

“In 2015, the MRI we performed indicated over seven supratentorial FLAIR hyperintense lesions or plaques. We should have noted these. We misread the MRI. While there is no one single test that can verify Parkinson’s, this finding and your symptoms demonstrate the diagnosis. Unfortunately, your Parkinson’s has been untreated for at least five years.”

“All this time I was told, ‘nothing to be done,’ we recommend a psychiatrist…”

“Was awful,” he interrupted. Soulfully searching for the right words, “I am sorry.”

The tumor still had to come out. The remaining portion of the tumor still residing in my neck still remains. All the while, physicians had either denied my symptoms or attributed to the tumor was wrong. All those years of pain and suffering. All it took was for a twenty-year veteran neurological nurse to read the chart and connect the dots. 

I am still processing, but I left in peace. “Why?” one would wonder. Well, I found some level of peace in the doctor’s words.

“Better than a thousand hollow words is one word that brings peace.”

~ Buddha ~

Serving as a Honda District Service Manager in the early eighties, I often whizzed through Madison, Wisconsin. Occasionally, I would stop at Zimbrick Honda.

John Zimbrick was legendary. In 1973, Zimbrick introduced Honda’s to its dealerships and established one of the most successful customer service departments in the country. If the customer didn’t have a ride for service, he would pay a local cab company to ferry his service customers. What the customers didn’t know was that Zimbrick would pay the drivers to report feedback, whether positive or negative. I once asked Zimbrick why he did that.

Of course, I want our dealership to provide excellent value,” Zimbrick noted. “But, if my customers are going to talk, I want them talking about me.”

Therein lay the first reason Trump commuted Blagojevich. In essence, whether good or bad, Trump wants people talking about him. And only him. Trump is, above all, a marketer. He understands the power of repetition. He knows if you say it over and over and over, people eventually succumb to stupid.

Secondly, Trump is hell-bent on revenge. In the late 1990’s I attended a Karrass negotiation course. Midway through the second day, Dr. Chester L. Karrass mentioned something I remember to this day.

When someone has got you by the balls, it’s a good time to piss on em.’”

When Democrats believed they had Trump by the balls only meant he was going to piss on them. It’s vintage Trump. He mimics Russian win-lose tactics. Like most autocrats, Trump is short-term (tactically) oriented, whereas Congressman and bureaucracies are long-term (strategically oriented). By overcoming impeachment, Trump wins once, and by commuting Blagojevich, he wins twice.

Lastly, once bitten, Trump is determined to revoke and overwrite any part of his predecessor’s legacy. In the television series Crime Story, Lt. Mike Torello, says to a bad guy:

“Hey, you. You hurt anybody else, when this is over, I’m gonna find what you love the most and I’m gonna kill it. Your mother, your father, your dog… don’t matter what it is, it’s dead.”

On prima facia value, there are subtle connections between Blagojevich and Trump. Blagojevich was an Apprentice contestant and was convicted by a ‘rule of law’ over Obama’s vacated Senate seat. Democrats believed in Obama. Obama believed in the rule of law. Yet, Lt. Mike Torello’s quote is like Trump’s way of saying he will kill anything you love, including the rule of law…and your dog.

Earth is filled with strong men pummeling democracy and fulfilling self-interest. Trump is just another autocrat.

From a spiritual perspective, our next president must end our current culture of corruption. Exclusively exercising decisions because one can doesn’t bode well for the everyday family living on Main Street. The Dali Lama noted that when Tibet was still free, Tibetans cultivated isolation, mistakenly thinking they could prolong peace and security. Consequently, they paid little attention to the changes taking place in the world around. Later, they learned the hard way that freedom is something to be shared and enjoyed in the company of others, not kept solely for oneself.

Democratization must reach to others across the world, where future generations will consider humanity as the most important achievement. And how can we ensure such democratization? By voting. We can only make a difference if each of us chooses to be the difference.

