Recital promises more fun than you can shake a catheter atMar 15th, 2013 | By Friends & Neighbors | Category: Bateman's Blog
We’re throwing a party this weekend, and most of our guests will be “of a certain age.” That would be my age, 67, and maybe a decade on either side.
This means a couple of things:
First, the party will begin winding down at 9 or so, and by 10 p.m. all but the hardest-core rowdies – those who might have pushed the envelope by sipping their way through maybe three light beers – will be gone. We’ll shame these remaining inebriates into helping us clean up, and by 10:30 we’ll have the place to ourselves.
Yes, I said 10:30, when real parties – at least as I remember them – would just start to pick up steam.
Second, our party conversation will sound like chatter from a hospital cafeteria.
We former wild-eyed, wild-haired Deadheads, revolutionaries and freaks don’t talk about sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll anymore. Instead we talk about blood pressure, cholesterol, colonoscopies, biopsies, platelet counts, EKGs, irritable bowel syndrome and other things we couldn’t imagine devoting as much as a word to 20 years ago.
Come to think of it, we Boomers do still talk about drugs, but rather than weed, peyote, or ‘shrooms, it’s Flomax, Spiriva, Lipitor, Beta Prostate and, maybe halfway through that third light beer, Viagra.
Back in the old days, the only time discussion would wander into the medical realm would be when one of the more rash among us would OD on acid or break a leg, arm or face by jumping from a bridge, crashing a motorcycle or losing a fight to some guy whose ancestry he never should have questioned.
But at our advancing age, the impulsive and stupid no longer have a corner on medical problems. In fact, what a friend of mine calls “the organ recital” has become a key part of any 21st Century senior gathering.
We update friends on our existing conditions, brief them on new ones and, over an evening, the heart, liver, pancreas, intestines, lungs, bladder, kidneys and gallbladder all come into play.
I had coffee with two old friends a couple of years ago, but we might as well have called it a cancer klatch: I had prostate cancer, Russell had colon cancer and Ron had bladder cancer. We worked up an appetite talking about our problems, and ordered huge cheese-and-sausage omelets that could only hasten our demise.
There is a degree of one-upmanship in this organ recital business, and I’m ready to compete, with the aforementioned prostate cancer, atrial fibrillation, a twice-replaced hip, and a somewhat unusual ailment called hemochromatosis.
“That’s when iron infests your organs and, if unchecked, it can kill you,” I hold forth to guests. “The only treatment is blood-letting, and if I can’t find enough leeches down on Five Mile Creek, I go to the blood bank, and they take a unit.”
My Medic Alert bracelet details this and other conditions in microscopic print, which has led my brother to ask this question: Wouldn’t it be easier to list the diseases you don’t have?
It leads me to propose a new party game for future boomer-geezer gatherings: Have everyone throw their Medic Alert bracelets in a hat at the door, then after dinner the gathered partiers would try to match the diseases with the actual sufferers. The winner would get a $25 gift certificate, good for a single Tylenol tablet, at a local hospital.
As it is, we’ll spin our medical yarns with as much humor as possible, knowing full well that one of the ailments we joke about today could come back and kill us tomorrow. But as many a pundit has said, it’s better to go out laughing.
So on Saturday our guests will again bring out their best stories.
Anyone who gets to ride a Medevac helicopter, is saved by emergency surgery at Stanford, or finds an 11th-hour bone marrow match will have an edge. Anyone whose indigestion was misdiagnosed as a crippling stroke is also looking good. And any party guest who has won a million-dollar settlement after finding that his heart surgeons left a lemon zester in his thoracic cavity will probably take this year’s honors.
Bottom line: You play the best cards you were dealt.
Last year, wary that repeating my hemochromatosis-leech bit again would give rise to rolling eyes and stifled yawns, I went with a longshot. I pulled out color prints of my last colonoscopy.
Blissed out on Propofol, I remember nothing of the Roto-Rooter-like procedure, but my doctor told me all about the photos he took with that six-foot-long fiber-optic snake.
“Check these out,” I said, throwing my intestinal photos down between the guacamole and mixed nuts as if they were a full house in a cutthroat poker game at the Long Branch Saloon. “See that one there? That’s one of three polyps they snipped out. And over there? That’s how clean the upper reaches of my colon are. Looks a freshly plowed interstate, doesn’t it? Well, maybe not with all those purple veins and that white stuff on the edges.”
I looked up, and my guests were turning white, grabbing their coats and heading for the door. The clock had yet to strike 9 and we hadn’t even served dessert. But, really, nobody seemed that hungry.
A disappointing end to the evening?
Maybe, but I’ll tell you this: When one of my many ailments rears up to knock me off, I hope to go as quickly and as quietly as that party ended.
Chris Bateman, 66, is a journalist based in Sonora, California, where over the past 40 years he has covered everything under the Sierra Nevada sun.
Copyright 2013, Friends and Neighbors Magazine