“Have you been watching your sugars?” she’d ask, sing-songy, playing her side of their little game.
“Oh, yes,” he’d reply, playing his.
Of course, my father-in-law ate a cookie after every meal, even breakfast. Chocolate. Candy corn at Halloween. Valentine’s Day. Christmas. Any holiday that involved sweets, which, at this point in our country is every holiday.
She’d tell him he was borderline diabetic and he needs to be careful. He’d assure her he was doing his part and then scoot his wheelchair back to his room when she left to his stash of malted milk balls.
So now that I see one type of medical professional or another on a fairly regular basis, I’ve been making a point to admit to everything and accepting the consequences.
Twice a year now I do the personal medical maintenance check-up world tour. I’m such a mess these days, I’ve got an army of them: my general practitioner, dentist, cardiologists (2 of them, separately), foot doctor, eye doctor, haircut, everything seems to sync up so in a four week span, I pretty much go from appointment to appointment getting prodded and poked, measured and tested.
So, I just got out of the general practitioner arm of my current tour and his nurse/assistant/whatever asks me a bunch of questions, including the big one:
“How much do you drink?”
I know the answer’s not going to sit well with her. But I’m in full disclosure mode. Not every day, I tell her, which is the truth for the most part. Mostly on the weekends. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday? Well, yes, I suppose. Hard liquor? No, red wine, usually. How many glasses would you say? Whole truth and nothing but the truth--- three or four glasses… Long pause. Hm, well, I guess that’s not so bad. You drink at home so you’re not driving. Etc, etc, etc.
When it’s time to see the actual doctor he knows everything I told the nurse, all the details. She tattled on me! He covers the usual things, heart stuff, blood pressure, cholesterol. (He’s the one who scheduled the “routine” stress test that pretty much saved my life.) Then he asks about the drinking. He asks me if I’m still depressed even after therapy, etc. I tell him I wonder if I have an addictive gene or it runs in the family or something because my dad was an alcoholic, my cousin, too, several uncles, probably my sister and on and on. That’s true, he tells me, but cautions me to watch out.
The thing is: I can feel the addictive thing when it happens. I didn’t tell him this. The urge to drink every day without thinking about it, to easily go past two glasses to three, four, the whole bottle. And a lot of times I feel like another after that. Sometimes I find myself making a special trip to Trader Joe’s to stock up on wine so I have “enough,” it makes me feel like, next stop: homeless guy passed out in a doorway.
And yet, I still don’t feel like it’s too much of a problem. I'm obviously judging my alcohol consumption on a different scale than he is. Like fahrenheit and celcius. On my dad's scale, pounding down shots of Canadian Club with Hamm’s chasers from 2 in the afternoon until he passed out, crumbled into a ball at the kitchen table… compared to that, I’m a tea-totaler. Or maybe that’s the classic sign of an alcoholic in the making.