The other day I was driving down Baltimore Pike, which is this big road that, ostensibly, used to go to Baltimore – maybe it still does although Lord that would take a long time – now, however, it’s just strip mall and stop light after strip mall and stop light and I freaked right the hell out.
I was convinced that I was going to have a stroke and I got all sweaty and tearful and called my doctor and in a very untypically flustered voice asked if he could call me back and the receptionist heard it, you know, IT, in my voice and said, “Honey, can you just come on in right now?” So I did.
A week earlier I’d gone in because I’m having this weird reflux-y weirdness feeling that is annoying me to no end and lo and behold my blood pressure was sky high. And it had been two weeks before at a different doctor’s appointment, too. Now that all my doctors are connected through their computer network they can all read each other’s notes and, lookee here! What’s this? So I had to keep taking my blood pressure in the back of the Rite Aid for a month and then report back. Just a few times a week. That’s all.
But it’s me, so I was practically living in that Rite Aid. And I was attributing the ever escalating readings to the fact that my kids were running around the place like maniacs shrieking from the bowels of aisle 6, “MOM! Can I get gum?!!!” “MOM! I wanna pet rock!! Can I have a pet rock!!!???” Jesus EFF. Who wouldn’t have the blood pressure of a hummingbird who dines exclusively at Chez Salt Lick?
Anyway. Driving down Hell’s Own Highway, stuck in traffic (so soothing), loving the feeling of bile and acid rising in my chest, and feeling my pulse throbbing in my fingertips and temples, I looked down to find my wedding ring cutting a red line into my swollen fingers. Nice. Water retention. Awesome. Sexxxaayyy. WTF?? Waaaaiiitttt a minute. Also. I’ve had a headache for a week. Crizzzap. Hence the flustery teary lame-o helpless phone call to the doctor.
I told him I thought I was going to have a stroke and bawled like a baby, sitting there on the crinkly paper. A big ugly snotty cry. He just kind of looked at me for a while, then told me I wasn’t going to have a stroke. And then said, “What’s really going on here? What are you afraid of? And what else happened?”
The sound of the other shoe dropping. Or, more accurately, the big steel toed boot of fate dropping. Right after it kicked me in the teeth and possibly also the ass.
“My kids aren’t going to believe in Santa much longer and Christmas was really nice but now it’s over and I didn’t have as much energy for the holidays as I usually do and my house is a mess and really I think what I’m mostly really upset about really to tell you the truth really, is, ok, probably that I’m old. I’m having all these health things going on that I have no control over and even when I’m doing all the right stuff I’m supposed to do I can’t fix them and make it right. My eyes are getting worse and my gums are bleeding and my blood pressure is high and I get these stupid headaches and I hate the medicine I have to take and I have reflux for God’s sakes and my feet hurt and, and, and…
my friend has a huge mass on her lung and they don’t know what it is.”
Remember when the news that someone we knew had a major health problem was a rarity, something so unusual that it seemed removed and distant from our own realities?
I couldn’t help myself. I started playing Angry Birds, and now I can’t stop. Some days I can’t shake the feeling that I am just a pig in a helmet. And you are, too. I guess that makes it better, that we are pigs in helmets together, but still, we are only protected by glass and wood and if we are lucky, the occasional piece of concrete.
My friend is going to be OK. And though my self-indulgent Baltimore Pike Freak Out doesn’t even merit comparison to her situation (which, by the way, she handled with significantly more dignity than I handled an imaginary one brought on by the sight of a too-tight gold band), I will, too.
I don’t think I’m quite mature enough to handle this aging business. I lack the appropriate experience and gravitas, and it’s not really suited to my control-freak temperament. But, you know what they say…beats the alternative.