Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The View From Above

Every year, for a number of years, I received a letter about my body from a man who was neither a family member, nor an especially intimate friend. Invariably they started: “Dear Liam, thank you for your recent visit. I am happy to confirm that you are largely in a healthy condition.” The earliest of these letters was handwritten with a fountain pen, as if to confirm that, though not physically remarkable, I was nevertheless, in his eyes, a very special fellow.

The greetings and general summary thus dispatched, he would describe my physical condition meticulously. I was taller, by an inch, back then apparently. Perhaps I am not physical shriveling and merely relaxed now and less inclined to stretch to impress. On the other hand, I was less weighty back then, and having always had an ability to convert food into more me, I have slowly, and incrementally, squeezed out more Liam, becoming a shorter, heavier version of myself.

My correspondent recorded his observations on my pulse, and noted my blood pressure which was, in the old classification at least, high normal. Today, I understand, these number would be regarded with an arched eyebrow. Consolingly he informed me that “we’ll keep an eye on it.”

There was always in these letters some ominous tones, as if to say that though everything looked normal, potential horrors lurked around the corner. The price: eternal vigilance in matters of the flesh. My liver, for instance, didn’t seem enlarged. He reiterated my self-reported alcohol consumption. “You consume, you say, no more than two drinks a day.” I detected in this a whiff of disbelief, as if his intuition over-ruled both the evidence of his palpations and his ears.

His was not an especially expansive vocabulary. Once he described as “loose” both my stools and my testicles. The former condition I may have mentioned to him; the latter condition he detected for himself after each had descended like imperfect plover’s eggs into the grabby nest of his latexed hand. I coughed. By the mysteries of internal plumping something softly leapt within. I was not herniated.

Fathers should tell their sons what is involved in prostate exams. I swear I had no idea, though the terse preparatory directions make it clear. I was living in Georgia when first this test was administer to me.“This might make you tearful..”, my doctor drawled.

Read on at 3quarksdaily.com