The exam room was smaller than most, no frills, stark white like every other doctor’s office I’d ever been in – the chair was a classic stackable with no arms. I imagined a long uncomfortable wait as the friendly masked doctor’s assistant waltzed cheerily out of the room after taking my vital signs, leaving me with the sunny parting words: the doctor will be right in. I was dubious, of course, but my first visit to this gastroenterology practice deserved an open mind.
To my surprise the door opened almost as soon as she closed it, and a young masked doctor entered pushing a computer sitting on a tall desktop that rolled. He squeezed his equipment into the tiny room, rolled to a stop in front of me and closed the door.
He had the same positive energy his assistant had as we began to discuss my health concerns which were, in my mind at least, unremarkable. He tapped computer keys as we talked for a few minutes. During a lull in the conversation I asked him how long he had been a practicing physician.
“Twenty years,” he replied.
“Gosh,” I said. “You look very young in that mask. Plus you’re so cheerful while we’re talking about bowel movements which I assume must be the topic of most of your patient interviews. I admire your attitude.”
He seemed pleased about the compliment, murmuring a thank you. Then he motioned to an exam table opposite my chair and asked me if I thought I could get on it. I assured him I could. I was, however, grateful for the two steps at the bottom of the table and began my climb which must have taken longer than I imagined because he chose those moments to ask me if I was retired, what I had done, what I was doing now. I answered in halting sentences that didn’t sound like me at all, I thought, but I was focused on the ascent to the exam table which I finally accomplished.
As I was settling in a prone position, the young doctor said, “Well, you’ve had a good ride.”
Whaaaaat did I just hear? Did he mean the Herculean task of getting on his exam table or the equally esoteric Herculean task of living a life that will reach 75 years in a month?
“Yes,” the young doctor continued as he checked my heart and lungs, “I hope when I’m 74 I can say the same thing. Well, I’ve had a good ride.”
I concentrated on breathing in and out.
As we concluded our visit, the good doctor said that I was a candidate for a colonoscopy, a procedure I’d had many moons ago but remembered as if it were yesterday. The preparation was actually more memorable than the procedure, I recalled.
“Has the preparation been updated in the last ten years?” I asked.
“Oh yes indeed. I will prescribe the newest and safest preparation covered by Medicare. It’s called Plenvu – I’ll send the prescription to your pharmacy and see you in April. Hopefully everything will turn out to be fine, you can celebrate your 75th birthday, or if by chance we find problems, well we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. So nice to meet you.”
Pretty was waiting for me when I came out. When I told her what the doctor said about my “good ride,” she rolled her eyes. That’s Pretty for you – she never tries to rain on a parade. I believe her comment was “whatever.”
For some reason, the young doctor’s words stuck with me. I have had quite the ride. I wrote an epilogue to my second memoir Not Quite the Same that still represents.
“No matter where I rode to, that’s where I was. The ride isn’t over for me, but it’s slowing down. Choices. Trade-offs. Chance. Timing. Priorities. Obsession. Conviction. Change. Challenges. Love. Sex. Ambition. Death. Loss. Grief. Joy. Pride. Exhilaration. The ride took me to all of these places in no apparent order and, often, more than one at the same time. What I found was that I was always there. Where am I now that I need me? I’m here, just as you are. Don’t wait for the ride – don’t hope for the ride. Saddle up now, and embrace the journey. Celebrate yourself for who you are this day. Along the way, remember to try an outrageous act or two. You may find that your world is not quite the same.”
Stay safe, stay sane, get vaccinated and stay tuned.