I went to the doctor.

Annual exam. Everything’s pretty good — especially for someone of my vintage, 1940.

Keep an eye on sugar intake. Fewer carbs. Keep exercising. Maybe we’ll tweak the thyroid meds at some point.

At the medical office, I am a wreck.

“Coward,” I tell the nice young woman taking temperature. “Been this way my whole life. Can’t shake it.”

“Oh,” she says. “My boyfriend’s the same. Relax. Everything will be fine.”

Blood pressure up a bit.

“Always,” I say to the assistant. She is in a blue uniform. “White-coat syndrome,” I announce, anyway.

Sometimes I impose my Only Child Theory on medical personnel.

You know: that I got too much attention from my parents, dear Winnie and Fred, leading me to believe I was special, irreplaceable, and as a result have an exaggerated sense of importance that somehow makes me acutely sensitive to issues pertaining to, er, extinction.

Wouldn’t it be terrible, in other words, if I weren’t around?

Really, what would the world do minus me?

How would the center hold without another old guy in worn gray corduroys and a faded Mets cap making sure his change at the supermarket is correct to the penny? What a setback for humanity if, no longer among us, was one of the select few who remember that the flip side of the Mello-Kings 1957 doo-wop classic, “Tonite, Tonite” was “Do Baby Do?”

And if not me, who would be there to demand, in lonely voice, that double-parking outside Starbucks should draw jail time, or assert that bottled water makes no more sense than bottled air, or insist that men go back to tucking their shirts into pants and stop showing chest hair?

Told that merely entering a doctor’s office makes me feel intensely mortal and, accordingly, vaguely faint, and briefed at length on my Only Child Theory, health practitioners are inclined to sigh and say, “interesting,” and ask that I lay back for an EKG.

Once the doctor begins his examination, I calm down — a little. As he probes and prods and listens and looks (sometimes with a flashlight), I am relieved that he does not suddenly exclaim, “Holy cow!” and tell the nurse to quickly order a medevac helicopter.

I like my doc. Young guy, speaks quickly, energetic, kindhearted, reassuring.

We chat about COVID. What does he think about eating out? My wife and I are double-boosted and extra-careful.

“Sure, if you feel comfortable,” he says. “If not, wait a while.”

He says we shouldn’t worry too much. The vaccines are great. Little chance of disastrous outcome, even if infected. Nothing is 100%, though, he notes. Risk vs. reward.

And I know what is coming. As if noting that the sky is blue and birds fly south in winter, the doctor adds incidentally: “We all die of something.”

This was not exactly breaking news, believe me, but confirmation is always disquieting. Again, though, I rallied. Which is to say I remained in a conscious state.

“Let’s draw some blood,” the nice doctor says, hailing the medical assistant.

I immediately think: “Let’s not. Let’s, maybe, play a quick round of Scrabble or, I don’t know, review the underlying causes of World War I, or see who can recite the Ten Commandments, or — I’ve got it — take a little break and toss a Frisbee around the parking lot for a few minutes.”

But, no. Blood is drawn. Now begins the worst part — waiting for “results.”

Freed from the doctor’s office, I now am able to focus full attention on what an anonymous lab technician somewhere might turn up.

At home, I pace. I sleep poorly. The next day, I await word. On the second day, the doctor sends an email. I’m OK. There’s this, there’s that, but nothing to speak of. In relief, I exhale, hug my wife, take a nap.

I tell myself to not make such a fuss about visiting the doctor — embarrassing at this point in life.

I think of friends who have serious worries and confront illness bravely. Should it happen to me, I hope to manage a little of their gallantry and grit. That will be the time to prove I’m special, just like Winnie and Fred always hoped.


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