staying free

Staying Free

My V.A. doctor isn’t a doctor, he’s a physician’s assistant. He’s also an ex-Green Beret and a martial arts expert. I see him once a year on the average. He takes my blood pressure, listens to my heart, draws a little blood and updates my prescription drugs, and then we sit around shooting the shit for a half hour or so.

Now and then he goes off on a combat mission in one of our ongoing little wars. The last time I went in he was off on such a mission, and a real doctor looked at me, gave me the full treatment, except I declined to have him stick his gloved finger up my ass.

“Don’t you want to know if your prostate is swollen?” he asked. “Don’t you want to know if you have colon polyps that might be cancerous?”

“Not really,” I said, and he gave me a disgusted look. Then he began twisting my arms this way and that and I winced in pain.

“Ah-ha!” he said. “What hurts? Arms? Shoulders?”

“Arms, shoulders, neck—you name it,” I said.

Have you had x-rays? A CAT scan? Do you have arthritis?”

“I’m a window cleaner,” I said. “I’m 76 years old, for Christ’s sake.”

“Repetitive motion,” he concluded. “You should stop cleaning windows. Why aren’t you retired?” He said this last like an accusation.

“Because I’d be on the street,” I said.

“What about social security?” he said.

“It doesn’t cover the mortgage,” I said.

“Well, you need to see a specialist,” he said. “Why do you come here if you won’t let us help you?”

“To get my meds,” I said.

“So you’re taking advantage of the V.A. to get your meds,” he said.

“I’m leaving,” I said, and I did.

I’ll be glad when my P.A. gets back from patching up sucking chest wounds in a combat zone. I’ll tell him about my encounter with this doctor and we’ll have a good laugh. Then we’ll talk books. Did I mention that he’s read just about everything worth reading?

“Keep cleaning windows and eat the pain,” he told me the last time I saw him. “It’ll keep you free.” He’s my kind of doctor.

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