Well, late yesterday afternoon, I took the big step into becoming a true senior citizen. Now, it’s not that I dislike the title, or that now I have to find myself to a rocking chair and a crocheted shawl over my shoulders, destined to sip tea and have ginger snaps soften up – it’s just that I have way too much to do, and when in the past, I recall thinking of “those old folks,” now that I am one, I heartily repent for my earlier way-too-casual judgments.
Still, I do guess I am getting older, because on January 1, I begin the new and exciting world of Medicare. Yesterday I actually received my card in the mail – actually, it’s a pretty plain piece of heavy stock paper that looks very similar to the social security id card I got when I turned 16. When I turned 10 as an Air Force dependent, and got my own ID card – now that was a cool looking card, and actually gave me access to places I could go – by myself. Just flash the card, and the doors swung open wide. It was a card with power, to be sure.
The Medicare card – not so much. At least that’s what I thought. However, I spent about an hour or so with some nice lady from somewhere back east, and she walked me through the signup for the absolute bestest, most wonderful health plan I’ve ever been part of as an adult. It almost makes you want to get sick, just to be able to whip that card out and have everything free come pouring in. I do have to wait until January, however – my current health care, which is still pretty good, costs me over $1100/month, since I am no long actively appointed as a UM pastor. Too young, you know – and so we are paying through the nose at least for a couple more months.
Well, even if all that comes to pass in January, I still have some clinic checkup visits to make this year. This Friday, I get to break in a new cardiologist up in Grand Forks, and then at the end of November, I get to break in a new primary care provider here in town. For some reason, after medical folks meet with me for a few times, they mysteriously disappear into the mist, and I’m forced to start all over again. Now, I’m not sure if I have mentioned before how much I hate, loathe, and despise having to actually ever go to the doctor, and especially so when it means I have to completely reintroduce all the “stuff” of my life, and go through their fiendish schemes of trying to explore and try all sorts of new and different tests and procedures. You see, even as a senior citizen, in my mind I have pretty well used up all the “slots” that exist in terms of medical stuff I have to, or want to do. It’s kind of like when you take your car in for the periodic oil change and tire rotation, and the service rep starts to talk about finding a rare, almost unheard of crack in both your water pump and your fuel pumps, and some rattling in the engine mounts, and for some reason, you have liquid in places where the liquid should not be, probably as a result of Covid in the engine… Just a few minutes before, you had blissfully been driving your car all over, recognizing the “service soon” light, and making plans, and now they are talking about major operations. Can’t we just go back to the oil change?
The good news, of course, is that 2021, with all the other mess going on, has somehow brought about what appears to be a healthier me. Since January, I have lost about 30 pounds, and my blood sugar is down to normal, and my blood pressure runs low normal – a good 50 points or more down from a more troubling time. So, in one sense, I am looking forward to going to the doctor, just to show off for a little bit…
That means, of course, that in preparation for the visits, the powers that be have decided that they need to peer into my blood, just to see if there is something new they could find. It kind of reminds me of the scene from Robin Hood, with Kevin Kostner, when the old witch pours some blood into a shallow bowl, throws some chicken bones in and stirs it all around with her long-clawed fingers. Suitably gross for the movie, but since I’ve never had a tour of a clinic lab, how am I to believe it’s something different?
Whatever the reason, I guess I needed to give blood today, or at least, have it taken from me. One of the things the lab people enjoy when I come to visit is that apparently I have “great veins.” When they wrap their little tourniquet around my arm, the veins pop out like they are jumping out of a surprise birthday cake. More than one lab worker has remarked over the years that they could take the blood with their eyes closed, they were so good. Each time that was mentioned, I replied that that would be an experiment that I really didn’t want to try at 7:15 in the morning – with MY veins, thank you!
So, this morning the lab fellow wrapped, stabbed, and then filled about 150 vials full of my life’s essence. Not sure what they planned to do with it all, but it being only five days from Halloween, I surmised it had to do with a vampire, or the building of a new monster by Dr. Frankenstein. Well, the blood was taken and gone, and I certainly didn’t need it back, so I thought I was pretty well done.
Oh no – not quite. To cap off the morning’s festivities, after my right elbow and arm were wrapped up in a pressure bandage, the lab worker then handed me a small plastic cup. “Go the bathroom over there,” he said, “and fill this up.”
I was transported back in time to 1979, when a group of us in seminary all had to go and have brief physicals at the University clinic, I guess to prove that as we were entering the ministry, we weren’t carrying with us any untoward infections or diseases. That’s fine – another one of those “check under the hood, change the oil” kind of visits. Except – the nurse that was taking the labs for us had an odd procedure. She would stab each of us in turn with a small blade in our middle finger, draw out blood, and then hand us a cotton ball to try to stop the bleeding…and a small plastic cup. “We need a urine sample.” That was fine and all, except she didn’t really understand male anatomy, and how we go to the bathroom. Each one of us looked at her, looked at the cup, looked back at her, and then with our heads drooped down, went into the little bathroom to do what we needed to do. Any man will tell you that you need two hands for that procedure, especially since you have to hold the cup in one hand…
Well, I won’t go in to any more detail, except to say that more than a few of the guys ended up with sort of wet pants by the time they were done…
My blood was taken out of the inside of the elbow, but the bandage made it kind of hard to bend my arm. We will just say it was an interesting way to start the day, and I’m glad it’s a rare and occasional task.
Now, my morning, I guess is to be spent waiting for them to post the test results on the clinic restricted web site. It’s kind of strange way to spend the morning, but I do hope I passed, and hopefully did so with honors!
I am glad that we are no longer living in the age where we have to swallow the eye of newt, or have leeches attached to us. I wouldn’t, however, turn down the ol’ Star Trek medical tricorder that could just scan a person in sick bay, and tell Dr. McCoy exactly what was wrong. Until then, I guess we are committed to a stab and a cup, and hopefully nothing worse than that…
I do hope you are healthy, and that your days can be given over to other than this business. Still, whatever you have to do, do so knowing that your prayer can certainly be for God to direct and inspire who medically care for you. We are all in this together, right?
Word for the day: hector. Pronounced HECK-tur. Today’s word is Greek in origin, and became a verb that arose out of a proper noun, and then was corrupted. Hector, as you will recall, was the eldest son of King Priam of Troy, a brave, nearly ideal son to have, who among other things became the one who encouraged the Trojans to fight against the Greeks, until Achilles killed him. The original Greek, hector, meant “to hold fast.”
In London in the 1600s, gangs roamed the streets who called themselves “Hectors.” They saw themselves as young aristocrats, but in truth they were noisy, belligerent, blustery thugs. Their actions become more than their titles, and so “hectoring” became that negative term.
But wait, what about “heckle?” The word is akin to hectoring, but over the course of years, it was more focused on being a persistent and annoying interruption, especially interrupting a public speaker. It’s a long ways from the encouraging, brave figure of Hector, isn’t it?
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.