Yesterday was my birthday. It began innocently enough as I went for my once every six weeks haircut. My stylist is a terrific guy, I really enjoy visiting with him but I’ve noticed it takes half the time it used to to cut my hair. And costs four time what it did in the old days.
Otherwise, I spent the day like I do most days – going to doctor’s appointment(s), riding a stationary bike, doing yoga (mostly restorative), stretching, core strengthening exercises and fitting in some writing, e.g. blogging, research for future articles and speeches and, someday, a sequel to my book, Life’s A Joke. And, of course, eating. Some people eat to live, I live to eat. Sleeping 8-9 hours daily is considered a fun activity. That is pretty much my entire day.
My phone was blowing up yesterday and while I figured some people would wish me a happy birthday, I was stunned to get one message after another, all day (and night) long. Anyone who has been a loyal reader of my posts is cognizant of the fact that I am beyond technologically challenged. My entering the world of Facebook was moving into unchartered waters for me (I’ve never even attempted twitter, instagram, snapchat and whatever other “new forms of communication” I hear about from my two sons – both in their 20s). Still, when my phone wouldn’t stop vibrating – and it was going strong even as I began this blog – I thought it might have been experiencing seizures. I mean, over 125 (and counting) birthday wishes doesn’t exactly vault me into Oprah’s class but, for someone who’s been retired going on four years now, it was nice to know that many people would take even a couple seconds out of their day to send kind thoughts my way. Having lived in nine states, I’ve made a multitude of acquaintances. I heard from classmates (some I’ve known for over 60 years), former coaching and teaching colleagues, administrative and staff members, college players, high school students, radio and TV broadcast partners and, of course, friends. At my annual 10-day job as one of eight commissioners at Michael Jordan’s basketball camp in Santa Barbara, I’ll have to ask MJ how he deals with such unbridled adulation.
One message was from a friend who asked if birthdays counted when you retired. My reply was they counted when you retire . . . until “they” retire you. Then, nothing counts. After responding to him, I left for, what else, a doctor’s appointment. On my way, my college buddy gave me a happy birthday call and I explained I was off to a doctor’s appointment. When he asked what for, I told him I wasn’t sure.
The day prior to this appointment, while in my primary care doctor’s office, I mentioned to him that I understood why people are upset with the insurance industry. I told him that the following day (yesterday) I had an appointment with a doctor and had no idea what the purpose of it was. I’d seen the guy (referred to me by my doctor) months ago and had just noticed it when I entered this appointment in the calendar on my phone (pretty tech savvy, huh?) a few days ago. When he asked me which doctor I was seeing, I said, “Smith,” whose office is across the hall.
My frustration with the doctors and insurance companies stemmed from, among others, my previous visit to that doctor. I related that I’d seen Dr. Smith and explained about the problem I was having with my right foot. An emergency surgery (a diskectomy at T 10-11 – thoracic back area) had caused severe nerve damage that affected me from my mid-back on down. He told me he couldn’t feel anything wrong and sent me to get x-rays – which were also of no help. His suggestion was that he could “burn” or “kill” those nerves in my right foot and I wouldn’t feel anything in that area. When I asked if that would solve the problem with my right foot, he said it wouldn’t but it might make me feel a little better. However, he cautioned, it might exacerbate my situation. I asked what percentages would he put on the success of surgery.
“50% chance of feeling better, but 50% percent chance of feeling worse.” What?!? I know how bad I feel now and, although my life’s no day at the beach, I’ve learned to deal with it. Worse? I voted no. When I questioned him as to whether he’d do it “if he were me” (a question I’ve found helpful in getting a clearer answer), he said he would not. I thanked him, yet his office set me up with a “follow up” appointment three months later. I explained to my doc extra procedures that were added by another doctor I’d seen the previous week but, after hearing the results of my visit, my primary care doctor (who’s been our family doctor for 20 years and in whom we couldn’t have more faith) agreed with that doctor’s findings. “Your EKG results were showing him something different and anytime we see something different, we believe extra care should be taken.” That was not the case with Dr. Smith, however.
So, there I was yesterday, across the hall, signing in right on time at 3:00 for my appointment with Dr. Smith. The guy at the desk asked me if I was sure about this appointment because they didn’t have it listed. Once again I checked my calendar and, sure enough, there it read, 3:00pm doctor’s appointment with Dr. . . . Jones. I had seen Dr. Smith previously (he was of no assistance) but, hey, Smith, Jones, it’s a natural mistake. As is usually the case, I didn’t have Dr. Jones’ number, only that he was a neurologist. I asked another worker if there was a Dr. Jones in that building, hoping I’d catch a break (since I was already late) but, no, there was no Dr. Jones – only another Dr. Smith.
I called my wife, who takes copious notes, and asked if she could give me Dr. Jones’ number. She said she’d check and get right back to me. I headed home. When I got there, she asked if I had received her text with the number and address I needed. She said she sent a text because if she called, I’d have to either write the number down (while I was driving) or remember it (and, while I used to have a great memory, it’s still great, only much, much shorter). I didn’t hear my phone announce the text (I was listening to John Maxwell’s latest audio book) but wondered why it hadn’t vibrated. Turned out it had vibrated but it was constantly vibrating with birthday wishes.
I called the office and, of course, heard “If this is a medical emergency, hang up and dial 911” (like if I had a medical emergency my first reaction would be, not to dial 911 but to look up my neurologist’s number), then listened to voice mail. The lady returned the call and I explained my confusion between the two most common American names and said that, unless there had been a medical breakthrough in my case, that there would be no need for me to reschedule. If they needed to bill me for the missed visit, so be it.
My next move was upstairs to punish myself on the exercise bike for wasting a good part of the day – with which I could have been exercising, reading or writing. Or doing my favorite activity (now that I can no longer play tennis or golf) – doing sudokus. For the record, I’ve never encountered one – easy, medium, difficult, extremely difficult, whatever category – that I couldn’t do (one of them took me a couple days but after starting over a few times, I successfully completed that one). Life’s little pleasures take on new meanings as you get older – especially if you refuse to immerse yourself in new adventures).
I never realized how powerful Facebook is. These messages, some as short as “HB,” were very much appreciated. Already, I’ve sent two “happy birthday” wishes – one to a friend and his wife who had a C-section on my birthday and the other to a girl whose birthday is a day after mine. Sometimes we need to be reminded that:
“It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.”