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Tuesday, November 08, 2005


Years ago I decided that there are two words I REALLY hope are not on my tombstone. One is "shark." The other is "impale." Over Sunday dinner at brother-in-law Bill and sister Kim's house, I decided that another term I hope is never chiseled out of that granite or limestone or stainless steel or whatever they make tombstones out of in the future is "avian bird flu."

I've always been fortunate to have doctors in the family. First, there was the OD (original doctor), the omniscient, the omnipotent, hailing from Oxford, Ohio by way of British Columbia, the Monster of Diagnosis, the Master of Prognosis, that throat-swabbing, pinworm-removing, laceration-stitching maniac who we proudly call Dad, my father, the late Dr. Davies.

Back in the day, when my sisters and I required medical attention, first and last stop was always my parents' bathroom. Our own little medical center right there over the garage. It seemed normal at the time. In fact, nowadays when I'm snooping through the drawers in the exam room at my doctor's office (they must know we do that while they keep us waiting for half an hour, right?), I'm always a little surprised when I don't see my Dad's Ace comb and bottle of 'Lectric Shave next to the tongue depressors and rubbing alcohol. Back then when injuries were sustained, triage was performed (if multiple parties were involved) followed by initial diagnosis, a plan of treatment and finally the treatment itself. There was no receptionist, no insurance cards, no weird paper gown. Just me and Dad and the injury/sickness itself.

I liked it that way. No fuss, no muss. Dad knew what was best as far as everything else was concerned so why should the well-being of my body be any different? At least that was my attitude until July of 1985. Having contracted my first and thankfully only urinary tract infection – the origin of which I will not go into here other than to say when breaking up with a girlfriend, it's best make a clean break and sever ALL contact at once so as to avoid any sort of relationship overlap – I went to the only doctor I'd ever had: good old Dad. I urgently told him the symptoms. While not dispassionate, he listened somewhat indifferently, nodding as he held the bowl of his pipe between his hooked index finger and thumb. The smoke used to jet out of the corner of his mouth with every nod like steam shoots out of a locomotive.

I needed relief and fast. But Dr. Davies could not be rushed. Once he determined the problem, he needed to look up the proper treatment and dosages in a large red book that he kept for events such as this. Another cup of black coffee was poured and I made another forty futile trips to the bathroom. Eventually he declared that we needed to make a trip to CVS to get some drugs.

"Great! Let's go!"

"Let me finish my coffee."

All of a sudden it was like I was ten on Christmas morning, straining to get to the presents under the tree but held back until Mom and Dad finished their coffee.

Prescriptions were filled, doses were administered, pain was relieved, and thankfully the girlfriend began her long, slow descent into my past.

Dr. Davies, rest in peace.

Fortunately for the remaining, Kim and Bill are both doctors who can be relied upon for sound medical advice. They are most excellent and give it to you straight without restricting their practice to their bathroom. So at dinner I had to ask for their opinions about the hysteria surrounding the avian bird flu and they pretty much confirmed what I suspected. This one probably won't be the one that gets you, but it would be counter to everything we know about how nature works to assume that as time goes on and populations grow and people travel that we won't be subjected to overwhelming, possibly cataclysmic pandemics. Further, it would be counter to everything we know about society and politics to assume that faced with such a situation, the rich will suffer as much as the poor. Like a well-lit mirror, Katrina coldly exposed this condition for the whole world to see.

It makes sense however, that as a race, we will become weaker and weaker with each pandemic wave, until all suffer equally. My white skin, the constancy of my paycheck and my health insurance card can't protect me from nasty viruses forever, especially if those viruses are always trying to figure out a way to get around the bureaucracy of my immune system. Overwhelmed and helpless, my body will fall by the wayside of human history along with all the others. Perhaps we'll reach the point where society gives in to the onslaught of contagions, throws up its hands and allows nature to do as it wishes. No more conquering and protecting of nations, no more philosophizing about the reasons for man's existence, no more sermons, no more praying, no more weekend getaways, no more home improvement, no more Scribbles From L.A.

No more me.

I don't know about you but that's not how I want to go, wasting in a bed somewhere beneath the human race's giant white flag. But I can't decide how I do want to go, although the unoriginal "in my sleep" is sounding better and better. The OD died of cancer. So did Al. That's no good. 2048 Americans have died in the latest war with Iraq. Their deaths are called "honorable" by our president. Maybe, but are they preferable? Religious types say that if you're at peace with your maker, then it doesn't matter how or when you die. Not only do I not know if I'm at peace with my maker, I don't even know who my maker is. Oh, boy. This can't be good.

I guess I'll just keep trying to narrow it down. A morbid process of elimination. A growing list of words and phrases to keep out of any obituary, eulogy, or tombstone that may be established on my behalf. So far, I've got "shark," "impale," and "avian bird flu."


At 11/09/2005 12:14 PM, Anonymous said...




who chose to be impaled on a giant hook and fed to sharks rather than face a lingering death from Asian Bird Flu.



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