Tuesday, August 02, 2005


There is a mild strain of hypochondria running in my mother's side of the family. How often do you do that: dissect your good and bad attitudes and traits as belonging to the Eagan side or the Smith side? (insert family surname here, I do not presume you all have Eagan blood)

I say mild, in that it does not involve wearing gloves and a propensity to wipe down surfaces like Niles Crane, rather it is more like Jerome K. Jerome's whose cure was:
1lb. beefsteak, with
1 pt. bitter beer
every 6 hrs.
1 10 mile walk every morning.
1 bed 11 sharp every night.
And don't stuff your head up with things you don't understand.

There are folks I am related to that I heartily hope never take to cruising WebMD. I fear needles so irrationally that my whimpering and crying have gotten me banned from the Lion's Club blood drive in the basement of the local Methodist church. My own incipent strain of hypochondria is battled by two things: close proximity to someone who deals with real illness, and a bit of the good natured laziness from my dad's side of the family. When I say "laziness" I am not refering to slouching on a couch wearing a gravy stained wife-beater while watching the Stories on TV. The "laziness" of temperment which realizes that there is no need to get worked up about small things when the big ones are out there, tomorrows troubles are sufficient for tomorrow. (I am not painting a very flattering picture here, trust me they are really nice people.)

The Muralist hurt herself the other day. Not badly - she gave herself a fat lip with a cut on it - but it was a Big Deal About Which to Cry. I was reading news headlines on my lap top while feeding the Infant, when I heard Bang! Thump! "Whaaaaaahhhhh Mommmmmeeeeee" from the other room. The crying was not the my-dignity-or-feeling-are-hurt variety, but the there-is-a-major-injury variety which every mother dreads. The Muralist came hurtling around the corner with a bloody mouth.

As I scrambled to get her into the bathroom and put pressure on with a damp washcloth, the Verbalist steadily proclaimed: "ItwasanaccidentanaccidentI'msorryI'msorryanaccident." He then made tracks on sit on his bed awaiting Impending Doom.

"What happened?" I queried the Muralist.

"We wamme chaammma tammmamamma" she tried to explain muffled by the washcloth.

I called the Verbalist in and asked him. You could see him immediately try to figure out if he a) was in trouble and b) if truthful revelations would land him in hot water. Strike a deal with the DA sonny and you'll get less time in the clink, er room. You better hurry up too 'cause your partner will sing like a canary see. (end bad Cagney impersonation)

"Well you see Mom," he says as earnest and persuasive as a four year old can be, "it's like this, we were practicing."

"Practicing what?" already seeing the answer before me.

"Techniques," he chirps, refering to the self defense Aikido techniques he and his sister learn twice weekly at a local dojo.

"Ryote dori?" I ask "Suwari waza?"

"Furniture techniques," he confidently asserts, sure that he is out of trouble. After all, he was only practicing his Aikido, an accepted activity.

"What are furniture techniques?" I ask weakly, not sure I want to know but with a horrified curiosity driving me on. At this point, they both burst into a detailed description, the Muralist still muffled by washcloth but no longer crying. I hesitate dear reader, from disclosing the full details of "furniture technique"; instead let me assure children everywhere that rocking back in a chair with legs off the floor is apt to result in injury the way parents and teachers say. To parents, "furniture technique" went beyond this and with spinning.

The catalogue of details ended by the Verbalist's emphatic pronouncement: "We need to show Sensei how to do it. He'd love it!" Followed by a corresponding nod from the Muralist. I forbid them "furniture techniques" but encouraged them to explain them to Sensei -who is the final arbitor of techniques.

Throughout the day though the Muralist worried about her fat lip. It was making her talk funny. She could see it if she crossed her eyes. It hurt if she poked it with her finger or chewed on it. Perhaps it needed a band-aid. Perhaps we should go to the doctor. Perhaps we should go to the hospital. Do we need an ambulance? CALL 911!! Do not tell her about WebMD. To close, let us quote Lileks:
The fabric (of the hospital gown) has been chosen from the finest high-grit sandpaper; the pattern answers the nagging question of what happened to all the Soviet fashion designers after the fall of Communism. Of course, it's open at the back, in case your doctor suddenly shouts out DRY ICE SUPPOSITORY! STAT! DAMMIT, NURSE, THERE'S NO TIME TO UNLACE! Could happen.

You sit. You wait. You think: There should be a large butcher's saw on the wall -- huge, serrated, with the words "Gangrene Gertie" written in script on the well-worn handle. And after a few minutes, someone should come and take it away. It would set your mind at ease. Well, whatever happens, it won't involve ol' Gert. This is turning out all right. And if he returns it a few minutes later after an interlude of grinding sounds? Well, at least you know she's sharp -- and that this is the worst it can get. If the doctor came in and gave the saw a little pat -- hello, ol' gal -- you could pretend it was some sort of ritual, like patting that trunk before you go onstage at the Apollo Theater.

The doctor comes in.

"You're not going to saw my leg off, are you, because there's nothing wrong with my leg, it's my -- oh. Sorry. Lost in a hyperventilating hypochondriac fantasy. Hah hah! Can I have sedatives? Please? With chocolate sauce?" But no. You discuss your medical history, and it makes you nervous: Why is he asking if I have these things? Do I look like I have these things? Then he checks your spleen. Your spleen! You never worried about your spleen before! Now you'll be palpating the thing for weeks until you finally go in again: Doc, it's sore. Almost as if it had been poked obsessively for a fortnight.

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