Humor

I’ve read that fear of cancer returning represents one of the most common concerns. This fear can last years. I have no such illusions and presume the consequences of my lime will return – just a matter of when. I wonder how I survived until sixty.

I have a funnier fear. Back in 1996, a car dealer general manager in Minneapolis said he was going shove a golf club up my ass. And that’s my fear – that in fact – he snuck into my home last weekend, took my prized Calloway nine iron, shoved it up my ass right up to my neck, and left. “Damn,” I said to a friend. “Someone has to clean that club for the upcoming best shot tourney.”

My doctor stated not to bend over. No worries. My neck is so stiff I can barely bend over. And therein lies my greatest fear: I can sit on a toilet and be unable to raise my underwear. Yeah. Yeah. I know. Some people fear about cancer’s return, I worry about wiping my behind.

A friend inquired, via text, about the latest?

“I am still old, bald, and fat.”

“Yeah. Knew that already. Anything I can do for you?”

“Yes,” I replied. “I drop my cane and can’t bend over, and I text you. Will you come and pick it up for me?”

“What if you drop your phone?”

“F•••.”

I hope I am humorous until the end. I do not fear death. I fear not being able to laugh. For instance, if I have to die in 2020, I hope it’s just before the election, “Tell Trump I’m not voting for him.” Or may something like, “Hey? Anyone want to see a dead body?” Being a computer forensic geek, I could claim, “S•••. Forgot the browser history.

You know, maybe it’s crucial to be like Tig Notaro. In 2014, on Late Night With Conan O’Brien, Ms. Notaro commented:

“Before I had a double mastectomy, I was already pretty flat-chested, and I made so many jokes over the years about how small my chest was that I started to think that maybe my boobs overheard me…and were just like, ‘You know what: We’re sick of this. Let’s kill her.’”

In 2012, I wrote that by shining light on a dark road to guide others also lightens yours. The very nature of which is both Christian and Buddhist. Yeah, some days suck, but some do not. Like everyone else, I get up and continue forward. Ultimately, when I’m at my lowest, God becomes His greatest.

When a coworker asked how I dealt with the pain, I quoted a Buddhist I had read.

Well, I simply reflect upon the moment and remember I am not having a bad day. My body is, but I am not.

Yes, I have ups and downs. Moments of pain get intermixed with moments of relief. I forgive and continue on. By injecting humor, and using humor as an essential support tool, I’ve found pain lessens. Sure making fun can ruffle feathers, but for those like me, it’s about survival. Humor can be dark. But it can be fun. And it can be healing.

Eating a Slim Jim, I reflected. Nearly ten days post-operation, I can confirm recovery has been pretty damn dull. Learning to change bandages on the back of your neck was a steep learning curve. Reaching backward, removing, and reapplying is a feat, even for one who had extensive medical training.

When you have a tumor, life is measured by units of centimeters or millimeters. Tumor sizes are then transferred to patients via a common language: pencil point (1 mm), a crayon point (2 mm), a pencil eraser (5 mm), a pea (10 mm), a peanut (20 mm), and a lime (50 mm), etc. I will never look at limes as merely pieces of fruit – ever.

The biopsy returned Thursday with a measurement of 50x30x13 millimeters. That’s equivalent to a medium-large lime. The cells weren’t cancerous but weren’t normal. As such, my ‘lime’ received a similar rating like Stage 0: no cancer, only abnormal cells with the potential to become cancer.

The portion of the tumor in my spine remains there – waiting.

Overall, I felt emotionally good. Physically? Meh. I experienced a massive headache the night of surgery and felt good the following day. This past week was not particularly good. I downed some pain medication a week ago Sunday and dealt with weird off and on fatigue of the neck and head from Monday onward. At some points, it seemed like my head could not be held upright.

Tactically speaking, I have a little trouble moving my neck sideways and cannot lift anything over 10 – 15 pounds for a month. Internal neck muscles will require seven months to heal. Therefore, the surgeon kindly requested refraining from rock climbing, parachuting, hiking the Pacific Coast Trail, or swimming the English Channel.

