I am an American male. I gauge my general health with these five simple comparisons.
No. 1: My buddy Stan. He's dead.
No. 2: Anyone I've seen recently who was using an oxygen tank.
No. 3: Three guys I know who are drinking themselves to death.
No. 4: That guy I saw in Walmart last week who musta weighed 400 pounds.
No. 5: Anyone I ever knew who died younger than I am right now.
So, I'm fine.
My wife (standing by with the lettuce) insists I could do a little more to healthy up, and I do some things. I eat what she cooks, which includes a lot of vegetables, and she's convinced me that black coffee, grape soda and beer are not the only thirst quenchers. Water works, too.
In the first year of our marriage, she looked at me in horror and spoke.
"Do you know the only things you've had to drink today are three cups of coffee and two beers?" she said late one evening.
"Yeah," I said proudly. "I've cut way back on the beer this last year or so."
Not what she meant. Not what she meant at all.
I'm an American male. When I marry a woman, I expect her to take charge of my cholesterol.
But once a year, I take the weight off my wife and go to the doctor for a checkup.
I'll give you a piece of advice. If you can, get a doctor who comes from an Eastern European country, someplace where the men die in their 50s. She'll go easy on you in the matter of drinking and smoking.
Do not, whatever you do, get a California-tanned, American doctor whose skinny suit fits him like the skin fits the sausage. His teeth are better than yours. He went to a better college. His wife does yoga, and he's never been in a bar fight that had to be broken up by the police. He has a high-stress job, all right, but he'll never understand just how tired you really are. Also, his stress doesn't include making the rent this month. This doesn't mean Dr. White Teeth didn't have an impoverished childhood, but he thinks of it as something he overcame, not as something that's waiting for him at home.
To my doctor, I'm a man on the edge. Cholesterol? Blood pressure? High, but not very high. Vitamin D? Low, but not that low. Everything is just high enough or low enough that I can worry about it, but not high or low enough that medication does that much good.
I did the bloodwork part of the visit today. I'm not scared to give blood. When I was in graduate school, I sold blood for extra money. Needles don't scare me.
Later in the day, I received the results of my bloodwork in an email because about 15 years ago, doctors developed a real horror of speaking to patients. This is because the more they talk to patients, the fewer patients they can see in a day. They need to see a lot of patients because they all have huge student loan debt and because the cheap Mercedes is $70,000.
According to the email, I'm still a man on the edge, not sick at all, but harboring numerous tiny seeds of trouble. The insurance companies figure they're gonna milk this cow for a long time.
The men in my family don't make the nursing home. We're fine until our early 70s, and then we go into the hospital, we see the doctor twice and the priest once, and it's into the dirt up at Notre Dame Cemetery.
That's if you see a priest. They're running out of priests, so instead, you get some low-paygrade religious functionary with a bowl haircut and cheap shoes. Yeah. If you drive a car you bought used, you can be dying, and you still can't get anyone to talk to you. Even God is short-staffed.
After the bloodwork, I stopped for a blueberry muffin, and then I went to my job. It's the only place where anyone still wants to see me face-to-face.
To find out more about Marc Munroe Dion, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com. Dion's latest book, a collection of his best columns, is called "Devil's Elbow: Dancing in the Ashes of America." It is available in paperback from Amazon.com, and for Nook, Kindle, and iBooks.