Chicooch and the Iron Man

I have a friend who has told me that if I didn’t have medical problems, I wouldn’t have a column. He has a point.

Have you noticed that, lately, my columns are a little more lively? All of a sudden. I’ve got enough pep to become one of the PEP BOYS. Manny, Moe and Jack, move over. Make room for me. I’m feeling jaunty. There’s an extra bounce to my step. I’m playing running tag with my wife and sometimes she even lets me catch her. Tell you a secret. Forget about Robert Downey Jr., baby! I’m the real Iron Man.

My nephrologists at Jeff came up with a program that has once again brought me back from the dead. I was reduced to looking and feeling like one of those zombies in THE WALKING DEAD when these doctors brought me back to life. Aren’t they tired of me, yet? Or am I just good for business?

I invested three days in the hospital with a promise from my Jeff nephrologist that she would make me feel better. At that point, I had nothing to lose. I couldn’t walk more than half a block without my knuckles dragging along the ground. I was, as they say, too pooped to pop.

First, I was given what the doctor called a “super diuretic.” Overnight, I lost six pounds of fluid. I went on to lose about 25 pounds more to go from 190 to 160 pounds today. That’s a lot of getting up at night. Hey, I got an empty ricotta can by my bedside. I was able to see my normal-sized ankles again.

Next, I received a couple of blood transfusions. The transfusions made me downright perky. No one has ever accused me of being perky before. I urge all of you to give blood. It’s for a good cause. Me!

Currently, I’m getting weekly iron infusions. I’ve got one more to go and then I’m eligible to star in IRON MAN 4. Or is it 5? I don’t know. The infusions are easy. Pretty nurses tend to your IV. God bless them. They offer you snacks and soft drinks. In 45 minutes, I roar out of the Jeff like a superhero on a mission. Why didn’t somebody tell me about this a long time ago?

As with all good things, there is a drawback. I attract metal filings. Only kidding. But my wife has to admit I’m more magnetic.

If my mother were alive, she’d warn me against boasting about feeling so good. Mom believed that if you smiled today, you would be sure to cry tomorrow. I called her “Chicooch.” I don’t know where I came up with that nickname. Sounds Native-American, but it fit her better than Eleanor. Chicooch was a philosopher — a bad news philosopher. Most parents today believe that you should encourage your kids. Boost their confidence to help ensure their later success. Chicooch believed in the opposite approach. Mom thought everyone — especially her kids — needed a little discouragement in their lives. She feared pride more than anything. Pride didn’t only goeth before the fall, it caused your demise. That was Chicooch’s credo. If you had a dream, she had a bucket of water to pour all over it. As a result, she raised two of the most insecure kids you would ever want to meet. Me and my sister.

There wasn’t a time I would meet her where she wouldn’t remark on my weight. I’d either have lost too much weight (“Is something wrong with you? Why aren’t you eating?”) or at other times, she’d swear I gained weight (“Thomas, you’re fat. Stop eating so much.”). The thing is it didn’t matter that she had just seen me the day before and made the opposite comment about my weight.

Chicooch has passed, but her shadow lingers. It’s a very long shadow. My insecurities didn’t pass with her. If she were alive, she’d suspect that I wasn’t telling the truth about my health. Needing iron infusions would be viewed by her as a deeper problem. Chicooch would wonder how I became anemic. Was my wife (whom she loved dearly, but didn’t exempt from fault) serving me enough meat? (“I’ll give her the money. Tell her to make steak three times a week.”)  Chicooch was just a very concerned mother who believed I was dying of cancer, but was too dumb to know it.

Chicooch would’ve interpreted my new-found source of energy as extremely suspicious. She believed all men lie, even her son. If I’m boasting about how good I feel, it just means I’m hiding my terminal cancer again. Once I tried to convince her that no one can be terminal for 20 years, but that only meant I was hiding a darker secret.

I don’t want you to get the wrong idea. Chicooch was a loving mother. Generous to a fault. Fiercely in my corner, despite her feelings that I lacked the adequate intelligence to survive in the world on my own.Sometimes in the middle of the night, I imagine that Chicooch visits me. I tell her, “Mom, I really do feel better these days.” “You take a lot of pills,” she replies. “You see too many doctors. There’s something you’re not telling me.”

“I’m the Iron Man, Mom. I’m Robert Downey Jr.”

“Who the hell is Robert Downey Jr? Is he sick, too?”