Intimations of Mortality


[ Note from Noel : The twin blessings of safety and early recovery are wished to our classmate Amado Cobankiat, we pray for God’s protection against both aftershocks and hurricanes for all our friends on the US East Coast, and belated happy birthday to a sorely missed kabatch, Dr Gina Yu-Tecson ! ]

THE ANALOGY that comes to me is your favourite pair of cross-trainers that you treat as running

We all of us eventually get there. Just need to do it as gracefully as possible.

shoes.  Unless they’re of the ultrasleek, ultrahi-tech variety and cost you more than a pretty penny, it took more than a little time for the waffle to completely embrace your unique heel signature, and now every groove, bunion and carved-out callus of your human tire tread is the mirror pattern of the shoe cushion, and you love the way the impact of every stride is absorbed by the uncomplaining, subservient shoe.

But the hard yards and early mornings logged by your swooshy or triple-stripey beast of burden as your faithful companion come at a price.  You didn’t think they would last forever, did you?  The erosions and smoothing out are hardly visible at first, appearing only at the dulled edges but before long, especially if you’re a regular jogger, the shoe no longer hugs the cinderpath the way it used to, the pavement is no longer as safe as it used to be as a running surface, until you finally admit to yourself that it’s time to part ways and put your Nikes, Adidases or Tigers out to pasture, or put it to sleep as a reward for long years (or months) of dedication to your personal fitness.

Sorry for the long-winded and circuitous analogy, but like athletic shoes and all unworthy partakers of the fountain called naive Youth I used to think I was bulletproof.  Not all the orgiastic excesses of the wasted young, the overweight 20s and 30s, the disruptive vices, and of course dysfunctional eating could dissuade me from believing that sweeping away all the remnants of these destructive behaviors would restore me to the pink of health.

In other words, a return to clean living (if  I ever observed it), elimination of any and all vices, and strict monitoring of food intake would make up for all those years of misguided living.

For a while, I actually thought that I was getting away with it.  Remember the phrase you tell those who live fast and die young you’re writing checks your body can’t cash?  Well, I had begun convincing myself that I could trace all those wayward checks, buy them back myself, and tear them up with lean satisfaction.  From the terribly excessive three plates of rice a meal in the 1990s, I was actually satisfied now with one plate, unless there were leftovers that were a pity to waste.

As long as the weather permitted and I wasn’t too tired, the block was always there for me to run around as my personal oval.  And I know you’re sick and tired of hearing it, but I had given up tobacco long before POTUS did (and continue to thumb my nose at P-noy), and limited alcohol intake to a glass or two of red wine, which by the way boasted of cardiovascular cleanser and additive resveratrol, so I was actually aiding and abetting fitness with drinking ! 🙂

But as they say, you can’t live on good intentions after half a lifetime of neglect, in fact the road to hell is paved with good intentions.  I knew that despite my chastened conversion to spartan living, my past would catch up with me someday,  hoping only that the day of reckoning would neither be too abrupt nor cruel.

The premonition came a few days before I gave blood for an immigration-related medical, and after an x-ray turned out swimmingly, I all but assured esposa hermosa that the blood work would pass with flying colors.  Her eyebrow raised, she advised strongly that I drink lots of milk to “clean my system,” which she was told did wonders for candidates submitting to annual medical exams and related hurdles.

Sobrang fit ako Mahal, kahit ano pang itest sa akin perfect ang kalalabasan, bursting with hubris I said.

Que horror she said, bite your tongue and better hope God didn’t hear you and teach you a lesson you’ll regret she said, and shoved a glass of Anchor to my healthy hands.

***         ***         ***         ***        ***

You should be proud of yourself Emmanuel, you tick all the boxes and are in good shape for a 46-year old, better than many I’ve seen, said the nurse that reviewed my bloodwork.

I allowed myself a small smile but beamed inside, ready to disabuse Mahal of her old wives’ tale (hindi pa ako matandang wife ha, she would surely say).  I almost overlooked being called Emmanuel, which reminded me of elementary schooldays.

There’s just one area that gives me concern, and I need to discuss this with you.

My rosy cheeks, flush with self-proclaimed health, paled noticeably in a span of a few seconds, and I managed to stammer Whatever could that be?

Your LDL or bad cholesterol is nearly double the accepted range, and you need to cut down on the treats, my dear.  Sometimes we can’t help it, stress and the rigor of work force us to eat more processed foods and salty diets than is advisable, and the result is our cholesterol numbers need to be monitored.

Oooops.  All those sinangag breakfasts, KFC Double Downs and Tuesday Pizza nights rushed by in a blur of irresponsible eating.

Are you absolutely sure, I tried to be as courteous as possible without sounding incredulous.  I’ve never had a high reading before.

She was obviously used to this, and replied smoothly : Your last medical was two years ago Emmanuel (with the accent on man, as in “manly” fitness), and a lot has  happened since then.  You continue to be active and you’ve maintained your weight, of course that’s good, but your lifestyle and health metrics, if you want an ideal level of fitness for work, need to be balanced.  

But my immigration application I began . . .

No need to worry about that, she assured me.  Just lodge it anytime you need to, the doctor will sign it straightaway.  We strive to be at our best working condition, but for every person to achieve that is impossible.  Let’s just see you again after three months and a new blood test, shall we?  I just need to tell you that if the numbers don’t improve, you may need cholesterol medication.  In the meantime, I suggest less fried foods, red meats and similar treats, and more breakfast porridge, which you can mix with a bit of fruit for variety, OK Emmanuel ?

I know it was a specialist nurse briefing me, but all I could see was a giant glistening pork chop yak-yakking, flanked by golden french fries drowning in liquid fat, and surrounded by dancing strawberry and chocolate milkshakes.

A small but clear voice told me, Don’t listen to her boss, now let’s study all our options and talk about this down the road at McDonald’s. 

I was not surprised to discover that the voice was coming from my tummy…

***         ***         ***         ***         ***

CAUGHT myself staring at Panganay the following morning, who incidentally was also staring, but at empty space.  While I was pondering my dietary dilemma, he was boycotting breakfast on grounds of personal choice.

Why don’t you eat breakfast anak?

Alam mo namang di ako kumakain ng pork Papa.

(Actually when hungry, he ate anything that didn’t move or didn’t breathe, preferably both.)

Um-hm…  Bumili pala kami ng Coke kagabi anak, baka gusto mong uminom mamaya.

Masama yan sa akin Papa, at sa yo rin.  Lalaki ang tyan ko.

(Even Coke Zero ???  Actually, before long, I would find the bottle empty in his room.  Hmm, was sensing a pattern here.)

OK.  Makiinom ka na lang ng gatas, masasayang yung fresh milk kapag nagexpire sya.

Papa, parang di mo alam na lactose intolerant ako.

(I wonder how he got past toddlerhood drinking the contents of all those Promil Cans till kingdom come?)

Eat all you can while you can young man, I thought to myself while smiling at his fussy food dramas.

You’re gonna miss it.

Thanks for reading!

Noel

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3 thoughts on “Intimations of Mortality

  1. Pingback: From Megamall 2 Downtown Wellington : Mahal’s 1st full-time gig « YLBnoel's Blog

  2. Pingback: Is That Dad In The Mirror ? « YLBnoel's Blog

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