Mural: Living with science

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I collected photos of murals as I prayer walked Mytown this spring.

Some of the murals were funny. Some were really odd. But then there were those that made me stop and wonder: What was the artist trying to say?

Over the next couple of months, I’ll share some of the murals with you. You can wonder with me or leave an interpretation in the comments below.

Aging alone

Back when I was teaching, we took a field trip to The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. There were these cool machines with cameras that would age a photo depending on life choices. Are you a smoker? Do you spend a lot of time in the sun? And so on went the questions.

One of my junior highers got me to pose for the camera. My mistake was not taking over the controls afterwards. Having already gone through the process once, he knew all of the answers to age my photo as much as possible. He ignored my protests as the screen spun out an image of a worn out old lady who eerily resembled me.

Thanks, kid.

I remember that photo sometimes when I find a new gray hair or a neck wrinkle or an age spot I never noticed before. The realization that one is aging is hard for many people; however, as a single, I wonder if aging alone is different. Not harder, but different.

As a single, there is no togetherness in disintegration. It’s just a party of one who watches the body in the mirror stoop and droop a little more each year. A party of one who gets pitied as she grays because there go her chances to snag a husband and, if she doesn’t have children, she can’t even attribute the grays to the honorable occupation of child-rearing.

His eyelids sag and he gets an extra roll of fat at his waistline.

There is no together giggling at age creeping over two bodies become one. It is just her facing irreversible doom as she watches those creeping spider veins.

There is no one to notice that mole on his back slowly changing colors. No one to miss that tooth except him.

Those freckles that once were becoming are overcome by age spots and they’ve scattered farther than she ever imagined. Her body is no longer what it used to be. And sometimes she’s glad she doesn’t have to share it.

I read through 1 Peter recently, about beauty being internal rather than external. Because remember, these bodies were not made to last forever. Whether one is aging together or aging alone, that truth is comforting.

Now it’s your turn. I’d love to hear other perspectives. What has it been like for you to age alone, man or woman, single or widowed? Or what has it been like for you to age beside someone else? Maybe you’ve had both experiences. What are some things you’ve learned over the years?

Spanish healthcare chronicles: the doctor

Well, I finally did it. When I had some pretty serious heart palpitations, I got more serious about getting my fatigue checked out. In fact, I basically promised my nurse friends I would. That was during lockdown. So I waited. But then it occurred to me that if it was anything complicated, I wanted it sorted out before returning to the States for the summer. So I finally scheduled a video appointment. 

I had jotted down notes in Spanish, but I was still nervous. The doctor appeared, a doting grandfather, who was a wee bit patronizing as if his days were filled with patients who had thought of nothing but their health problems during lockdown.

Regardless, he jotted down a request for an EKG and a prescription for something I couldn’t read to research. When I took it to the pharmacist, she calmly informed me that it was a relaxant to soothe anxiety. I smiled, said, “No thank you,” and continued on my way.

I have no idea how health systems work either in the States or in Spain. I’ve only been to the doctor once in my adult life and that was only to get a paper verifying I was free from specific diseases in order to obtain my Spanish visa. (Unless I count the time my parents hauled me into prompt care after 2 months of my wheezing and slouching around the house.)

Anyway, I braved the clinic in the neighboring town for my EKG. That’s when I found out that the doctor’s illegible scrawls had also requested another analysis and thus, another appointment was set up for the next morning. The next morning, COVID schedule buses insoportable, I walked to my appointment.

The nurses take for granted that everyone understands the healthcare system. It’s unfathomable not to go regularly to the doctor. I asked about my EKG and the blood analysis and what was I supposed to with the results? 

“When you get the results, give them to your doctor.’

Ah! There’s the rub! I let that settle as she stuck my vein and scarlet flowed into the little vials. (It was painless. I drank almost a gallon of water before my 9 a.m. appointment. It worked.)

“I had a video consultant,” I finally ventured. “I don’t have a doctor.”

The nurse’s busy hands stilled as my words sunk in. “Don’t have a doctor?! What? Are you crazy?!” Well actually, she said quite calmly, but with a level of understanding that almost earned her a hug: “Then when you get the results, set up an appointment. We have a doctor here at the clinic every day.”

Since then, I’ve made several returns to the doctor to check on an ineffective vitamin D3 prescription and blush over my cholesterol numbers (due to a volatile marriage of genetics and cheese). A waste of time? Maybe, but it feels more like a journey to grow confidence in the Spanish healthcare system and to eradicate hypochondria.

But my stomach seems a little distended of late. Is it Christmas leftovers… or a tumor?


Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash