Cathy Hamilton: The evil exam that makes boomer a cheater

“We’re going out for margaritas and tacos. Tonight’s two-for-one,” my friend said. “Wanna come?”

“Can’t,” I groaned. “I’m cramming.”

She took a beat, then asked, “Didn’t you finish school in, like, 1975?”

“’76,” I snapped, cranky from a severe carb deficiency. “I’ve got an exam Thursday morning. You know, my annual physical? That horrible ordeal you have to go through every year just to get your prescriptions refilled?”

“Say no more,” she replied. “How long have you been on the wagon?”

“From carbs and fat, about four days. Booze, only one. Can’t seem to kick caffeine this time. I’ve been slugging detox tea like there’s no tomorrow. And with my sodium intake lately, there may not be.”

“Call me before you open your lab results,” she said. “We’ll go out for martinis and fudge.”

I hung up, a sense of dread gnawing at my snarling stomach.

Last year, I was the picture of health for two solid weeks, pre-exam. Nothing fattening, salty or toxic passed my lips for 14 whole days. You should have seen my blood work. Stellar!

This year, I wasn’t so confident.

Later that evening, when my son dropped by unexpectedly around dinnertime, I told him I was on a clean living streak in preparation for my check-up.

“That is wrong on so many levels, Mom,” he said. “You need to present an accurate picture to the doctor of how you normally live, not as if you were sequestered in a monastery.”

“Easy for you to say,” I replied. “You’re not even 29! Your cholesterol’s 82. You don’t know Jack about the implications of pre-existing conditions, you impertinent little son of a b… !”

(I was crabby, all right.)

I apologized to my son and explained the twisted, yet rational (in my mind, anyway) logic behind my motives.

“I know you have my best interests at heart. But, this hasn’t been the healthiest period in your mother’s life,” I explained, trying not to notice his eyes glazing over.

“First of all, the kitchen is under construction. To you, this means a drastic reduction in free dinner invitations. To me, it’s a diet of fat- and carb-laden restaurant food, night after night after night.I’ve tried sticking with salads. Really, I have. But, after a couple glasses of wine, it’s hard to get excited about Romaine and blackened chicken chunks, again. Know what I mean?”

He closed his eyes, deep in thought. Or was it slumber?

“Then, there’s the insomnia,” I continued. “You don’t know the angst of waking for no reason at 3 a.m. Hell, you’re just going to bed at that hour. You have no clue what it’s like to lie awake, staring at the ceiling, willing yourself to fall back to sleep until you finally doze off, then — brrreeeeeennngg! — the alarm sounds and you realize you’ve dozed for 22 minutes?”

He nodded his head in empathy. Or was it boredom?

“Besides,” I continued. “This is a temporary condition, not reflective of my typical state of health. My blood pressure’s going to be a little high and my cholesterol, too, probably. Not surprising, given the nutritional circumstances and stress I’ve been under.”

He opened his eyes and leaned forward in his chair, grabbing my hand.

“Mom,” he whispered, earnestly. “Didn’t you always tell us that honesty was the best policy? That you can’t deal with a problem if you’re in denial? A clean bill of health doesn’t mean squat if you’re faking good habits.”

(Don’t you just hate it when kids spit your words of wisdom back in your face?)

“You’re right, of course,” I admitted, sheepish yet proud of the lessons he had obviously learned. “I should behave like I’ve done all along, eating and drinking with mild abandon, and let the chips fall where they may.”

“Great,” he replied. “And whatever the lab work shows, you’ll deal with it and be healthier in the long run.”

I looked at his face and smiled. This was a mature and genuinely caring person I had raised. Behind that unshaven face lurked a wise and loving young man.

Suddenly, a reality check came out of the blue, razing my reverie.

“Why are you here?” I asked, bluntly.

“I dunno,” he said, aware he’d been busted. “I’m just short on cash and it’s two-for-one at the Mexican place we, er, YOU like so much.”

Moral: A mom’s best interests in her son’s heart are always trumped by hunger in his own stomach.

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