THERE are milestones to look forward to. When my grandmother and I happened to be in her garden, I got curious about a certain herb.
My grandmother laughed and said I was showing my age. There’s more than half a century between us, but I’ve finally slowed down to share one of her interests.
Or should I say: caught up? Age has a way of sloughing off details once thought of as essential.
Never fond of cut flowers and dead things, I’ve come to appreciate more and more trees and other roadside survivors that turn existence into an art.
Some milestones, though, leave me ambivalent. A mammogram, for instance.
All of three syllables, the medical jargon actually means more than a mouthful. If I were a first-grader in a spelling bee, the double m’s would be very tricky.
My experience, though, is that persons in pigtails rarely have to deal with a real “mammo”.
And if there’s something trickier than a mammo, it would be a sonomammogram.
Had I made acquaintance with these terms in a dictionary, I might be less finicky. As it was, I deciphered them from the prescription of my obstetrician-gynecologist. Even if I didn’t know what these exactly were until they performed it on me, I found there to be one too many unsettling undulations in both terms, turning that small note into a sea roiling with serpents.
Having an overactive imagination, though, is not the best accessory to bring while waiting in hospitals. When I felt the mass on my left breast on the first day of the year, I saw in a flash all the things I had to do.
Yet, when I finally met HMO coordinators, doctors, technicians, receptionists and sundry professionals, I found out that what they required was certainly not a knack for imagining one’s future in cinematic snippets.
For instance, memory. Everyone, even the lady writing your name on the envelope holding your “imaging,” wants to know your birthday. And the age when you had your first period, your recent period, your babies, abortions, whatnots. Since I remember better experiences rather than dates and figures, I think I failed miserably in accuracy. I was only certain about having two sons and a complete set of the major organs.
Dispassion is another virtue essential for waiting. The term can also be rewritten as “diss passion” since it’s best to be rude to all your emotions and just bring along reason and composure, which are obedient fellows who will not mind reading all that waiting room literature.
Of which there are two general types: magazines with women who don’t know what to do with chests that overflow from their gowns and the page, and magazines featuring women who have lost one breast, two breasts, an armpit and more. The latter publications were still in mint condition so I read these. Aside from learning how to spell “mammo” and “sonomammo,” I learned you can also get an upgrade for an MRI. Why doesn’t this seem as exciting as an upsize?
Humor, too, is always reliable, but there’s no place in a hospital for a sense of irony. After I had stripped and bared my chest to the freezing air and technician in the mammo room, I was asked if I had implants.
I knew this lady half my age was just dutifully ticking off boxes in a checklist. However, to be asked if I “had” implants after I had removed my bra, crucifixes and inhibition is not just mortally wounding but obliterating vanity.
But if I’ve learned something from the nearly 10 hours spent in a medical center (a euphemism purged of the sinister sibilance of “hosssspital”), I realize that living requires some shedding. Shed some, keep some.
If lucky, you can choose what to shed. Seeing how nearly half of the fellows I shared waiting time with wore a scarf on their head, I touched the hair my barber keeps short. Maybe I’ll let it grow long, for a change.
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*First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s Jan. 13, 2013 issue of the “Matamata” Sunday main op-ed column