You’ve gotta love those military guys : plain-spoken, politically-incorrect, no bullshit. I’ve been playing hockey with a smattering of members of our armed forces for a few years now. But this is the first time, every Monday afternoon, where I’m the only one in the dressing room who isn’t formally signed up to protect our home and native land.
I was just bending down to untie my skates when one of the younger members of the group asked a question of our organizer:
“Is the old gentleman gonna play with us all year ?”
Ah, I thought. How very Canadian. Even the comments that sting are delivered with a polite overtone. An insult with just the right amount of respect. As Henry David Thoreau observed, time stands still for no man. (Ladies, I’ve always admired older women; it’s just that there’s not as many of them as there used to be.) But the reminders of the passing years are not just apparent when I look in the mirror every morning these days; it’s also there when I glance out the window. The fall season is bittersweet. The leaves are only beautiful for a short time until they are past their peak, falling to earth and becoming mulch for a new generation of foliage. The calendar pages turn, the days get colder and the nights longer and for those who don’t like winter the outlook is bleak.
Which is why I have always avoided doctors. This is sometimes difficult to do because the block I live on is full of them. They seem to come in pairs; a lot of them are married to each other. I was walking my dog the other morning when one the specialists who live nearby greeted me. “It looks to me like you have osteo-arthritis.” I can never remember what speciality this particular physician possesses; they all sound alike to me. But he seemed quite confident in his dire diagnosis.
Which is why I’ve always avoided him and his ilk. Until now. I’ve made an appointment with a doctor four times in the past forty years and two of those times were to get my shots for overseas trips. Even though my oft-injured knees have hurt for the past twenty years I’ve managed to avoid doctors’ waiting rooms, those sacred sanctuaries in which the other inmates avoid eye-contact and read outdated magazines. To make matters worse, I had already prepped the good doctor with more evidence of bad news; my first- ever X-Ray had already been sent to his office. It was like handing the finger-printed murder weapon over to the prosecutor.
To me every member of the physician’s guild looks pre-occupied, harried and humourless. I guess working 120 hours a week as an intern is a contributing factor.
We nodded to each other and shared a perfunctory handshake. The Grim Reaper could not have looked more, well, grim.
The good doctor was too busy to butter me up with small talk and probably after one look at me he decided I didn’t have the time to waste anyway.
“The news is not good.”
I nodded. I was already picturing him wearing a hood, his scythe hanging over my head.
“You’ve got moderate-to-severe arthritis in one knee, severe in the other. Take a look.”
I glanced at the black and white evidence. I was never much of a science student, which is probably why I didn’t like those science-nerd types that got accepted into medical school. The photo looked to me like a shark’s open jaws, ready to bite into an unsuspecting surfer.
“What can I do about it ?” I asked. His answer echoed my neighbour’s pessimistic prognosis.
“Nothing. Arthroscopic surgery wouldn’t help, injections would only last a month or two, physiotherapy might help a very little bit.”
“Here you go.” He lifted two cumbersome braces onto the table between us. They looked a lot like what I remember Tiny Tim wearing in the 1930s version of the movie ‘Scrooge-A Christmas Carol.’ I could already picture myself moving with the agility of the Tin Man after Dorothy had misplaced his oil can.
“They’ll cost you $1400 each. Do you have insurance ?”
Avoiding such a fate is why I’m now almost addicted to turmeric, devil’s claw and shark cartilage. (Package disclaimer – Shark bones/cartilage was a previously thrown away by-product of the food industry. No sharks are caught for their cartilage. Don’t let any activist confuse you.)
So if you see an old gentleman hobbling by don’t stop and introduce yourself. You’ll only listen to another pensioner’s long tale of woe. Before you know it I’ll be introducing myself along the lines of.. “Hi, I’m David Perras and I’m gluten-free.”