Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tall Tales 2 (Richmond, VA)

Apparently, my doctor was concerned about shrinkage. She ordered a bone density scan for me because petite people seem to be at high risk of breaking their sparrow-like bones.

I dutifully fill out the pre-scan questionnaire. I am accustomed to saying that I am almost 5'l" -- as measured by the Baltimore Aquarium's temporary exhibit that compared height and weight to the size of a baby whale. (I'm smaller). Because there isn't enough room to write "almost," I scribble 5'1" in the space where it asks for my last known height.

When the nurse (who is at least 5'20") measures me, she snarks something like, "Aha! You've already shrunk some! You're only 5'1/2" tall."

That so-called nurse is so so-called tall that she actually compresses my skull by flattening my hair until it becomes ingrown! In addition, I've long suspected and am now convinced that all of the measurement tools in my doctor's office are out of date, balance, and whack. For instance, the scale adds five pounds that someone else must have left behind, it doesn't take stock of the heavy-weight materials used in the undergarments that I wear, and it doesn't subtract the 13 lbs. of water that I drink and the breakfast and lunch I eat before my appointments.

Everything is wrong about this, I'm sure you will agree. Who, after all, would have the more accurate measurements? The well respected, scientifically accurate and internationally acclaimed Baltimore Aquarium or some little medical practice that nobody's even heard of outside of certain ever-shrinking circles in Richmond, Virginia?

Anyone looking at me (except for my son, who is completely impossible when it comes to talking about my height -- he says that I don't have any...) can see that I am MUCH taller than my mother ever was -- even at her zenith: At 5 feet, in her stocking feet, she ended up being taller than all of her friends; she was the only one among them who didn't shrink with age and time. And furthermore, if math really made sense, five feet plus two feet would equal seven feet, right?

And while we're not too far from the subject of my son, I must explain that when he was about four years old -- still knee-high to a grasshopper and about chin-high to his mother -- I made the mistake of telling him that in the final chapter of my favorite book, Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude, the family matriarch (Raquel) had become so wizened and shrunken that her great-grandchildren stored her in a dresser drawer and played with her as if she were a doll. This son of mine piped up with his own creative and frightening rift on this already disturbing vision: "Mom," he told me, "when you get old I'll keep you in a shoebox, dress you in clown clothes, and use you as a bookmark."

With this in mind, you will appreciate that as much as I support my son's love of reading and as much as I hope that he will continue to involve me in his life, my need to stand tall, keep my chin up and my shrinkage down is high on my to-do list.

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