If you are a man don’t waste your time reading this. It will mean nothing to you.
Just go about your blessedly even-keeled day changing the oil in your truck, or removing someone’s inflamed appendix, or running a half-marathon on a whim. You’ve been warned.
Now that it’s just the rest of us, I have a question. Can someone diagnose an ailment for me?
Let me first clarify that I am not complaining. I am happy. I am content. I am blessed beyond anything I deserve. I have heaven ahead of me, and a world of good things now. However. I am also alternately a brooding misanthrope or a fanged monster. You wouldn’t know it to look at me. But trust me. Behind my eyes sometimes shrieks the sentence “What if I told you what I was really thinking???”
Here’s an example. This evening after a dinner of braised chicken (I just looked up ‘braised’ and I was in the ballpark), herb and mushroom risotto, green beans picked and snapped by me, and a sassy little French baguette, child number three whistles out the back door with an “I’ll be back.” A few minutes later, child number two, a girl, also whistles out the back door with an “I’ll be back.” Now, let me describe the kitchen. If I squinted, it was an impressionist painting, all oozing colors and splotches and shapes. If I focused, it was a tall sculpture in stainless steel and ceramic, avant-garde in its inclusion of viscous, dripping substances, even addressing olfactory senses like art rarely does. I leaned on the sink (allow me to be dramatic here) and thought dark thoughts about that movie, “12 Years a Slave.” I wondered what would happen if I just took off my floral flour-sack apron, and left it all tilted and teetering and crusted and greasy. What if I just didn’t do the dishes? Would the sun rise in the west tomorrow, if it rose at all? Would rivers flow uphill?
Some of you, like my mother for instance, are asking the obvious, “Why don’t you get the kids to help before they leave?” While seemingly self-evident, that question reveals inexperience with teenagers and college students. The 16 – 22 year old has two modes: Gone or Sick. They are only not gone if they are sick. They aren’t faking it either. They really are sick. They get sick because they are always gone. They leave for college and don’t sleep for an entire semester. Then they come home and die for two weeks. Then it’s time to go back for round two. Or they arrive home smelly and sunburned from youth beach conference, drop their laundry and explain that they need to leave immediately because . . . I phase out on their life-or-death reasons, but they usually end with, ‘We may never see him again, Mom.’ So, no, they literally can’t do the dishes.
I digress. I decided it was probably time for my regular – every other decade – appointment with the stirrups (you were warned!). The soonest appointment is two months from now. Not bad relatively speaking, and yes, I have read the recently circulating article about a doctor’s daily life of hunger, thirst, stress, and worry, and I believe it. I go to church with many doctors. They do have my sympathy. I realize that there is one of them per several thousand of us. But flip that around. They may have thousands of me, but I only have one of them. One. And, doc, when I need you, I need you! Look at my record. I only call every other decade. And do you really want me loose on the world for two more months like this, with your name on my “who is your attending physician” line? I can spell your name down to apostrophes, hyphens, and umlauts.
Ahhh. Well. Maybe this is the ‘m-word.’ I asked a friend if she thought it was and she shushed me roundly, saying she wasn’t going there. Shush away, but I don’t think we get to choose. Time and gravity and chemistry force us there, ready or not. “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven,” says the preacher. How pragmatic and man-like. No angst, no kicking at the goads, no keening sentimentality, just peaceful acceptance: “Oh, the m-word. Yes, I suppose it is time for that.”
May that same peace breathe through the back door, down the halls into the bedrooms of the sleeping children, past the couch and the reading husband, and all over me – m-word or not – happy and aproned in the impressionist kitchen.