The Last Time……

I was on the five year plan. Back in my forties, I submitted to a routine colonoscopy, drank the nectar from hell and drifted off into nothingness, courtesy of the magic drug Versed. When I awakened, the doctor indicated that I had a polyp or two, but they were gone now and not to worry. The fact that an anomaly was discovered put me into the two year plan for a few years before being returned to the ready reserve, the five year plan. Earlier this spring, I drank the gallon of go-fast and reported for my Versed induced power nap. When I drifted back to reality, the gastroenterologist eased into my cubicle and said some things about being in great shape, plumbing wise, before he uttered words that were chilling. “Because of your age, you will never need another exam, this was your last time.”

Say what? The last time! Whoa there doc, I have no plans to check out for quite awhile, I’m thinking at least three or four more of these things, on the five year plan. What in the hell do you mean I won’t ever need another one? Sure I will, doesn’t cancer strike “mature” adults too? I was thinking much faster than I was talking, the Versed again, but the good doctor and I need to talk again! This little exercise in mortality has haunted me since and I have been thinking about “the last times” in my life. Let’s have a look.

When you are forty-five years old, in good health and near the peak in terms of professional ability and contribution, there are no “last times” in sight. Our minds do not work that way. When you are seventy, having long ago lost your fast-ball, every time you do something that is memorable, it might be your last time. Thanks to pragmatic doctors like my gastroenterologist, who is emerged in data and science instead of optimism, you begin to reflect. As an example, I remember, as if it were yesterday, the last time that I put on my Highway Patrol uniform. Honestly, I fought tears. I left our home, hit the highway and began working traffic. I remember a warrant arrest that day, several speeding citations and lunch in a little country diner. Troopers never forget the hush as they stride into a diner for coffee and a slice of pie. That same afternoon, I stopped at a photo studio where I met my daughter, then a Water Patrol officer, and we posed for a picture together. That photograph says so much, and is a tremendous source of pride to me. I vividly remember the last time that my father and I spoke to one another, the day before he left for a new assignment in the Lord’s Army. What was left unsaid haunts me to this day. There just wasn’t enough time. I recall my last motorcycle ride with amazing clarity. I handed the reigns of the Red Baron to a gentleman from Eldon, Mo. with the admonition that he was to treat the Baron with the respect it deserved. Sharon and I ate at one of my favorite eateries, a Steak & Shake, before driving home in silence. The change of command of the Street Glide was a tacit admission that I no longer had the reflexes and strength that I once had. I also remember selling my bass boat, on a ramp at Truman Lake, after a painful day of fishing. Arthritis played a prominent role in the sale of these toys that meant so much to me. These last times were a concession to age and I do not concede easily.

One of the last trips, with Ralph Biele

I could go on, but I am sure you get the point. It is important that we hang on to dreams, visions and plans all in the name of staving off the inevitable “last time” the doctor spoke about. Call your dear friends and touch bases with your family. Life is a race to work in another event, trip or experience. As a final note, in five years, I am going to schedule another colonoscopy, even if I have to pay for it entirely out of pocket! We all need something to look forward to!

Have a great weekend!

SR

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