Grief, I keep reminding myself, involves a certain amount of anxiety. In fact, pervasive and ongoing anxiety. Who says? Mourning and Mitzvah says, and the book is my only available resource. Doubtless there are other books, but who’s got the time? Besides, I like this one. A local rabbi gave it to me.
Anyway, anxiety or not, I have had some interesting countervailing experiences. Medical ones, as a matter of fact. All of which served to remind me that I am relatively healthy, neuromuscular limitations notwithstanding. Not that I’m not with standing these days, having embarked on a serious standing program when I got my osteoporosis diagnosis. That’s the thing about being in a wheelchair. Not enough weight bearing, as they say. My response? I’m not going to stand for it. No, I am going to stand for it….
Anyway, Monday saw me reporting to Messers Kaiser for a couple of hours of pulmonary merrymaking. Probably at no time since my injury, half a century ago, has anyone bothered to investigate my breathing so thoroughly. So there I was, impelled by the pulmonary therapist to gulp, breathe, pant and expel air at varying rates and pressures. All of this measured and correlated and printed out to great effect. And what does it all mean at the end of the pulmonary day? That I am in relatively good nick. Decades of aerobic exercise haven’t hurt. And the future? And my medical future is what this test was all about, for it concerns me greatly. What further decline can I expect? What degree of helplessness? What is the projected rate of my downward spiral?
Well, the answer is that it’s hard to say. I have been doing all I can do for a long time. The pulmonary therapist did give me one simple exercise, and a small plastic device to go along with it. Basically I need to practice exhaling. Whatever.
The next day I was back at another reach of the Kaiser empire to get my skin checked. I got a little too much sun where I grew up, 20 miles west of Palm Springs. And now I am paying the dermatological price. Which, it also turns out, isn’t so horrendous. I had some areas of faulty skin. So a Kaiser nurse did what any sensible person would do. She grabbed a spray canister of liquid nitrogen, or something, and went about a dermatological search-and-destroy mission across my face. The sprayed areas should blister and fall off. Not the entire face, of course. Come back in a year, she suggested. Fuck that, I responded. Six months. She agreed.
Which left me with plenty of time to wander into Optometry three floors down and get my eyes checked. And, dammit, the latter are also okay. In fact, in that odd reversal that summarizes aging vision, I am less nearsighted. Okay, I’m also more stigmatic. Anyway I had a delightful exchange with first the receptionist – who squeezed me in without an appointment. Then the optometrist, who turned out to be a native San Franciscan, Chinese-American. Then a team of opticians who ran about seizing glass frames off display stands so that I could try them on.
And what was the take away from all of this? That whatever my health, healthcare is just another form of care. And when people care, and I care back, splendid things can happen.
On Monday I told the pulmonary therapist – his name was Tam – that he was a bit of a maniac. On Tuesday I thanked the optometry guy for explaining things so well. And the opticians, well it was pretty obvious, but I thanked them anyway…for though I may have wandered into Kaiser’s Optometry department at a slow moment, no one was sitting around doing nothing. Incidentally, every single one of these helpful people was Asian. Predominantly Chinese, in origin. I hereby get down on my quadriplegic hands and knees and sing the praises of immigration. Just FYI.