Actually, it is the pricking of my fingers.

Every six months or so, my doctor orders some tests for me, some involving drawing blood. As a person suffering from high blood pressure much of my life, I am an especially good candidate for kidney failure or diabetes.

I would go to the HMO’s lab door, take a numbered ticket, and wait my turn. As the phlebotomist struggled to find a good vein, I would grit my teeth, look the other way, and make a sour joke about drug addicts who stick needles in themselves on purpose.

Eventually, the HMO would tell me that I don’t have kidney disease or diabetes, much to my relief.

However, after my last test, my lab results said that I was “pre-diabetic.” When I emailed my doctor asking what I should do, he said I should be tested again.

A few days later, I had to go in for a pre-cataract surgery checkup. My doctor was away (probably goofing off), so I went to a substitute doctor. I asked him what pre-diabetic meant.

He told me it was a natural part of aging. “We all become diabetics eventually,” he told me cheerfully, ” though we can put it off for a long time.” He told me to eat green and blue foods and instead of junk foods. I told him we have a large garden and grow our own lettuce, broccoli, and blueberries.

“Good,” said the subdoc, with the weary air of someone whose patients lie to him all the time. However, in this case, I was telling the truth, though my wife’s nagging gets most of the credit. Also, I have lost about 40 pounds over the last two years, my blood pressure (which I now test myself) is at respectable levels, and my constant treadmill plodding has reduced my resting heart rate to something like an athlete’s, though I am not going to enter the Tour de France next year.

The subdoc also told me I should start testing my blood glucose levels and scheduled me with a nurse for training.

A few weeks later, I met with an eqally upbeat nurse who provided me with a kit of equipment and educational materials. She showed me the monitor. “First you program in the date and time. Then you draw some blood and test it with this little strip. Though first, you use a drop of control solution to make sure it is working.” She told me all this quite expeditiously, as if I understood what was going on.

She warned me that each pack of control strips has an identification number. The number on the monitor screen has to match; if it doesn’t I have to push little buttons until it does. Then she showed how the test results appear on the tiny monitor screeen.

 

Then she got to the good part. “Here is the lance. You twist this little cap off, then you insert it into the slot. Then you jab yourself in the finger so you get a drop of blood. You touch the end of the strip and after a few seconds your score appears. Then you can choose from various comments, such as if your test is before you eat or after you eat. This booklet will tell you more about the process.

“Here, you try it. Stick the needle into the side of your finger. Good, there’s some blood. Put it on the strip.” After a few seconds, a number appeared. “That’s a good number. You may not need to keep doing this very often” she said. That sounded too good to be true.

 

She also gave me a confusing plastic box for the safe storing of my used needles.

With the cataract surgery going on, I kept convincing myself to avoid sticking myself. But as my eye healed, I decided I had to force myself to confront this unpleasant task. Naturally, I had forgotten everything the nurse had shown me. The instruction booklets she had given me were written for diabetics, which also depressed me. After lots of blundering and smearing blood around, I eventually got the hang of the process.

It was not clear to me how often I should be testing myself or what score I was looking for. There seemed to be something about doing it before I ate and again two hours after I ate, and leaving notes on the monitor whether I had been exercising before the test, or ill (I presume with swine flue or the like).

I came up with six scores (recorded over three days), sore fingers, and considerable self pity. Today I am going in to see my regular doctor where I will discuss my scores and how often I need to stick myself. I am grossed out by the whole business, and no doubt you are also by now. I just wanted to give you something cheerful to look forward to when you grow old.

It is just getting light outside and I will look out the window for a bunny aiming to poach on our garden. If so…it will be the last garden it raids.

 

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I went to the eye surgeon yesterday for the final evaluation of my cataract-repaired right eye.

I figure doctors lives are a bit tedious what with saving lives and telling people they will die. So far doctors have saved my life once from an unknown disease (about four years ago), and saved an eye from cataract-impaired fuzziness (still in progress). I try to thank them by tossing a nugget of unexpected humor into their rushed lives.

The eye surgeon entered the examining room. While he was washing his hands, I figured he could multi-task by listening to my pathetic attemps at humor.

I said, “I killed two rabbits using my new and improved eye.”

“Oh,” he said, without interest.

I tried my second attempt. I said, “Did you know there is a horror movie based on corneal replacement surgery?”

“Really? I didn’t know that.”

I could tell he was hooked.

I told him about the Chinese horror movie Gin gwai. (According to the Rotten Tomatoes web site, it is much better than the American remake, The Eye. I don’t really know. Horror movies creep me out and I seldom watch them. Having the surgeon slice in to my eye creeped me out also, but it seems to be worth it.)

