I have always taken pride in being first in everything I do. In junior high school, I played first chair, first clarinet in the band. When I was twenty, I was the first person I knew who went out and bought a VCR for the ridiculous sum of $995 plus tax, and two blank videotapes for $25 each just so I could watch my Saturday morning cartoons on Saturday evenings. I haughtily lived in the jealous envy of rage of all my friends and neighbors.
As time passed, I was the first person in my crowd to be diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, which brought forth unknown amounts of sympathy from those who were now buying VCR’s for a $18.95. In my thirties, I was also the youngest of my peers who came down with gout that was so painful that it had to be surgically corrected. People at work were stupendously jealous of the sick days this allowed me to take all in the name of the inability to walk comfortably (I think it was two days.) They also resented my ability to hoard Percocet in doses that made me more than just comfortable.
Then one day when I was about 40 I discovered I couldn’t make it up a flight of stairs without gasping for air. I was soon the first on my block to be diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, or an enlarged heart. Now everyone knows I have a big heart, and they have ever since I bought the thousand dollar VCR and never invited them over at night to watch The Bugs Bunny Road Runner Hour. What they didn’t know was I was also the first of my peers to have congestive heart failure. When I was 45 I had two cardiac ablations where they ran wires up my groin and burned out parts of my heart. Both procedures failed. I also had three attempts at electrocardioversion where they zap you with the paddles after yelling “clear.” All that was a big waste of time and money, and did not make me the first of my friends to be cured of a-fib/cardiomyopathy/ congestive heart failure. I could have bought a warehouse full of thousand dollar VCR’s with the co-pays from that nonsense.
I have always taken ownership of being well ahead of my time and exhibited a certain pride in it. That way when other people come down with the same problem, I can offer more than just empathy but sympathy, and also add this reassuring line: “Oh, hell, that’s nothing. I had that when I was half your age, and I got through it just fine.”
I was only 44 when I was first given the senior discount generally reserved for those two decades older after bringing my items up to a register at a thrift store. Some people may find that outrageous and offensive, but I spent years blistering on the beaches of Florida’s Gulf Coast to get this shar-pei look in order for this to happen, and I was successful, and I’m not about to argue with 50% off retail.
Two weeks ago I was diagnosed with what’s called in layman’s terms as a “frozen shoulder” which, like the migraine headaches I’ve had for the past 26 years, affects women more than men. Frozen shoulder is treated with Prednisone and physical therapy, which is working nicely, and as soon as it thaws I expect it will taste very nice grilled with a nice mango-lime marinade.
So today, right after my physical therapy session, I went to my optometrist, as I do every year, and I could tell right away that my left eye had dramatically gotten worse than my right eye. With my right eye I could read the last (sixth) line down. With my left eye, even with optimal correction, I could only read the third line down.
“I didn’t tell you last time,” the doctor told me, “but you have a small cataract in your left eye.” Not a Lexus. Not a Lincoln Continental, but a genuine Cataract. A Sedan deville, I believe. A cataract. You know, like your grandmother gets.
Once again, the first on my block, the first in my graduating class. Mr.-gotta-have-it-before- anyone-else.
Something else better show up quickly, because too soon I’ll be too old not to get something that old people get. Maybe I’ll burn through all the old-people problems and start on the young people problems.
Maybe I should go out and buy a pre-emptive tube of Clearasil just in case.