Sunday, January 15, 2012

January, Dark and Cold

Cincinnati Snowstorm (January, 1978)

Dear George,

No one would dispute that January is the bleakest month. Overcast skies, dark early, bitter cold, hazardous sidewalks. What all this adds up to is less walks for the dogs, fewer ventures out with friends, runny noses, and feeling cooped up. This January started out particularly badly when I read in the paper that a good friend’s husband had died unexpectedly in his sleep. He was in his early sixties, had two children in their early thirties, and had recently become a new grandfather. I’ve always thought that he and his wife had one of the closest, happiest marriages I knew of. I felt so sad at the funeral. His death was incomprehensible, and my friend looked like she was barely hanging on. Katja wasn’t able to come to the funeral, and, when I tried to tell her about it, I kept breaking into tears.

I’d scheduled an annual physical with Dr. Braxton for a few days later. I hadn’t given it any thought, but the funeral must have affected me. I wouldn’t say that I’m a hypochondriac, but whenever I go to the doctor I start becoming aware of deadly maladies I’ve contracted. This time my symptoms pointed to pneumonia (from my lingering cold), an imminent stroke (since my blood pressure’s been creeping up), amputation of my lower limbs from diabetes (elevated blood sugar), and skin cancer that had reached my brain (a scruffy spot on my forehead). Katja came along to my appointment. She was impressed with the framed copy of Cincinnati magazine on the wall which featured Dr. Braxton as one of the “Best Doctors” in the city. I didn’t know why he was among the best, but Dr. Braxton did proceed efficiently and cheerfully, peering inside my ears and listening to my chest while I coughed deeply. He didn’t detect any pneumonia, said my blood pressure had risen some because I wasn’t exercising as much as I had during the summer, and wasn’t worried about my spot of crusty skin or my blood sugar, which he said would drop in a day if I’d cut down on sweets. After twenty minutes I was discharged with an excellent bill of health. Katja was relieved. Now I knew why Dr. Braxton is one of the best. In a mere twenty minutes, he’d managed to rid me of pneumonia, stroke, cancer, and diabetes. To celebrate my miraculous recovery we stopped at the Hyde Park Graeter’s where I treated myself to a chocolate doughnut and a Bearclaw pastry.

We hurried home because the dogs were due at their chiropractor appointment. Mike and Duffy will be ten in April (70 in human years), so we worry about them too. Our groomer, who does an excellent haircutting job but clearly regards us as incompetent dog owners, said that Duffy has lost half the muscle mass in his right rear leg, resulting in his leg trembling uncontrollably as she works on him. We felt terrible. It had been three months since Dr. Mattell had seen Mike and Duffy, and he worked over each dog carefully, manipulating each joint and muscle. He didn’t detect any loss of muscle mass in Duffy’s leg. Duffy’s leg did tremble during the exam, but Dr. Mattell said that was a sign of anxiety. He said the dogs were in excellent condition and recommended we come back for a checkup in four months. I decided that the maniacal groomer had just felt like mentally torturing us.

Now that the people and the dogs have been pronounced to be doing well, January has definitely picked up. Katja’s been working on a speech for her women’s writing club, and her completed manuscript was interesting and entertaining, bound to be a hit. Then she went downtown to renew her passport for her three-week trip with her siblings to Italy in March. She’s all excited, and I’m happy for her. We enjoyed “War Horse”, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”, “Melancholia”, and “The Artist” at the movies. We’ve watched a lot NFL playoff games (most thrilling; some with good outcomes, some lousy), and my favorite local basketball teams are on red-hot winning streaks. Even despite the first snowfall of the season January seems to be gradually improving. What an up and down month! I guess that’s what winter is all about.



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