There is such a thing, you know. They’re a woodboring insect with larvae that burrows into structural timber, causing all kinds of damage. The adults are the real badasses, though. They make a noise like a ticking watch and were considered harbingers of death. The hoot of an owl was a death knell, too, according to folklore.
But who needs omens and signs when hypochondria does such a fine job? Not me. I can turn a hangnail into leprosy quick as a wink. Death is always imminent and always gruesome. Never quick and neat.
Back at the tail end of 2016, I did the living will thing — legally refusing medical intervention. And that triggered a death spiral that led to music selection for the funeral (Here I Go Again by Whitesnake), a quick obituary (‘okay, this is funny: I died …’), and, in a dreadful coincidence, a doctor visit. To meet my new primary care physician.
In the course of getting acquainted, this new doctor casually mentioned blood tests and I went on full alert. Test results from last summer’s bike accident, she said, seemed curious. She rattled on, but I was distracted by the swarm of deathwatch beetles — tick, Tick, TICK. In the end, blood was drawn and she offered to call with the results. “Oh, no,” I squeaked, “no need to call,” and fled.
It wasn’t the tests that rattled me, it was their necessity. See, I don’t want to enter the healthcare system. Ever. Doctors and hospitals, in my view, should be treated like dark alleys and vigorously avoided. Medicine isn’t comforting, it’s terrifying. Bone saws and power drills; rib spreaders and retractors, clamps. Paging Doctor de Sade; Doctor Marquis de Sade to Emergency.
Hell, why bother with anesthesia, grab a mallet. Forget the respirator, use bellows. Some folks — Dick Cheney, for instance — are perfectly willing to go that route. They prefer drastic measures, no matter how grisly, to put off Judgment Day. I draw the line at stitches.
Long story short, after two long, anxious weeks the test results arrived by mail: I’m fine. Even my thyroid levels — that volcanic little juggernaut — are good. So the deathwatch beetles are quiet and the ringer on my phone is back on, chirping away. A chirping phone, I’ve been assured, is not a portent of doom.
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