You know how it is in American medical circles: you say the word "twinge," followed by the word "chest" and, if you're male and in your 60s, the cardiovascular care machine roars into high gear.
Since the twinges and the chest belonged to my spouse, a couple of days ago I sent him to the cardiologist, who said everything looked fine but ordered a stress test, the results of which were terrific except that two more twinges happened, which caused him to order a further stress test for later in the week. Meanwhile there were more twinges, so in my role as draconian health enforcer I made the victim call the cardiologist's office this morning, and the triage nurse said he should go to the ER, just to make sure that all is well. Over the victim's protestations we drove off to the hospital.
Which is where we are now, attended by lovely people and waiting for test results. So far everything looks fine. He's in a hospital gown, chest dotted with electrodes, reading the New Yorker and twinge-free for the moment. I'm fine too, my only source of discomfort being a baby's screams from the next cubicle. There's nothing more upsetting to me than a baby's cry. It sets off some primitive impulse to rush in and effect a rescue. I don't remember being afflicted this way as a teenager, but it set in with a vengeance when I had my first baby.
On the way to the hospital--my husband drove, saying that if I did he would have a heart attack, ha, ha--we listened to Mozart's Piano Concerto number 21 on the radio. It's the one that moviegoers learned to hum when the second movement became the sound track for Elvira Madigan. The drive from our house to the hospital lasts about forty minutes, and when you start the climb towards the Green Mountains, it is lovely, even on a gray morning like today.
The music played, the scenery rolled along, and I meditated about our life stage. I felt weirdly serene and clear-headed--I get that way whenever my spouse develops so much as a hangnail. I hope that things turn out fine today--I'm pretty sure they will. But episodes like this one remind me that these drives through lovely country on the way to hospitals or doctors' offices will only become more frequent in the years ahead.
Already, what with one thing and another, staying healthy has started to feel like a part-time job. Some day it will probably turn into a full-time job, and eventually just staying alive will become a way of life.
The glorious Mozart went on, but as the road wound its way among the hills there was a burst of static and the music was lost. We drove around a curve and Wolfgang A. returned, only to be swallowed up by static again after a few measures. It's kind of like my life these days, I thought: moments of heart-wrenching beauty followed by times of static so harsh that all the music fades.
As we came down into the valley the reception improved. By the time we reached the hospital parking lot the third movement, the Allegro was playing, and powered by its energy I got out of the car and followed my spouse through the wide glass doors of the ER.
After a couple of hours the cardiologist swept aside the cubicle curtain and issued a "not a cardiac event" decree, and I resisted the urge to kiss the hem of his garment. The baby in the next cubicle stopped crying.
The second stress test will happen in a few days. Meanwhile, I'm finishing the day on the patio (first time in 2013!) with the peepers going full blast in the woods. The bluebird's wife has joined him at the nest box, and a honey bee just buzzed my glass of wine.