It appears news of the surgery spread, as I received a ‘care package’ from my employer. There was a variety of accouterments: crackers, cheese, popcorn, etc. It’s the first time I ever ate a Slim Jim. Darn good. ‘5 Star’ rating from me. The Cajun Slim was wicked.

In the past few days, many have praised my outlook and how I’ve handled the process. That’s just the show I present. The truth is, there have been some awkward highs and lows. Some of it has been damn depressing. I recognize all of this as just a volley in a more massive war. The doctors won ten days ago, yet I must remain vigilant.

Who knows how much time is left? I could have years or months. No one says decades. I might have a long time, or death may show quickly. People live for years with these debilitating symptoms. I don’t want that.

Right now, life’s about this Slim Jim. And it’s damn good.

I’ve given a lot of thought to various things over the past couple of days. I’ve looked at my life realized there’s this innate knowing that I won’t be here that much longer. I came to this realization yesterday. After spending much of the weekend in pain and hardly being able to move, I dislocated the patella on my right knee (meaning the kneecap moved out of place). I performed a battlefield maneuver and popped it back into place. 

Although painful, a dislocated is not what I considered a significant injury for me (the absolute term, ‘for me’). That’s not to suggest that a dislocated kneecap isn’t a major medical issue. It’s just that for all I have been through, I more or less considered the event as just another indignity to accept.  

Patients like me suffer all kinds of indignities. One such indignity is the requirement to bare all in the presence of young athletic-looking clinicians, where gravity has pulled cellulite into waves of hills and valleys that any miniature skateboarder would drool. I am also told to record my weight and contact the clinician should we suffer excessive weight loss.

Have you recorded your weight?” my physician asks.

No,” I paused. “Well, sort of,” I state.

Meaning?” she asks.

I take my weight every morning, but I can’t bend my neck to record it. So, I base my weight loss upon how much flab I can grab.”

Another slight pause filled the room.

Ever see that ‘Special K’ cereal commercial ‘Pinch an inch?’

Yeah,” smirking.

Well, I modified it to ‘Grab a foot.’ If I can grab more than a foot, I let you know.”

Just once, while disrobing and having some perky young face stare, I just want to say, “Welcome to your future bitch.” But I never do.

Another indignity is realizing just how fast my body has aged. Theoretically, I should be years away from such aches and pains. Now I’m comparing over-the-counter body rubs with 80-year-olds. I’ve gotten into some heated arguments over the value of Aspercreme, Icy Hot, Ben Gay, BioFreeze, Myoflex, Capzasin, and the like. We often bet on results.

Hey, Mr. Rufus?” smiling.

What are you pawning today?” he responds in a crusty voice.

I got some Nurofen Gel. Straight from Europe.

Been there and done that kid,” he grovelingly responds. “You lose. So, fetch me another cup of coffee.”

Damn,” I muttered.

I cringe at the person I was yesterday. I know the wisdom that comes with age is hard-won, but I could do without the flash of wince-worthy moments from my past—like worrying I was old at 23 or 25. 

My life is littered with perceived indignities: first date, first real sexual experience, first presentation to a crowd, first proctology exam, first colonoscopy, and so on. Looking back, these seem so inconsequential. Real indignities are harder.

The fantasy of living until a ripe old age and dying in your sleep, while making love, scuba diving, or sailing is fiction. The real indignity is that many of us will die precisely like me–through an extended period of mental or physical decline. Nearly half of those my age will succumb to Alzheimer’s, not to mention diabetes or cancer.

The latest indignity occurred during the January 14, 2020, Democratic debate. For all the concern over healthcare, and the attempts by the current GOP led administration to repeal healthcare, the real indignity is that no candidate has neither proposed a plan nor discussed long term care for an aging population. The indignity of indignities is that no presidential candidate (Trump included) realistically discusses how to care or budget for generations to come. Thus, all candidates align on this common theme: They seductively offer hope without providing any hope.

And the infuriating indignity . . . is that we’re on our own.

Welcome to your future, B****.

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