Watch Out for a Retired Man With Time on His Hands
Since my husband retired, he has built a new deck, started a website, sold stuff on Craigslist, painted three walls, and wrangled with insurance companies, service providers and businesses to lower our bills and send us refunds.
I approve and support these activities. They are productive, lucrative, and more importantly, they don’t involve me.
But that all changed yesterday. “Can you be home between 2 and 6?” He asked. “We can get a hundred dollar gift certificate if you agree to be here.”
“Okay,” I said, immediately on my guard. “What are we doing to get $100?”
“The health insurance company is sending a health care professional here to give us a physical.”
But I don’t do Physicals!
I need to interject something at this point. I steer as clear of doctors as I possibly can. I know, I know. Don’t lecture me! We are supposed to get our physicals every year to make sure we don’t have a variety of insidious diseases that crop up with horrific regularity in people our ages.
And that’s precisely why I don’t go. I don’t want to know about any insidious diseases for which I have no symptoms. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.
If it’s any consolation, I do get a flu shot every year and I had a colonoscopy two years ago. I also reluctantly went for a physical last July because my husband said something abour Medicare points and lower insurance premiums.
I pointed this out to him. “I just had a physical.”
“Doesn’t matter,” he said. “We still get the $100 if you agree.”
I had no good reason not to agree. I wasn’t going anywhere, since who goes anywhere these days, when we are deluged with news of death by Covid? And at least I didn’t have to go to a doctor’s office.
How bad could it be?
When home health nurses come to see my mother, who lives with us and is 101, they take her temperature, blood pressure, get her to walk up and down the hall and talk to her like she is the sweetest lady in the world, which she is not. So I envisioned a similar scenario.
I was wrong. Our unsmiling Nurse Ratched arrived cloaked in PPO from top to bottom, her face nearly invisible behind the masks and shield, which was filmed over with raindrops.
“Hello!” I smiled cheerily behind my own mask. “Rainy day for you to be out and about.”
But she wasn’t into small talk and pleasantries. She lugged in a bag of supplies and set up shop in our living room.
“We have to do the physicals separately,” she said as my husband and I settled onto the couch and faced her from an appropriate, socially-distanced six feet.
I decided to hang around while my husband had his physical, so I would know what to expect. But the first thing she said sent me into a panic. She told him to remember three words and draw a clock face.
I’ve read enough about dementia to know that if you can’t draw a clock face, you’re doomed. But I’m so used to looking at my Fitbit to see what time it is that I hardly remember what a clock looks like. And what if I panicked to the point that I couldn’t remember my three words? That can happen to people with ADHD.
What if she went even further, and asked me to say the alphabet without singing it? I thought, my imagination running wild. I wasn’t sure I could.
My husband didn’t seem worried. He drew the clock face and recited his three words with confidence. Meanwhile, I slipped from the room and went to find a clock.
When I got back, he had his feet propped up with some kind of toe clamp affixed to his big toe. “This is to test your circulation,” the nurse said.
My husband seemed pleased with the entire process. His blood pressure was low, his heart rate was good, he spread his prescription medicines on the table for her to examine, and he took his plastic cup off to the bathroom to pee. But when he got back, she told him his circulation was subpar in one leg. “Just a little below average,” she said. “Nothing to worry about.”
Now it was my turn. Please don’t ask me to say the alphabet backwards, I prayed silently. My husband didn’t want to stick around anymore, so he wandered off to a different part of the house.
I was a bundle of nerves.
“Your three words are book, computer, and television,” she said.
Sigh of relief. A cinch! I’m always sitting in front of the TV with my computer in my lap and a book at my side, so I could remember those three. I also drew the clockface with no problem, and she didn’t ask me to recite the alphabet backwards or without singing it. This was going to be easy.
After the blood pressure check, the toe clamp, and peeing in the cup, I was done. The nurse checked all the boxes on my health results. I walked her to the door, said goodbye, then hurried to the kitchen, because I was starving.
“We can get our $100 now!” I said, elated that no insidious diseases had been discovered in the process of earning my gift certificate. But my husband didn’t look so happy. He was staring at the piece of paper with my health results.
“How could you possibly have better circulation than me?” He said.
“Yep. Mine was normal, and yours was a little subpar in one leg, wasn’t it?”
“That circulation test is worthless. Your feet and hands are always cold. Even your butt is cold.”
I placed an ice cold hand on his neck and gave him a kiss. “We get a hundred dollars,” I reminded him.
But he didn’t seem pleased.