For nineteen healthy years I waltzed through life sans health insurance. Rarely would I see a doctor. One time I went at the instance of a girl friend; another time my kids were hocking me; then once there were chest pains. Never, however, was I ill. Overweight maybe, overtired perhaps, but always, ALWAYS, malady-free!

This reverie of health came to an end late last year, with Medicare.

“You have diabetes”, said the doctor when I re-introduced myself.
“How’s my blood pressure?” asked I (former Army medic).
“It could be better but my concern is your sugar.”
“Is my heart OK?”
“Probably. If you get your weight down your issues will go away.”

Leaving Ahuja that day I felt great. Having looked Dr. Massien in the eye, having assured him I’d address food intake …

“What did the doctor say?” asked Carrie.
“He said I was fine.”
“That’s all?”
“Oh, and I should check my blood sugar.”
“That’s all?”
“And he prescribed medication… he wants me pricking my finger every day.”
“Then you’re not fine,” she insisted.

(Ed. Note: Love her I do, but did she ever go through medical school at Fort Sam Houston?).

Still, buy the machine I did, and slash my finger I did. Once.

(Ed. Note 2: I’d have done it more often but operate it I couldn’t. Twice I returned to Giant Eagle — once with Carrie. Each time the pharmacists’ manipulations were studied and each time, within 24 hours, we couldn’t get it done). Eerily similar, it was, to my periodic attempts at understanding what the hell Stacy does for a living.

Time passed. In the ensuing months I gained a beautiful granddaughter, a wondrous wife, and clearly more weight. Recurring pain in my arms, however, had been a cause for concern.

“How’ve you been?” asked my doc at the summer’s conclusion.
“OK”, I responded, “Except—

I was just beginning what I thought would be a short narrative of minor ailments when he cut me off!

“Have you been taking your sugar?”
“Not in a while.”

He paused, staring with a soft venom displayed by my mother prior to her oft-stated mantra “Bruce, “When are you going to grow up?”…

“We’re going to measure your sugar,” he declared, pivoting out as he spoke.

I sat there, alone and not liking it. Some nurse entered, pricked my finger and left. I sat alone. Again.

Minutes later the door reopening, in barged this formerly gentle, not-quite-middle aged urbane physician — like a Jewish Ralph Kramden —

“375!” he exclaimed. “Do you want your body parts to fall off?”

(Ed. Note 3: An obvious retort to his rhetorical question might have been reference to my recent marriage and need for body parts.  My sense was, alas, this wasn’t the time).

“I’m sending you to a dietician,” he blurted. “You need to deal with this”.

(Ed. Note 4: He mentioned the body parts again. Did he think I had a problem with my ears?).

I’d heard him. Every word. My focus, however, was on the dietician thing.  And nothing in his counsel, by the way, felt warm and fuzzy.

Where was his small talk? Where was his kibbitz… warmth?

“They’ll give you the number to call,” he said. “Get it done, and I’ll see in you six weeks.”

I waited for his smile to return.  It didn’t.  To bring home his point — perhaps to underscore concern — he just bolted. Walked out. Gone.

The room’s silence was deafening as I sat there alone. In the still it was my father’s voice I heard and his face I pictured in a so familiar scene.

We were sitting playing cards, head-to-head:

“Gin”, he announced. (How often would I then stare at my cards, not quite comprehending how he beat my good hand?).                        “You can look at them all night,” he would say, “But they’re not going to change.” (So I’d start counting).

My father was as right then as the doctor was as I sat in his office.  It was time, I knew, to read the cards.

I called the dietician the very next day.

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