Tuesday, September 17, 2013


I was raised in the Midwest. My blood sings with a heavy German accent, and my DNA is imprinted with a blue-collar work ethic. I was brought up to believe if you weren’t ill, you should be sweating. The South has taught me to slow down. Granted it’s taken me a few years, but I do appreciate a good drawl and the rock of a porch swing.

This week we’re expecting visitors from the North, and my dead mother’s sainted head shook in disdain at the dirty windows and grimy fingerprints on every surface. I thought about hiring a young woman to help clean, but mom said, “You can do this yourself. Spread it out over several days.” Evidently she must have been talking to my husband, too, because we have worked doggedly washing windows inside and out, vacuumed, dusted, mopped, primped, and cooked for days.
Sitting on the couch, I am enjoying the view of the river out my clean windows, but now I see all the stuff in the yard that needs tending. Those darn German ancestors were workaholics. I need a bier.

Friday, September 6, 2013


The cardiology office had scheduled both a stress test and an echo cardiogram on the same day, for my convenience. Embroiled in a convoluted tour of the health care system, running from one doctor’s appointment to the next, this sounded good to me. I arrived early at 8:30 to a full waiting room. Looked bad, but I only needed tests. Our electronic relationship already established a few weeks prior with my visit to the nurse practitioner, there was nothing to fill out, just sit down. I looked around. Not only was I the youngest person in the room, but the only one wearing sweats.
Feeling self-conscious about my clothing choice, I noticed a dapper gent in white ortho walkers checking in with the receptionist. He barely sat down before he’s called back for his test, and I’m hoping—no, I’m delusional that this won’t take all morning. My name’s called soon, but the voice comes from a different direction. It seemed the billing office was serious when they phoned the house looking for the co-payment prior to service. The voice had informed me that waiting to pay until the day of my visit might slow my forward progress. Who’d have thought—evidentially the dandy in the white shoes. I vowed to pay upfront the next time. Back in my seat, several people proceeded to the test area before my credit cleared.
Not long and the echo tech, Lynette, called my name. When she instructed me to strip down to my waist and put on the pretty blue paper number with the opening to the front, I realized I had no idea what this test was about. Lynette dimmed the lights and quietly explained that an echo cardiogram is basically a sonogram of the heart. Instead of my grandson in the little V shaped shadow, I reclined to watch my valves beat out a percussive number that would make a marching band Gangnam. Each of the four chambers grooved a different beat—Zah-zim-zah, Zah-zim-zah, Zah-zim-zah or my favorite, Whack-a-do, Whack-a-do, Whack-a-do. My little cupped valves swung and jived while Lynette’s calm voice assured me nothing was enlarged. I knew I was healthy, but then there was that stress test I didn’t study for.
The radiology team of Frick and Frack put me through my paces. I made nine minutes while fussing with the electrode belt, trying to keep it from falling around my knees. With the treadmill goosed four times, I was pleased with myself for not fainting or falling off the back of the machine. After an hour or so of waiting for the nurse practitioner, she shows me my poor test scores and orders (of course) another test.
Driving home, the billing office called. They had contacted my insurance provider and wanted to warn me of the co-pay amount. Did I want to pay by credit card. I explained that the test wasn’t even scheduled yet. The voice assured me, someone would call to set the appointment that afternoon. That seemed wrong, worse than paying before receiving services. I declined payment again, feigning dangerous driving conditions.
They haven't called, yet. A nuclear stress test—sounds dangerous. I wonder if I should wear a hazmat suit.