“What is the hook of the movie,” he asked. I briefly summarized the plot, based on second-hand information. He chuckled. “I didn’t know that such a movie existed,” he said. “I will have to watch it.”

He began to examine my eye. “It’s coming along very well,” he said. “Your vision won’t be perfect. I had to compromise. You will still have to wear glasses, and you will be more near-sighted than you were, but your distance vision will be much better than it was.”

“I am satisfied with that I said,” I said. I thought, I will still be able to drive. Bunnies, intent on munching our garden, be very afraid, I thought. “Thank you,” Isaid.

He said, “We can cut down the number of eye drops from three solutions four times a day to one solution twice a day.”

“I am glad to hear that,” I said. “I am tired of dropping liquids on to my eye.”

“Most people get tired of that,” he said.

Still, it’s better to have better to have eyes that see better  and require a few drops than not to have eyes at all, I thought.

When I was in to see my surgeon right after my cataract surgery, I asked, “When did they do the first cataract surgery?” It seems so strange to me to take a knife into someone’s eye, I was trying to imagine who was the first person who tried it, and if it had worked.

My surgeon said, “Oh, they started about 2,000 years ago. They used a stick, and dug out the cataract. Although they usually waited until a person was almost blind and didn’t have much to lose.”

I was so startled, I did what any modern person does. I looked it up on the Internet.

As soon as I figure out to embed videos I will place a video showing a cataract being treated about 500 BC.

I am going in this morning for a follow-up to see if anything has gone terribly amiss. (As far as I can tell everything has gone as it is supposed to. I am hoping he will confirm that impression.)

I am now home with a new eye, right in the middle of my forehead.

Actually, it is where my old right eye used to be. It is sore and bloodshot, but otherwise working better than the old eye used to.

The doctor warned me there may be hidden flaws because of my high blood pressure, but only time will tell. The old left eye is sulking because it wants to be a new eye also, and it has to wait. While they struggle for control of my brain, I see double a bit and I am a little dizzy.

More later.

Last night my daughter called. Random Granddaugher and her mommies took a trip to Chicago to visit RG’s co-dads. She reported that they had a wonderful time.

Dad is sort of a mover and shaker in Chicago, something involving non-profits, though nobody seems to be able to explain to me exactly what he does. My daughter was rather taken with Chicago. Perhaps it is something to do with genetics, as I was born in Chicago; although as I left when I was four years old, I don’t remember much about it.

When not traveling half way across the country, RG has been attending “day camp” at the School for Very Bright Children, a school where Mommy (birth mother) teaches. RG starts kindergarten at this school in September. Apparently she has been loving day camp. Mama (my daughter) reports at the end of day camp each day RG is so excited she is overwrought, and begs not to have to leave and go home.

My daughter has just about finished with her job. She has about a week of final clean up to do. In September, she starts graduate school. She will be studying “Medical Genetics.”

As we live in a world that is seriously sick, my daughter has a big job ahead of her.


This morning I head into the city (conveyed by my wife in our little truck) for cataract surgery on my right eye.

  

Almost a year ago, David said:

I’m thinking that your aid campaign is what turned my life around. You’ve got a powerful tool there. Use it wisely.

I started what I called a “shareware” program where I sometimes send $5 to someone who is blogging and evincing some distress. David, Waxingstrange, and more recently a person on worldmagblog, the evangelical Christian web site, have all been recipients of my tiny postal mail donations.

In each case the recipient reported some benefit.

Here is my thinking.

1. All human beings are crazy. We are crazy because of our self-awareness of our mortality. (Becker) There is no cure for our condition. Religious belief is the most common method of alleviating it.

2. There are many sub categories to our craziness, such as the “I’m no good” syndrome (original sin).

3. Two common symptoms of the I’m no good syndrome are the “I am ugly,” and “Nobody loves me” feelings. David, for example, suffered severely from these symptoms, though he is not ugly and people do love him.

Here’s my theory. It is based on “cognitive dissonance” theory. This theory suggests that humans resist holding contradictory ideas in their minds. So if a person thinks, “I am ugly,” and a beautiful woman sleeps with him, he then thinks, “She is only doing this for my money.” This issue is complicated by the fact that in some cases the conjecture may be true. I don’t think like a woman, but the a woman may think, “He only loves me for my body.”

It may take a fairly strong and unexpected shock to break through this resistance. In Zen Buddhism, the master sometimes “slaps” the student to force him into a new awareness. Apparently, sometimes getting five dollars in the mail can sometimes have the same result. It’s only good for a few days, though.

