Until recently I had excelled at maintaining an extremely complimentary self-image. In my mind’s eye the outside world viewed me as energetic, healthy, and handsome, undoubtedly recognizing me as someone who perpetually dodged the ravages of aging by combining frequent physical and mental exercise with decent nutritional habits, along with a generous supply of good luck.
Of course, I’d never articulate any such beliefs out loud, since doing so would not only expose me to a certain amount of deserved ridicule from those around me, it would also virtually assure bad fortune in my immediate future. (Exhibit A: look what being on the cover of People Magazine for her impending 100th birthday did for Betty White.)
However, my fantasies of being everlastingly youthful and vigorous never last long, since subtle but clear reminders, like getting together with chronological peers who look our actual age, occur every so often. That’s usually more than enough to jar me back to the truth.
There are, however, far less pleasant ways of remembering that my self-indulgent daydreams are largely delusional. Unintentionally glancing into an inconveniently located mirror can do it. Casually tossing a basketball toward a hoop that’s 15 feet away and coming up ten feet short is another, as is attempting to throw a baseball to someone and having it stop, after several weak bounces, shy (and well wide) of its intended target.
Still, when it comes to returning from these soul-nourishing (if unrealistic) sojourns to Fantasyland, I’d take any of those options, all of which provide relatively soft landings, over the way in which I was reminded of my mortality not long ago, which was with a literal thud.
After 90 minutes of
highway driving, I was walking across a parking lot when I felt a bit
lightheaded. As I often do in such situations, I bent over to surreptitiously
catch my breath….and apparently kept on going. Seconds later I was tasting sand
and trying to figure out what had happened while attempting (
quite unsuccessfully) to stop a prodigious amount of blood from leaving my body through my face.
Fortunately for me (though in retrospect probably not for them), my sons and my nephew were with me when I took my unplanned and unfortunate tumble, and thus were there to assist me in my time of need. That’s why we left the scene not for home (as I was suggesting), but directly to the nearest emergency room.
The staff at Harrington Hospital in Southbridge, Massachusetts treated me for a broken nose, gave me a tetanus shot. took some x-rays and put me through a battery of tests that included a CAT scan, an EKG, and an MRI. I was also attended to by a makeshift surgical team who did their best to put my badly damaged lips back together. (One nurse gave me seven separate painkilling shots and did the actual stitching, while the other held her phone up as a flashlight so her partner could see what she was doing.)
All those healthcare pros were as kind and comforting to me as they were great at their jobs. But I couldn’t help noticing that all those compassionate, professional strangers were treating me not like a perpetually youthful, robustly healthy young man, but as a frail, brittle, Medicare-eligible senior citizen. Which, given the situation, was obviously the correct approach.
With visits to the cardiologist, the endodontist, a plastic surgeon, and a few other as-yet-unknown specialists in my immediate future, I’ll be taking a break from imagining I’m Superman for a while.
And under no circumstances will I agree to appear on any magazine covers. <