O Death, Where Is Thy Schwing?

If you look at my high school picture (NERD!), you may notice a tiny round mole on my right cheek, smaller than a #2 pencil eraser.  Over time that small mole transformed itself into a representation of a European country, sort of a demented Italy.  About 15 years ago I had my HMO take a look at it, but since in their eyes I was the equivalent of a male sockeye salmon who had spawned, they pooh-pooh it, saying years of shaving had just spread the pigment around (translation: we recommend you find a nice, quiet backwater pool, go belly-up, and die).  Within the last year, it started changing, getting larger and adding pretty colors like black and red.  I became increasingly aware of this because within the last year people who hadn’t seen me in awhile would with courtesy and sensitivity ask me “What in the HELL has happened to your face?!”  So it was that this item was #3 on my list of concerns as I visited a dermatology clinic Friday.

When the PA saw my map of Italy, it went to #1 with a bullet on their chart.  They took a biopsy and told me they were putting a rush on the lab results, and that the entire thing would be coming off soon, as it was a melanoma (gulp!).  I guess it’s just a question of the type of melanoma, and the stage.  If it’s the type the PA thinks it is (she was a hottie, so she must be right), it’s the kind that is very slow-growing and stays on the surface.  That kind has about a 100% cure rate, and the treatment is simply excision.  I might be walking around with a big crater in my face (modeling career over), but life would go on.  If it’s the other kind, there would still be hope that it was in the early stages and highly treatable.  She felt the lymph nodes in my neck and didn’t frown or make any noises like “Hmmmm…” which I take as a positive.  But it does get one to thinking…

When you are young, you in your heart of hearts think you are immortal.  Death is some distant rumor that does happen to other people but is not going to happen to you.  At least we guys think we are immortal; I make that distinction because women are smarter than us and I haven’t figured out how they really think yet, so maybe they are wiser than us at a tender age (but I digress).  That’s why the Marine Corps loves 18 year-old guys so much.  Johnson, go up to that machine gun nest and see if they want to surrender.  Yes SIR!  By the time a guy is 30 we are just like that National Guardsman in the movie “Rambo: First Blood” Johnson, go into that cave and see if he’s still in there.  Hell NO Sir!  I’m a pharmacist; I just do this on weekends!”

Over time a guy does gradually realize death is inevitable, that working out, eating right and flossing afterwards, and drinking pomegranate juice until your scat looks like a cherry Slush Puppy is not ultimately going to stave it off.  Things like playing basketball have long gone by the wayside, but when your legs feel like you just played 5 hours of full-court after pulling some weeds and cutting the flat front lawn with a front wheel-drive mower, your body is sending a message that’s hard to ignore.  But even at 55, your frontal lobe fights back with “Hey ya big goof, you could easily have 30 – maybe even 40 more years.  Tear down your barns and build bigger ones!”

So my Friday visit to the dermatologist was a reality check.  Many people get up in the morning singing zippity do-da and don’t sit down to dinner that night, because of a car accident, a faulty aorta, or blood vessel in the brain that gets visited by a suicide bomber, but I think more of us get some sort of notice.  So most likely this isn’t that notice, but later on in life a medical professional (hopefully another hottie) will be giving me my notice.  That is my hope: we are expecting our first grandchild in October, and I would like to be around like Peter Falk in “The Princess Bride” to read my grandchildren childhood classics like Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” and the Mandingo series.  An even greater pleasure would be to attend their games and shake my cane and hurl imprecations at the referees with impunity, because nobody would throw such a cute old man out of the stands.  But if it is final notice, Lord Thy will be done, and give me the grace to comport myself in a manner worthy of Thy name….oh the heck with that, I’m going to lie in bed with my face turned toward the wall and sob uncontrollably like Hezekiah.  That worked for him!  Or maybe just more like Bill Paxton in “Aliens”: Game over man, (sob) game over! I think I like the Hezekiah analogy better, because by blubbering like a baby he got a 15-year extended contract, while all Bill Paxton got was to be alien antipasto.

God bless!

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One Comment on “O Death, Where Is Thy Schwing?”


  1. That was simply moving. I wish you the best.


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