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A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker


The idea for having a thorough physical was my doctor’s.

“At your age,” he said in a voice that has only recently completed its adolescent change, “you should be checked out head to toe at least once a year.”

I’m OK with the “head” part and the “toe” part.  It’s the stuff in between that scares me.

Unfortunately, he said this within earshot of my wife, Anita.

“He’s right,” she said.  “At your age, you can’t be too careful.”

Why is it that the people who start sentences with the words “at your age” have never BEEN my age?  How do they know what my age feels like?  They don’t even remember disco, for Pete’s sake.  They think of Vietnam in the same way that I think about the Civil War.  They remember Ronald Reagan as a politician, not as the guy who did commercials for “20-mule team Borax” on “Death Valley Days.”  And they don’t get a lump in their throat every time they think of Clarabelle the Clown looking at the camera and saying – sniff! – “Goodbye, kids!”

What?  You don’t have the slightest idea who Clarabelle the Clown is?  Then you don’t know what it’s like to be my age, either.

At my age I should be independently wealthy.  At my age I should be a venerable journalist spouting sage opinions and advice on Sunday morning talk shows, for which networks would pay me princely sums.  At my age I should be taking cruises and tracking my investment portfolio and driving 45 miles per hour in the fast lane on the freeway.  At my age I shouldn’t be a Scoutmaster.  At my age I should be spending more time working on my golf score and less time . . . you know . . . working.

I don’t see anyone lining up to make all this stuff happen for me at my age.  So why is everyone so anxious to make me suffer through an annual physical at my age?

I tried to make these points to Anita, but she just rolled her eyes.

“Don’t even start with me,” she said.  “Until they figure out a way to give mammograms to men, you don’t have any reason to complain.”

So I went dutifully to my annual physical, and I got through it OK – for a man my age.  I found out that my bad cholesterol is good and my good cholesterol is bad – and I didn’t even know that they had chosen up sides.  I found out that I have these things called triglycerides, which sounds like a sporty ATV for zooming around in the wilderness but is really just one more thing God put into my body to make me feel guilty about eating hamburgers and not exercising.

Then my doctor started talking like the kid at Jiffy Lube: “Well, its just about time for your 50-year-old colonoscopy.  We’ll want to get in there and check you out real good.  And then we’ll want to do a 50-year-old EKG, a 50-year-old ECG and a 50-year-old TRU.  And what about that stomach surgery you had when you were 19?  You’ve got about 30 years on that – we might want to do a 30-year upper GI to take a look at that, too.”

It’s like my odometer is about to roll over, and every medical acronym in town wants a piece of me.

At one point in the exam it occurred to me that, given current media sensitivities, I could probably have my doctor arrested as a war criminal.  Talk about atrocities!  But then I decided to just keep hoping and praying that sometime within the next 20 or 30 years they find a way to do male mammography, and that young whippersnapper doctors urge men over 40 to get one every year.  No matter what my EKG, ECG and TRU say at the time, I promise to rise from my bed in the nursing home to make sure that my doctor gets what he has coming to him.

Especially at his age.

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— © Joseph Walker

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"How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through www.Amazon.com.