I'm writing a new country song, so if you steal it, you have to credit me. It's called, "I'm taking the mirrors out of my house, 'Cause I can't stand to see a grown man cry." For the past several years, I've become accustomed to looking in the mirror and seeing my father's face, but lately I look and see someone else's Dad; one of those old guys in the health club at the Jewish Community Center who wanders around in a towel searching for his locker. It began in December when my drivers' license expired on my 60th birthday and I was required to have a new photo taken. Over the years, my photo IDs have looked like a rogues' gallery of pirates and smugglers, but this time I looked like a demented department store Santa in a fright wig, called into the manager's office for psycholological evaluation. I asked Melody why my beard looked so white and bushy in the photo when I had just trimmed it, and she assured me it was because my big smile accentuated the beginnings of what the pro wrasslers used to call a "turkey neck." In forty years, I've morphed from young Ben Franklin into sinister Sinter Klaus.
When Melody and I run into an old friend we haven't seen in a while, our response is usually the same; "Can you believe how old he looks?" quickly followed by, "Do we look that old?" After we reassure ourselves that our zaniness keeps us cute, we forget it, until I notice that the bags under my eyes have turned into two-suiters and gravity has taken such a toll on my face, I've decided to walk on my hands for the next twenty years. When I glance in a mirror, for an instant I wonder how the basset hound got into our house. Of course, the problems with internal plumbing started years ago. My friends and I used to get together and talk about politics, women, and sports. Now we discuss our prostates. It seems a lifetime ago since I was a teenager, but wasn't I just 35 and moving to Nashville? I used to thrive on steak and eggs at three in the morning, and now, in the past five years alone, I've helped build a new wing on my Gastroenterologist's clinic, and the sonuvabitch won't even name it after me.
Before turning sixty, I had every bodily orifice probed, prodded, or peered into, and been told I had a floppy colon, IBS, a spastic colon, internal hemmorhoids, enflamed intestines, and an ulcer. These are usually considered the easily rectified problems of aging, unless you don't have health insurance, and then you have to pick and choose which among your orifices you wish to treat. I used to have group insurance with the National Council of Jewish Women, but the premiums grew so dear, the underwriter dropped the entire organization, sending a bunch of old ladies, and me, into a frenzy. I have been paying retail for my medical expenses ever since 1991, because I made the terrible mistake of having anti-depressants prescribed by a psychiatrist.
I feel like an anti-depressant pioneer, and I also believe they saved my life. I took one of the first tricyclic medications in 1987, under a doctor's care, who carefully monitored my blood for the proper levels. When I returned to Memphis, I was on my own. I found a doctor to prescribe the medication, but was required to make periodic office visits to show I could still speak in sentences, even though they knew of my insurance woes. Then I got a notice in the mail that said a new office policy required them to charge a fee for refilling prescriptions. It reminded me of what Tony Soprano's mother said in Season One; "Psychiatry is a racket for the Jews." My internist suggested that if I transferred all my records to his office, he could prescribe and I would be able to procure insurance. Who says therapy doesn't work? I felt very empowered when I fired my psychiatrist, but when I applied for insurance, it was the same answer; pre-existing conditions, and no one, and I mean no one, would cover me. My new plan was to wash my hands alot and stay off of high ledges until I was 65. But something happened.
Every young boy claimed the ability to write his name in the snow, but I used to do it in bold, cursive letters and my name is Randolph. Now, as they derisively say in the South, I was "squattin' to pee," and my wife stopped worrying about the toilet seat being up. A bad PSA level caused me to see a specialist who found the cause to be a prostate the size of a ripe kiwi. It was treatable with medication, but the side-effects from the sinus remedy I was using contributed to the bladder restriction. I was given Flomax for that, but the doctor told me I had a choice between peeing and breathing; so I breathed on MWF, peed on TTS, and Sunday I reloaded. He substituted prescription Flonase for my over-the-counter sinus medicine, until one day I confused the Flomax with the Flonase, took out a handkerchief, and inadvertently blew my penis. The problem got worse until I visited a reknowned urologist who said my prostate had indeed shrunk, but the medication had also restricted my urethra and it needed to be widened.
When the color ran from my face, the doctor told me it was an out-patient procedure; all they had to do was arrange an operating room and an anestheologist to put me out, and not only would I not feel a thing, I could go home the same day. When I said I had no health insurance, he said, "Oh." The doctor said he could do a discounted procedure in the office with local anesthetic and get the same result, and nothing I treasured would be punctured, merely inserted. I disrobed and a paper sheet was placed in my lap when, to my alarm, the doctor's young and homely female assistant came in with a needle. She tore a hole in the paper sheet, as if that would be less humiliating, and exposed me like a spring toadstool, but her aim was bad. With terror, I watched the whole tableau turn into the shower scene from "Psycho," and was prepared to bolt when the drug finally took effect, but because I lacked coverage, the doctor didn't use a surgical tool, but widened my urethra with a rusty old shovel. Then he had the temerity to suggest that I have more sex as recovery therapy, which pleased my wife, but was the equivalent of telling a man just out of electro-shock therapy that he's appearing on Jeopardy! next week. Intimacy sounded good, but the tension had weakened my lower spine and I wasn't sure if my back would peter out, or vice versa. (Thanks for the joke, Dad).
I walked around in a daze muttering, "The horror," for a month. I would have sued the doctor for physical and emotional distress, but he was doing me a favor. Things have returned to relative normalcy now, but every once in awhile, I'll pee a little gravel. On the positive side, since I'm a late bloomer in nearly everything in life: college, marriage, career; post-sixty looks bright. I've nearly reached emotional maturity and feel at the peak of my mental abilities. So I guess I'd better start writing faster. All in all, turning sixty beats the alternative, but unless a Democrat is elected and does some fast work on health care, Melody and I will be supplementing our income with a new line of bumper stickers for sexagenarians and new grandparents, saying; "I'm spending my children's college tuition," "Sixty is the new sixty," and, "Ask ME about my colonoscopy."