Old No More
“Mrs. Warren, the doctor won’t see you until you tell me what’s wrong. Come on now, just tell me why you need to see him.” Betty realizes her voice is getting more strident with every word she utters. Calm and sweet she reminds herself. These lols need calmness, gentleness, firmness and serenity. “Mrs. Warren, it’s my job to triage patients and make sure the doctor sees the illest ones first. Please …”
“It’s Lily, dear. I haven’t been Mrs. Warren for years – and have no desire to go back. I’m sure the doctor…”
“Mrs. Warren, I really must…”
“Please call me Lily dear. I’m sure you are a very good nurse and tri – whatever you said – you really do it well. But I need to see the doctor TODAY about something important. Now, not another word, just tell the doctor I’m here. I’ll sit down until he sees me.”
“But, but, but” Betty suddenly realizes that her lol has gone. She mutters under her breath - why did I ever take this job? Great, now I’m talking to myself. Why me? How on earth did I wind up here, surrounded by lols when I know they drive me to distraction?
An amused voice asks “What’s a lol and what’s wrong with being here? We are in a beautiful office, on a bright spring day – the landscapers have put flowers everywhere. The receptionist is in today and she’s even greeting people and answering the phones. What more could anyone want?”
Flustered, Betty responds, “Dr. A I didn’t hear you come in. It’s nothing really, just Mrs. Warren. She comes in without an appointment and refuses to tell me what’s wrong – just insists on seeing you.”
“Ok but what’s a lol?”
“Nothing, just my name for all your fussy, cantankerous, Little, Old Ladies. Why can’t you have more young adults or middle- age, insecure men or even premenopausal, depressed women? Why do you have to attract so many lols and what do I do about Mrs. Warren?”
“The little old ladies love me. I remind them of their grandsons, and they all know so one’s wonderful granddaughter who would be perfect for me. Besides all that, they like me and recognize that I genuinely like them. Don’t do anything about Mrs. Warren, just let her sit there until she tells you what’s wrong, or she leaves or I finish with my last patient. I’ll see her then, even if she still doesn’t tell you why.”
Betty continues to be annoyed, but ignores Mrs. Warren and competently deals with the sore throats, sore feet, colds and other problems. Finally, Mrs. Warren is the only one left. Betty sticks her head into Dr. A’s office “I’m leaving now – Mrs. Warren is still in the waiting room. See you tomorrow.”
“Mrs. Warren, come right in. Sorry it took so long for me to get you in here. Now tell me what I can do for you.”
“It’s Lily, dear. I haven’t been Mrs. Warren for years – and have no desire to relive that experience.”
“Ok, Lily it is … now what can I do for you?”
“Er, well you see … um it’s just that …” her voice trails off as she struggles to find appropriate words. All this time getting up the courage to be here and I never thought about how to explain it, she mutters.
“Just say it – there’s no need for fancy words.”
“Well, it’s like this. I am old and have problems doing things I used to do. Why some days I can’t even lean over enough to weed my plants. I’m getting forgetful, too. Not just words, but I forget appointments or what day it is or what I like or dislike. You aren’t supposed to forget your desires! So that’s why I’m here.”
“Lily, I’m confused. What do you want me to do for you?”
“Why make me young again, of course. I don’t care how you do it – you can send me back in time OR rearrange my brain so I can remember the important things OR make me young again – even a magic potion will do. Just fix me!”
Dr. A is stumped. He wants to laugh, but understands that she is serious. Still he has no answers. “Mrs. Warren, I don’t know what to tell you. I don’t know how to do what you are asking. I wish I could help; if you have specific aches and pains I can give you something, but I can’t make you young again.”
“It’s Lily dear, and I don’t expect you to do anything today. Just research it and I’ll come back next week. Have a good evening.”
By the time, he digests her words she is gone. What do I do now, he groans.
Research indeed! But off and on, over the next week Dr. A thinks of her unusual demand. He calls several of his colleagues and even calls the med school’s head of the dept. of geriatrics. He gets the names of a geriatric specialist who agrees to see her as his patient. In addition, he gets the names of two psychiatrists who specialize in problems of the elderly. He personally speaks to each of them. To their knowledge, no one has ever had a patient with Mrs. Warren’s demand.
Mrs. Warren walks in and immediately reminds Betty “he expects me, you know.” Betty just nods and walks off. See that’s one of the problems with being old, Mrs. Warren thinks. Everyone ignores you. She is so excited that it’s hard to sit still. Her mind races ahead to all she will do as soon as she is young again. First, she will make sure not to ignore or denigrate anyone older than she will be. What age shall she become? 25, 30, 35, even 45 will be fine. She has enjoyed all of them. This time I will not take anything for granted, she decides. . Lily watches as the other patients gradually leave.
“Good afternoon, Lily. Did you wait very long? I hope you had a good week.” Suddenly Dr. A wonders if his solution is the right one. Oh well, it’s all he has. “Mrs. Warren, I’ve done a lot of consultation and have some ideas for you. I can arrange to get you an appointment with Dr. James. He is a renowned gerontologist. He has agreed to run all the physical and mental tests to determine what is wrong and get you back to normal. There’s something else, I think will help, two local psychiatrists who specialize in problems of the elderly are available. Either of them will be glad to accept you as a patient. I’m sure that using this dual approach you will be feeling more like yourself in no time at all.” Without making eye contact, he reaches for his pad and starts to write the names and phone numbers of his referrals.
He glances up to see Lily staring at him. She keep opening and closing her mouth the way the tropical fish in his tank do. Not a sound comes out. Suddenly she jumps out of her chair, puts her palms on his desktop and leans over until her face is directly in front of him. Slowly and distinctly, she enunciates “None of that garbage is acceptable. I do not want another doctor who will document that I’m old or how I’m old or even why I’m old. I WANT TO BE YOUNG AGAIN. I have no interest in adjusting to my present condition or in accepting what I am. I JUST WANT TO BE YOUNG AGAIN. Now, you just go back, do more research, and find a solution for me. No more suggestions that I accept my age. You do understand what I mean, don’t you?”
Dr. A nods and starts to tell her that her request is impossible when she says, “Good, then I’ll see you next week” and walks out. Now what do I do, Dr. A groans.
That evening he calls his college roommate; Jim is a computer expert and has his own Internet Company. “Jim, I need a favor. I’m stuck and you’re the only person who can help.”
“Sure, sure, what can I do and how much are you willing to pay?”
“Very funny. I have a difficult patient who needs help and I will pay what it costs.” I could do it myself if I know what to do. You’re into all kinds of weird stuff and should know where to look.”
“Yeah, I know how to find stuff on the web. What kind of weird stuff do you need?”
“I have a patient who wants me to make her young.” He started to laugh until he couldn’t speak for several minutes.
Jim was laughing as hard as Dr. A, but finally asked “Sooo, what is it you want me to do?”
“I don’t know – find herb or minerals that are reported to bring back youth – maybe fountains of youth – new brain studies where there are reports of how to reverse the signs of aging. Anything – everything. She is convinced I can make her young again and won’t listen to me when I tell her it’s impossible. Oh yes, she is coming back here in one week and expects me to have an answer.”
Jim’s only comment was “Buddy, you’re as crazy as she is, but I’ll look and I won’t even charge you. I’ll be in touch.”
The next evening Dr. A got home exhausted – one of his families was in an accident and he had spent his afternoon at the hospital taking care of them. Then he had gone back to his office to treat the patients who had not left. He went home, planning on a shower, a cold beer, delivery pizza and bed – in that order. Just as he reached for the phone, it rang.
“Hi buddy, you really gave me a fascinating chore.