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  Updated 1-2-08




























Pop-Pop and the Unremarkable Shrinking Brain

By Gregg Podolski 

I’m not one to make fun of another person’s misfortune. (Except when the misfortune is simply too funny to pass up, like when a bull gores a hole in some idiot every year in Pamplona. Even my local newscasters snicker at that one. Besides, if you’re willing to pay thousands of dollars and endure an eight-hour, trans-Atlantic flight just to run away from a herd of stampeding, horned animals, then you’re probably used to people laughing at you and calling you names by now. Hey Hemingway, do yourself a favor: try Six Flags next year, okay? You might get a little dizzy, but nothing there will make you bleed rectally. Unless you count the ticket prices).

But I digress. I was talking about how I’m sensitive to the pain of others, especially when the poor soul happens to be a member of my immediate family. That being said, let me tell you about my grandfather and his unremarkable, shrinking brain.

My Pop-Pop—which is what I’ve always called my grandfather and will continue to call him as long as he keeps handing out money—has been having these "episodes." As we all know, "episode" is a technical term that doctors use, meaning "We have no freaking idea what’s wrong with you. And that’ll be $35." These episodes always occur when my grandfather is sitting down--not surprising considering he’s 78 and spends 97% of the day in his chair and the other 3% on his feet, thinking about how nice it would be to sit in his chair. During an "episode", he gets up, feels a strange sensation in his head, and instantly loses all strength in his muscles. In a few minutes he’s all right again, his faith renewed that sitting down is the best thing in the world and standing up is evil.

As a loving, concerned family, our response has been to cart him all over New Jersey so various health professionals can read his chart while he sits with his shirt off. This seems to be the crux of the medical profession today: reading charts while the patient sits half-naked. Every now and then they’ll poke something in your ear or up your nose or press a stethoscope to your chest (which, apparently, must be kept in an industrial freezer at absolute zero in order for it to work properly), but this is strictly for their own amusement and does nothing in the way of determining what’s wrong with you.

After several regular doctors finished reading his chart with no success, we decided to take him to a specialist: a type of doctor whose title is derived from the Latin words _special_, meaning "expensive," and _list_, meaning "we have no appointments open until the week after the sun explodes." This particular specialist’s first move—after thoroughly reading his chart--was to have Pop-Pop go through a CAT scan. What happens during a CAT scan is you lie on a table that slides into a metal tube with the circumference of a garden hose, and remain there for several hours while the doctors and nurses place bets on how long it’ll take you to have a total, psychotic meltdown. Then a third-grader they keep locked in a back room (who makes $100,000 a year) draws a few pictures with finger-paints for the doctor to show you, knowing full well you would have no idea what you’re looking at even if it were an actual X-Ray. Based on the estimated value of your wristwatch, he then makes a determination as to whether or not he can milk more money out of you with repeated visits. In my grandfather’s case, his timepiece was bought at K-Mart during a blue-light sale and would fetch the same price on the open market as one really good cashew.

Needless to say, the neurologist could find nothing wrong. His exact words, and I swear this is true, were, "Mr. Williams, I see nothing remarkable about your brain aside from a little shrinkage, which is natural with age." We were all so relieved. Nothing puts you more at ease than when a man with an MD from Harvard tells you that you have an unremarkable, shrinking brain.

In all seriousness, his doctors are doing everything they can to figure out what’s wrong with my Pop-Pop. In the meantime, he’s decided to remain positive and even joined a support group for people with unremarkable, shrinking brains. Next week, they’re taking a field trip to Pamplona.

Copyright 2005  Gregg Podolski 

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Gregg Podolski. is 26 and lives with his wife, his dog, and her cat in a cute little two-story colonial in South Jersey with a lawn that’s actually a demonically possessed Chia Pet and floorboards that house a nightly cricket rave that lasts from 8:00 until roughly whenever it is that his wife and he pass out from noise-induced insanity.  He focuses on humor columns dealing with the absurdities of daily life, the kind that Dave Barry used to write before he retired and that are so difficult to find in today’s big newspapers.  Read more in his blog The Funny Side


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