Doctor’s Orders

Last week I had my scheduled semi-annual physical at the V.A. Clinic. As usual, I also had an appointment the week before to get bloodwork results before my doctor’s visit.

Servicemen must be a very forgetful bunch, I thought. Before each appointment, I got a letter in the mail reminding me of the appointments. Then I got two text messages reminding me of the appointments. Then I got two phone calls reminding me of the appointments. When I got there, I joked that I was surprised not to get a wake-up call and an Uber cab waiting outside.

Someday I’ll learn that the V.A. Clinic is not a place for telling jokes. They deal with people who have some very serious service-related problems, grizzled war veterans, who have gone through hell on earth, and the V.A. doctors and nurses are very sensitive and serious people. They immediately gave me a brochure about how to get free transportation to the clinic, if I was unable to get there on my own. I just smiled and took the brochure.

I started going to the V.A. Clinic when I lived in New York. When I moved to Pennsylvania, they transmitted my records to Pennsylvania and gave me a copy. It made for some interesting reading. They were concerned about my drinking back then. I guess alcoholism and forgetfulness are both monitored very carefully by the V.A.

During one session in New York, I was asked how much I drank. “I do a little social drinking,” I responded. Of course, they then wanted to know just how social I was. They wanted a number they could enter into the computer. How many drinks did I have in a day?

“Two,” I decided was a good number. “Put down two.”

So, years later when I read my report, I saw that the interviewing nurse had put down, “Admits to two drinks a day.” It was obvious that she thought I was lowballing the number.

So, now I try to be very careful with my answers, and, of course, every appointment nowadays is preceded by an interview with a nurse who tries to ascertain whether or not I am suffering from PTSD, suicidal, alcoholic, or senile.

We just barely got past Hello, and she started.

“Do you ever have feelings of Depression?”

“Only when the Barnstormers lose,” I quipped without thinking.

She started to write down on her pad, “Gets depressed when the Barnstormers lose.”

“No, don’t write that,” I said.

“Doesn’t want anyone to know,” she wrote.

“I was joking.”

“Manic Depressive tendencies,” she wrote.

I reminded myself to be way more careful with my answers.

“Do you ever have thoughts of suicide?”

“No, never,” I quickly answered. I didn’t think this was the time or place to tell her that I thought euthanasia should be legalized.

“How much do you drink?”

“I have one glass of wine before I go to bed.” I thought that was a good answer, and, technically, it wasn’t a lie. I have one glass of wine before I go to bed…and one glass of wine before that, and one glass of wine before that…

“In the past year have you ever had six or more drinks in one day?”

I scratched my head and pretended to be thinking long and hard for any occasion when I might have had six or more drinks, even though I knew that every Tuesday Brewsday at Clipper Magazine stadium with $2 beers between 6:30 and 8 p.m., I always drank at least that many beers.  Why else would they provide so many cup holders?  Finally, after much fake deliberation, I answered her question like I had just thought of one occasion. “At the family reunion in Ohio, my cousins kept getting me beers. I probably had more than six then.”

“Was that the only occasion?”

I was cornered. I couldn’t think of a way to answer her even half honestly, so I opted for Plan B. I lied.

“Yes, that’s the only time I can think of.”

Then she asked me if I want her to make an appointment for me with someone who might help me with my drinking problem?

Either she didn’t believe my answers, or she actually thought that having 6 beers with my cousins one time at a family reunion was a major drinking problem. What planet was she from? Did she ever go to college?  As far as I’m concerned, as long as there wasn’t an olive in my urine specimen, I didn’t really have a drinking problem. I like to drink.  It’s not a problem.  It’s a hobby.

“No, thank you,” I told her. “I’ll just be more careful at family outings in the future.” And I’ll also be more careful when I come back in six months and have to answer these questions again.

“Well, just remember,” she said, “NEVER have more than two drinks in a day.”

“Thanks.  I’ll remember that.” And I guess I better also remember to go to the store and buy bigger glasses.

Big Glass

Peace and Love, and all of the above,





5 thoughts on “Doctor’s Orders

    1. Did you ever see “Elaine Stritch: At Liberty” Earl? She talks about trying to cut down her drinking. She talks about 2 drinks a day, and shopping for “wine glasses” in the vase department at Bloomingdale’s. She then concedes that 2 drinks a day doesn’t work….not when you want 11. I sure do miss that lady…..

  1. Yeah, Go to the ER for anything that isn’t bleeding and the first thing they ask is “Are you feeling suicidal?”


  2. I once walked to the hospital (2 blocks from my apartment) with chest pain and they wondered why I was smiling. I told them that I was just glad I made it to the hospital without have to pay for an ambulance. It seems that smiling in the ER is taken as a sign of mental problems. LOL

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s