June 20, 2001
My knee hurts today, maybe a bit more than yesterday. That’s the way things have been going lately, though. I guess that every year adds another ache. Oh well, I have a lot to do today and can’t let this pain get the better of me. I just have to stand up, put some weight on it, test it out. Usually it improves. Just let me out of bed…
There. That’s much better already. I need to use the bathroom. I just went a couple of hours ago and I feel the need again. A few years ago I could make it all night without a bathroom trip even if I had two bottles of water the day before. Now I pee almost every night. Just another thing to live with.
Paul is calling me. Paul is my husband, a sweet, hard-working man of fifty-eight. He always says that I should wake him when I get up so he won’t be late. I wish he’d just set an alarm. Between this ache in my knee and my full bladder I have other things to worry about than getting his butt up and out the door. What’s he saying? Will I be in here long? I guess I will, if I want. Man can wait. I think I’ll take a longer shower this morning. I wish he’d just set an alarm.
Shower’s nice and warm this morning. Didn’t take long to heat up at all. I’ll run down my day like I always do. At work, we have a three-hour staff meeting about “productivity” this morning. That means I have the afternoon left over to take care of things like my job. I’m meeting Pamela for lunch in between. Haven’t seen her in a while which means I can’t cancel. Don’t want to either. There aren’t too many that you know for ten years and still want to know. After work I have a doctor’s appointment. High blood pressure medication refill. Watch a little television afterwards. Maybe call my daughter. If I can be in bed by eleven I’ll feel better tomorrow. Maybe this knee will too.
“…or I’ll be late,” is all I catch as I turn the water off. “Just a minute” I chirp in my sweetest voice. Man does need an alarm. He’ll practically run me over on the way out, complaining about being late and me being slow. Let’s see…! open the door…here he comes…”I’m gonna be late. Hurry up.” Yep. Door shut, water on. He won’t be late.
The drive to work was tough this morning. An accident on the highway and everybody has to look. Don’t people know what’s there? There are no more secrets, not in this world. You can see it on television. I wonder if I used to look when I was younger. Now all I know is that if I don’t look I’ll get to work faster, and I wish all these other poeple would realize that too.
My job as a personnel coordinator means that I will be a “key player” at the meeting. I can help the company increase profit while minimizing cost by “skillfully downsizing.” Firing people has never been my strong suit. Oh, I can do it, especially when the person has it coming. Lazy boys just out of college who think they know it all. Thieves. Incompetents. Of course, they want me to fire people who work hard, work for their families as well. I can hardly bring myself to look them in the eye. Meeting’s starting. I wonder who they’ll direct me to today. Hopefully not myself.
Nope. Job’s safe for another month. Not the same for the tech department. Cut in half in six weeks. Guess that’s the way this new economy works. I’m late for lunch now. Pamela will understand. She’s a housewife, lots of time on her hands. She comes into the city every once in a while to meet me. We live in different parts of the Chicago suburbs. I’m on the south, she’s on the north. The city is right in the middle.
She greets me the same way she always does. “Annie. You look great.” It wasn’t true. “How’s things? How’s Paul?”
Same as always. Same as he’s been for thirty years or more. He doesn’t look the same as he used to, but neither do I. At least he still looks at me. Even touches me sometimes. Of course, he doesn’t function like he used to. Probably used it too much when we were first married. It’s not the most important thing anyway.
I answer, “He’s fine.”
“How’s the kids?”
Well, one of them hardly talks to me and lives in California. I think he’s gay, in case you care. He won’t tell me. Like I’ll disapprove. I disapprove more of his career in the restaurant service industry. You’d think his college education would have led to more than waiting tables. The other one is engaged to an investment banker. The kind of guy who tells me to fire people. Sometimes I wish I could fire him, but they met in college and you know how that goes. Anyway, they like the same types of booze, so they must be perfect for each other. Her career as an executive assistant sounds a lot like being a personal secretary. In my day that wasn’t such a good job. At least they don’t make you sleep with them anymore. At least I don’t think they do. She hasn’t mentioned it, and she would. It’s all she ever talks about, sex with her fiancee, sex at work, sex on TV. A good kid, but a bit too carnally focused.
The lunch is pleasant. I have a large salad. I try to ignore the fact that with the dressing it still has 1250 calories. Same as the Reuben. But I eat healthy. We talk about money, our families, what movies we’ve seen lately. Our age. Always our age. Fifty-six in’t such a big deal anymore but we still talk about it a lot more than when we were twenty-six.
Back to work and the full desk. Phone calls, faxes, e-mails. It used to be nobody could contact you. Now you can’t get away. I am so tired of being on the phone, of being “in touch” with people I’ve never even seen, much less touched. Impersonal. Sterile.
The drive to Dr. Chan’s office is slow. He’s my internist. I used to have a family doctor, but I joke now that I don’t have a family so why have a family doctor. Dr. Chan is a good guy. I think about what I am going to tell him. I already know what he’ll ask. Yes, the pills seem to be working fine. No headaches. No nausea. Feeling fine otherwise. They’re fine. Yes, I do need a refill.
Of course there are about ten people in the waiting room. Not too many doctors have these evening hours. While I wait I read about entertainment in Entertainment Weekly. I remember wehn people didn’t care about what was most popular, what was hottest, what people in Hollywood cared about. Now it seems to be first and foremost. I’ve always made my own choices about what to like. Certainly not the new stuff. I don’t even recognize teh names anymore. And I don’t care either. There’s always old movies, old songs, and old books. Not that people read anymore.
Dr. Chan smiles all the time. He’ll be smiling when he walks in. There it is. Yes, I’m fine. Does he ever stop smiling? Even when he’s reading my chart, he keeps smiling. Maybe I should tell him my dog died, or that he smells bad, or that aliens have taken over my body. Maybe he’d stop smiling. Probably not
Yes the pills seem to be working fine. The pressure’s down? Good. No headaches. No nausea. No sexual problems. He’s never asked that one before. Mabye he took a refresher course. Feeling fine otherwise. Yes, the kids are fine, and Paul too. Yes, I need a refill. Now the checkup…chest, belly, knees, back. See you in six months.
As I zip up my pants, I take a look around the room. A calendar with a dog on it. A poster telling me how to recognize the signs of diabetes. A sink. It looks untouched. There was a doctor here, but it’s the same as if he’d never come. Impersonal. Sterile.
My recliner is more comfortable than usual. The knee always starts up again at night, but it is a bit quieter today. The movie on television involves a woman who is beaten and keeps custody of the kids. Same as every other night. I remember that we used to just take the beatings. Some things do get better. In fact this day went pretty well. I’m not dying, at least not according to Dr. Chan. I have at least one friend, my job is secure, and my husband is getting along fine. Not too bad. Maybe we’ll even make love tonight.
Time for bed. The knee is a little worse now. But better than yesterday. Paul looks interested. Even if we don’t make love, it’s nice to have him close. He’s one of the better ones. That’s nice.
* * * * *
January 26, 2036
Obit. Anne Margaret Whitaker, nee MacGregor, 91, of Oak Lawn. Died of natural causes. Beloved wife of the late Paul Mark, loving mother of Brittany Anne and late Mark James, cherished grandmother of Bree and Deacon, aunt to many. Visitation 3-9 p.m. January 27 at Blake and Lamb, 87th and Harlem. Service 9 a.m. January 28 Our Blessed Mother chapel, 99th and Cicero, internment to follow. In lieu of flowers donation can be made to AIDS Research Fund of America.