When physical degradation happens, I don’t get too upset. I have a mantra: work the problem. This helped me through a nosebleed crisis necessitating a trip to the emergency room. The setting implied a guaranteed ER nightmare except for the potential for glimpses of handsome policemen, firemen, and other men in uniform who occupy those places late at night. I don’t mean that weird-like. It’s just a matter of admiration and appreciation. In this case, it was also matter of distraction from blood.
I drove to the hospital emergency room where I bled on the reception desk and a clipboard of requisite paperwork. Apparently, I was not ER worthy. The receptionist instructed me to have a seat in the waiting room where I waited—bleeding and scaring small children. Finally, I worked the problem and drove myself home, called an ambulance, and was whisked into the depths of ER hell.
A doctor asked me if I’d had an accident. I said, “No. I picked my nose.” He and an intern stifled chuckles and knowingly looked at each other. I said, “W-h-a-t?” He responded, “You’re the first person with a nosebleed to admit to picking your nose.” I said, “I’m old. I have no dignity left. Why lie?”
He and the intern set to work as my mind wandered. Have I lost more blood than the pint I would have given if I donated some? If I ever have sex again, would the old fellow have a nosebleed? Does putting raisins in my coffee this morning instead of in my oatmeal mean I have Alzheimers? I didn’t share these thoughts since I had enough mental capacity to edit myself.
While the physician set up some intimidating equipment, the intern, who resembled Keith Urban, stood beside my bed, clipboard in hand, asking me medical history questions. I answered while struggling to breathe, swallow blood, and pinch my nose as per instructions. I responded to his questions about an ingrown toenail, the date of my tonsillectomy in 1968, and when I got my first period.
When Keith Urban asked when I had my last period, I lost my patience, which was never a redeeming quality anyway. I responded, “I’m sixty-seven years old.”
Still not getting it, he asked if I was menopausal. I wanted to ask, “What part of sixty-seven do you not understand?” I considered inquiring if he still had his baby teeth, but instead I said again, “I’m sixty-seven years old.” A slight smile crossed the lips of the doctor on the other side of the bed. I smiled back, both of us entertained by the innocence of the intern who looked like Keith Urban.
This distraction quickly faded and my eyes pleaded with the doctor. Please help me. My capacity to filter information waned. I told him and Keith Urban about an old dog named Lucy who was post menopausal and turned into a lesbian. I didn’t mean that weird-like. Well—maybe I did. In the interest of damage control, I complained that the perfume industry no longer manufactured Jungle Gardenia, and that finally free of the rigid requirements of corporate America, my retirement goal was to smoke pot and swear. I inquired of the doctor what it meant if my tooth paste wouldn’t foam.
As I lay there, a handsome uniformed cop in the hall caused me to contemplate my feet. Having left the house in a dither, I wore slippers. Actually, I was a bit of a mess all over—sloppy clothes, bloody hands, gravy on my shirt, and hair that resembled a cat toy. I mostly wished I’d put on nice shoes, though. My slippers looked like something an old woman would wear, one who was w-a-y past menopause.
For some reason (perhaps it was the resident resembling Keith Urban or the handsome policeman), it occurred to me that I no longer knew what I looked like naked. That was undoubtedly a good thing, but it made me feel incredibly old. When I run into old friends I haven’t seen in a long time, my first thought is, “Oh, they’re still alive.” So to redeem my disposition, I reminded myself that if you live long enough, you get to be cute again. I wondered if Keith Urban. . .never mind. That would be weird-like.
On that slippery slope, I worked the problem and forced myself to focus on coping. I nestled into the bed and contemplated what color to paint my bedroom. I settled on subtle gray stripes accented with purple accessories and shiny glass objects. I couldn’t wait to get to Home Depot and Z-Gallery.
The doctor instructed me to relax as he stuck a long instrument resembling a cattle prod up my nose as Keith Urban, looking good, observed. I took a deep breath and said to myself, Work the problem, Nik. Work the problem, as I pondered how soon after getting up in the morning was it okay to take a nap.