So yesterday I turned 40. It seems hard to believe. I said to my mother, on FaceTime, that it felt pretty much the same, and we laughed.
There are all kinds of stigmas attached with 40. It's just the beginning of a new decade, after all. But there are cards attached with old jokes, a new societal paradigm that "40 is the new 20" and, unfortunately, new tests the doctor orders for you when you reach this esteemed age.
I don't feel 20, and LORD am I glad that I don't. 20, in hindsight, may actually be worse than sophomore year of high school, and that is saying something.
Soon, my doctor will insist on a mammogram. I will go. I will schedule that appointment the same day I receive my referral, and this is why:
When I was 8 and a half years old, we all woke up one morning, got into our uniforms, got on the bus, and went to school. The night before, our father had been away. It wasn't an abnormal thing for Dad to be gone. He traveled a lot for work, and so a night away was pretty commonplace and we did what we always did. We had dinner, we managed homework, we may have watched a little TV, and we went to bed. So anyway, we were at school, and at the time, 4 of us were at school together at IHM. Near the end of the day, the PA system switched on, and the closing announcements, prayers, and dismissal started. One of the announcements requested that my siblings and I report to the office. I was embarrassed. It was the first time my name was on the PA system, and it usually meant you were in trouble. I have never been a real troublemaker.
I met my brother coming from his classroom, and we turned and walked down the main hall and to the office. When we were all there, they seated us and said that they had bad news and good news for us. The bad news was that our father had a heart attack that morning, but he was recovering in the hospital and would be fine after a time. The good news was that Deacon Mike and Sister Mary Kelly were taking us home!
That was not the good news, really. The good news was that he was going to recover.
When my dad was 39, he was at our doctor's office having some stitched checked out, and had a dizzy spell. The doctor was worried, spoke with him about it, and referred him to a cardiologist to have a stress test performed. According to my mother, my father was not always a follow the advice person when it came to the doctor, but this time be did, without hesitation. He scheduled his test, and he went to the hospital to have it done. They discovered during the preliminary testing that he had already had a small heart attack, and admitted him to observe overnight. That was the night he was away. Being in the hospital saved him. It saved our family, too.
The most excellent news is that Dad recovered, and is amazingly healthy now, more than 30 years later. He has been at every single event his children and his wife have had - performances, college graduations, graduate program graduations, weddings, grandchildren's births. His cholesterol is better than mine. Mine is good because starting at age 8 and a half, my family's diet changed to make us healthier.
The doctor will tell me that I need to go have this test. I will go. I have had too many amazing friends fall victim to illness. I won't have my children missing me because I was too busy to do what I needed to do to stay healthy. My dad did, all those years ago, and it's his example I will follow. Just another one of the many lessons I have learned, and keep learning, from him.