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Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Geezer Factor

I sat in the reception area, famished. It was past lunchtime and I was waiting for my doctor. All the seats were full of older people and their helpers. I jiggled my foot, thinking about the pile of work waiting for me, back at my desk. I was annoyed, because the others were retired, and an hour for them was different from an hour for me. After much foot jiggling and sighing, I was taken to an exam room.

‘We have so many elderly patients’, the receptionist said, explaining the delay. ‘They need a lot of time getting in and out of their wheelchairs.’ Then she left me alone with a paper gown and the wall full of diplomas.

I undressed and put on the gown. An hour later than scheduled, my stomach was presented for viewing.

Gingerly, the sticky bandages were peeled away from my scabs and stitches. I focused on the wall of merit in the meantime. All the hurdles my doctor had jumped were there: college diploma (Harvard), med school diploma (Columbia), medical exam, surgeon’s exam, and some others. Each piece of paper hung in a tidy black frame.

‘You’re a tough one’, he said. ‘Your gallbladder was enormous,’ cupping his hands to the size of a grapefruit.

Then he told me that I was free to bike, run, swim and take baths. I could eat what I pleased. I was free to go.

And then my doctor made a gesture that startled me: he shook my hand. I was surprised by how warm his skin was, and how this gesture expressed so many things: ‘We made it’, and ‘I hope I don’t see you for a good long while’ and ‘You’re welcome.’