 

My sister-in-law sent an instant message telling me it was my brother’s birthday. This is my youngest brother, who survived a heart attack and is mentally ill and lives in Missouri.

Earlier, I had remembered my other brother’s birthday (June 2) and asked Random Granddaughter (the great artist) to paint him a birthday card. I had remembered my sister’s birthday (March 27) but too late to send her an RG card. I apologized and asked if she would like an early card or a late card. She said that as a grandmother herself, she was relaxed on the matter. As RG has been commissioned to prepare a card for Woo, I will not burden RG with more than one assignment at a time.

I tried to call my brother (after getting his phone number, which I had lost, by email). His telephone said it would not accept phone calls from phones which block their numbers. I don’t remember telling my phone to hide its number, but it probably interpreted us choosing an unlisted number as an instruction to hide its number from Caller-ID capable phones. [Update: Pete’s *82 trick works. Thank you, Pete. Also, the tayberries are just turnin color, so they should be ripe in a couple of days or so. Again, thank you.]

The next day (yesterday, Sunday, June 28…I carefully made a note that it is my youngest brother’s birthday) I received a call from my brother. I do not like to talk to him because he sounds like an android that has not learned how to imitate a human being very well. Although I am a earlier model android, I imitate humans better than my youngest brother , the android model android, and youngest sister, the narcissistic model android, who lives in California and belongs to a fundamentalist church filled with Hispanic people and Vietnamese people. (I do not know if they are androids, but I suspect the just keep my sister as a pet android.)

I talked awkwardly with my brother. He asked me if I knew that he had a dog now. (As I seldom talk to my brother I did not know this.) He told me he has a silky terrier. My family has always been cat people, but my brother evidently married into a dog family. I guess if an android marries into a human family, it might as well marry into a dog human family as well.

He also said that he is served by a small local telephone company, and they may have blocked my telephone call by mistake. I said, I am also served by a small independent telephone company. [Problem since then solved.]

After a few minutes of awkward, strained conversation, he asked me if I wanted to talk to K, his wife.

I like his wife, so I agreed (with what I hope is not too much obvious eagerness). His wife and I talked to each other for a while. She was a grade school art teacher when I first met her (at a family reunion). As her school district (like almost all school districts) is shedding jobs, she had to transfer to a high school art teacher position to keep her job. She said the principal (whom she obviously dislikes) dumps all the difficult students into her art classes, though maybe art students are naturally difficult. (Woo? Comment about artists?)

She said that my brother is no longer considered bi-polar (not because he is cured, but because he might have been misdiagnosed). She said, “Maybe he is depressed. Anyway, they took him off lithium, which made him very subdued and withdrawn and lacking in emotion.” (I thought, an android does not need a drug which makes him more robotic).

My brother was first hospitalized when he left home and was found walking the streets in a daze by the police. Since then he has repeated this behavior two more times. On the third time, her aunt was the one who spotted him walking the streets and called his wife at school. His wife left her teaching job at school and rushed to pick up my brother and take him to the hospital, sparing the police the trouble. I have a feeling her relatives say “helpful” and “constructive” things to her about her marriage, but I don’t know this for a fact.

She told me that when he first became mentally ill she had been unable to convince his doctors to pay attention to his problems. One day she noticed him having a long conversation with himself in their back yard. A long, long conversation. Later, when he was in the hospital, a couple of nurses noticed him having long conversations with himself and convinced the doctors that they needed to pay more attention to him.

She also said that he has not been able to hold a job for a long time. She did get him a job at the school where she works, but eventually the school fired my brother. This may have something to do with why she does not like her principal that much.

Unlike my family, who are cat people, her family are dog people. When she adopted a silky terrier, my brother was not enthusiastic about the dog, but now he is very attached to it. Silky terriers, according to this web page, seem like “high maintenance” dogs. I suspect my brother is a “high maintenance” spouse, so perhaps they help maintain each other.

After telling me that my brother is not bi-polar and maybe depressed, she said (admitted?) maybe he has schizophrenia. So I guess he is the schizophrenic model android. I have been a depressed model android, and I have worked with a bi-polar model android who scared all the women in my department before he was fired and who caused my employer to start locking all the outside doors except the one where the receptionist could see everyone coming into the building. [I suppose my brother might be a “DID” model android, and I might have to fly David out to Missouri to talk to him, but I doubt it.]

I think there is a quality control problem at the android factory, also known as my family. It may be a good thing that there is no genetic connection between me and Random Granddaughter. On the other hand, I haven’t told you about Mommy’s brother, who was once found wandering the streets and institutionalized for a while. (However, he is now happily married, with a young daughter. Also, he may be the adopted brother…)

Next, Aunt Henriette joins the android party.