When the Doctor Said

When the doctor first told me I was in a state of shock.

Not medically.  I just mean I was shocked that – after more than 30 years of saying, “Whatever you’re doing, keep it up” – I was told that I would have to have open-heart surgery sometime very soon.  At first I wanted to argue.  I wanted to ask how this particular check-up showed that I would need surgery when no other check-up showed I even needed a special diet.  Or exercise.  Or even aspirin.  Basically my belief that “this cannot be happening” wanted to punch this guy in the face.

As he was telling me what I should be doing and what I shouldn’t be doing, as he was telling me that I should be grateful to have surgery as a young man instead of as an old geezer, I was trying not to vomit.  I was trying not to pass out.

I then paid my co-pay, walked out to the car that was illegally parked, and cried for a minute.  Then I went to Arby’s and cried again.

When he said, “You have to have surgery” what I heard was, “You’re going to die.”  I kept hearing that in my head over and over on the 90-minute drive home.  I keep hearing it.  I started to look around and notice the bigness of the sky and the speed of the other cars and the loudness of the music and the warmth of the sun.  I called The Wife and told her that she should take the rest of the day off because we had to talk. 

For the last half-hour of the drive I tried to analyze why I was crying.  I’ve been told on and off since I was born that this surgery would eventually happen so it wasn’t a total surprise.  Was I sad?  Angry?  Frustrated?  It was all those things (I’m sure), but I think it had to do more with the unfairness of it all.  These doctors are used to dealing with 400-pound smokers in their 60s who wouldn’t know what to do with a treadmill if it landed on their face and wiggled.  Every time I go to the cardiologist I’m reminded why I eat the way I do and exercise the way I do.

The way I used to.

It’s unfair that I – someone who’s always done the responsible thing – is now faced with this possibility.  It’s unfair that I have a one-year-old and another on the way and a crappy house I’ll never pay off and I was just starting to wrap my head around how to do finances and I want to see how this technology trend will end and I want to see how America is reborn from this income inequality.  And now there’s a chance that I won’t. 

That’s what got me more than anything.  That’s where the fear and sadness and frustration come from.  From all the things I’ll miss. 

 …

Notice how I didn’t mention the comic?

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