I turned 65 this year. I’ve actually lived through eight decades, from the 50s to the 2020s. But this is not about how my brain thinks I’m 21, or how 65 is the new 45, or how I can now get injured while sleeping.
This is about my first encounter with a Medicare checkup. Believe me, I get why they do what they do. I fully understand the ravages of dementia in older adults. But this is about how one can nearly blow something so easy simply because it’s so easy; and right there is why it can easily be a problem.
For one’s first Medicare checkup they need a baseline, so they do a hearing test and a vision test which are pretty standard, and all one has to do is listen and look. But then comes the cunningly devised memory test.
“I’m going to give you three words; I’ll ask you to repeat them, then in a little bit I’ll ask you to tell me what they are,” said the nurse.
“No problem,” I said in the “I’m confident because my brain is young” voice, nearly missing the first word because I was talking to myself.
“The three words are: ‘nation,’ ‘lake,’ and ‘finger.'” “Nation, lake, and finger,” I repeated. Now, in my head, I am repeating the words over and over and over because the last thing I need to do is blow such and easy test. I know my brain thinks these words are probably the least important thing it needs to remember today or ever, and it wants to place them in the “Who gives a crap” file. But no, I will not allow that to happen, so I begin the memorization by rote technique, repeating them in my head over and over and over.
“Ok brain, you got this,” as I await her request for the words, so I can spout them off like I can give out my name. But then something happens that completely jars me from my musing. The nurse says, “Here’s a piece of paper, I want you to draw a clock face, complete with all of the numbers, then I’m going to give you a time and I want you to draw the hands in the proper positions.”
“Holy…what? Did I hear her correctly? Nation, lake, finger, nation, lake, finger. Did she say a clock face with numbers? Nation, lake, finger. Now I have two completely useless things to remember.” As I draw a circle on the paper, my brain is now nearly in crisis mode. “When was the last time I had to draw clock hands to indicate the correct time? Wait, is it little hand hour, big hand minutes, or big hand hour, little hand minutes? Ummm, nation, lake, … Nation, lake, finger, phew. Nearly lost it there.
“OK, 12, 1, 2, nation, lake, finger, make sure the three is in the right position. I’m making this way harder than it needs to be. Yeah, but boy could you blow this and really look bad. Nation, …, lake, finger, 10, 11. There.”
“Ron, I want you to indicate 10 after 11.”
“Who the hell tells the time like that anymore? Why not 11:10? Cripes. So, small hand 10, big hand 11. No wait, it’s not 10:11, it’s 11:10. OK little hand 11, is that right? Yeah, that’s right, big hand 10.” I am satisfied that it is correct and hand her the paper.
“What was the first word? Don’t dwell on this or you’ll forget the other words. Nation, yeah, nation.”
Finally, the moment arises and I speak with the gravitas of a Shakespearean actor, “Nation, lake, finger!” Ok, that’s a bit hyperbolic, but then so is this entire story.
I passed the test, but wait, did I mention the shots? To start the appointment Carolyn and I had to get pneumonia vaccines. This is a vaccine only given at age 65 or above. There it is. So while we were there we figured why not get the flu vaccine at the same time? I know it’s dead viruses meant to active one’s immune system, so why not?
Why do people think these give them the flu? Simple. Your body thinks you are getting the flu, and it reacts appropriately. So my body now thinks it is simultaneously being attacked by the flu and pneumonia, and is reacting appropriately and without regard for my plans for today. You can draw you’re own conclusions.
I’m done being 65 for the time being, so I’m going to have some warm milk and a nap.