I SHOULD SAY SOMETHING about this photo. It's been placed here where you can see it, and now I have to say something about it.
What I mean is that the text must follow the image; the image came first. I don’t like that sequence, but the photo is insistent. I’ll do what I can.
The photograph was taken in February of 2008 at the Motion Picture & TV Hospital in Calabasas, California. I am awaiting an invasive diagnostic procedure. All right, I am awaiting a colonoscopy. For some reason I asked my wife to take my photograph. I don’t know why I asked her to take a photograph, but there it is.
Here are some facts, impressions on which a possible caption for this photograph could be based.
MY WEDDING RING is on a chain around my neck. I am unable to put my wedding ring on my finger because my knuckles are swollen. Maybe that’s because of arthritis; I haven’t asked and don’t really care. The other piece of jewelry on the chain around my neck is a little heart. Peretti? Could be called a Peretti heart. Catherine gave it to me on our twentieth wedding anniversary, and I gave her one. I never take it off and wasn’t asked to take it off for this diagnostic procedure.
I have been hooked up to some monitors. Those things on my chest lead to monitors; I’m not sure what they’re called. Maybe they’re called leads. The wires plug into monitors that read blood pressure, pulse rate and respiration. There’s also a little clip that goes on your finger that reads hemoglobin. That last one is the amount of oxygen in your blood. You can’t see it in the photograph, but I thought I’d tell you about it anyway. There’s also an IV catheter in my arm. You can’t see it, but that’s just as well.
I am wearing a hospital gown. When I got to the room they gave me the gown and told me to take off all my clothes and to put on the gown and that the gown should open in the back.
“No! Really? Open in the back? Why should it open in the back?” I said.
The bed was comfortable and they fixed the pillows for me. When I first came into the room there was a radio there playing horrible music. Not rap but close. After putting on my gown that opened in the back I went into the hall and hailed a nurse. “Please turn this music off,” I said. “Glad to,” She said. “I hate it too.”
I’m still wearing my glasses in the photograph. In fact I was allowed to wear my glasses during the diagnostic procedure in case I wanted to look at my insides on a monitor. I didn’t want to look at my insides on a monitor.
Having the procedure didn’t make me think of mortality, but looking at this photograph does. My hair looks white. Gray and white. That’s because my hair is gray and white. My face looks red. I think that’s because I had been fasting and purging so that I could have the procedure. I don’t know the physiology of it, but that would be my guess. The room wasn’t hot; I don’t think I was embarrassed. So my face must have been red because I was hungry and shaky from lack of food. Maybe my body was beginning to consume itself out of lack of nourishment and that activity turned my face red.
I look like I’m smiling in the photo. I can’t imagine why I would be smiling, but that’s what it looks like. I could have been smiling at my wife. Forgetting the situation I was in, I smiled at my wife who was taking my picture. Yes, the smile was for Catherine.
I don’t believe that I was thinking of mortality. I’ve already said that. Although at one time, before I walked into the GI unit at the hospital to have the procedure, I turned to her and said, “Take care of the cats.” I joke like that. So I must have been thinking about death some of the time. The day before I had this diagnostic procedure I wrote the first two lines of a country song and sang it to Catherine. Here are the first two lines: “Put a tag on my toe/Let’s call it a day.” I haven’t written any more lines. Catherine didn’t think it was funny, but I can’t help that. I’m old, and I have to joke.
One time I said that I planned to lose weight because I understood that in figuring the cost of a casket, undertakers charged by the pound. That’s definitely a joke because I plan to be cremated. The Neptune Society has an office near our home. The Neptune Society will cremate your body and take your remains out to sea and dump them, although they don’t call it dumping.
When I think about it I wonder who would be on the boat with the officiating members of the Neptune Society and Catherine. Right off the top I can’t think of anybody. All my friends are out of town or thinking about moving, and I wouldn’t want them to make a trip back to L.A. for the at-sea dumping. If my friends ever made a trip back to L.A. I would want to be able to see them. Besides, what if they got seasick? I certainly do. I would never be on a boat myself unless I was dead.
You can’t see this in the photo, but I’ll tell you about it anyway; we’ve come this far. After a while Cathy left the room and the doc came in. He’s a man I like. I found him because of a problem I’ve been having that I might tell you about at a later time. He told me that he couldn’t take care of the problem I’ve been having unless I got a colonoscopy—so that he could properly diagnose my problem.
I said hello to the doc, and we joked a bit. It’s the Motion Picture & TV Hospital; they see a lot of actors so the docs have to learn to joke. They gave me a sedative through the IV catheter in my arm, and the doc looked at my insides.
The sedative doesn’t put you out so you hear what the doc and nurses are saying. I think I heard him say that in the morning he had been in Encino where he had to remove the city’s colon; I swear that’s what he said. I seem to remember laughter.
After it was over he said that I was fine and that I should make sure to get another colonoscopy in seven to ten years. He also said that now he could help me with my problem.
I like this doc, a young man. I asked him if he got seasick.
Lucky old man.
14 March 2008