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.
Peace and Love, and all of the above,