Watching the movie of your life in the doctor’s office

I had a bit of a scare.  Something similar to a symptom of something bad.  I didn’t freak; I took care of business. But I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t consider all the scenarios, including the dreaded one that starts with a close-up of a young kid in bed, eyes wide open staring at the future, as the rain pelts the window and lighting flashes a gash through the dark clouds as thunder booms.

A familiar four star melodrama for sure.  The triumphs and heartbreaks of the yearning child, the angst-driven teenager, the ambitious young social climber turned self-doubting middle-aged suburbanite… but wait, that wasn’t the movie that I watched whirl by!

I saw an older man.  He was sitting quietly at the head of a table, his connection to the family members that surrounded him revealed in subtle glances, pride and great pleasure with the animated tween-ager who lit up the room, deep enduring love for the woman with whom he shared his life; shifting, barely perceptible squints and pursing lips reflecting amusement, bemusement, resignation, acceptance and mild dismay as the conversation shifted among his daughters and sons-in-law.   Despite the occasional strobe of consternation, this was a contented man.  There was kindness in his eyes.  I saw them as tired eyes; surely, he had seen an ocean of pain with waves of pleasure amid the roiling turmoil.

The magazines are outdated in the doctor’s office.  There is seemingly mandated waiting time as the scheduled appointment gives way to the pressure of modern medicine.  This is where I stream the comedy-drama, skipping to the final episodes.  (I am bored with the earlier chapters, caring less and less with events of the past).

The plots of the final seasons have a pattern, the older man restructuring his life and giving it meaning.  He struggles along the way, finally admitting to what he no longer can do well, but taking pleasure in what a mellowed outlook now allows him to do better.  He resists the realities of aging but ultimately accepts the debilitating changes and deals with them in creative ways.  He is more compassionate; the increasing frequency of funerals and sudden loss having magnified his surprise at defying the mortality table and his capacity to see the miracles of dawn and dusk.

Even as the plot turns predictably sad, he stays active, engrossed and fulfilled by his work having learned to let go of outcome and to embrace the journey.  He meditates daily, the quiet time providing a reservoir of serenity to draw upon throughout the day. He is not indifferent to the troubles of his family and friends but now there are boundaries in place that serve to respect rather than reprove their abilities to overcome the difficulties.

“Howard?” The nurse calls my name.  The picture on the back of my eyelid’s fades.  I am in the here and now. 

I’m optimistic about the diagnosis.  I’m prepared should it be otherwise.  

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