Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

A Man's Odometer Signals It's Time for His Checkup

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

A Man's Odometer Signals It's Time for His Checkup

Article excerpt

The other day, my wife and I were driving along in our car when I complained of having a bellyache. My stomach was making prolonged sounds, as if I had swallowed a litter of kittens and they were all calling for help. My wife nodded firmly and said, "You're over 50, old man. You need to get a colonoscopy!"

I cringed. My wife says the term "old man" is supposed to be a loving term, but I don't see it that way. Somehow, just a couple years ago, I passed that magic "best if used by" date, and now just about anything that goes wrong is likely to be the beginning of the end. Where 10 years ago a sore tummy meant ice cream, now it means being checked out from stem to stern by someone with paper mask and rubber gloves. Spots on my skin are no longer just spots on my skin, they're now possible melanomas. A sore left shoulder is possible a love tap on the chest by the grim reaper.

Up until the age of 50, your average man (and believe me, I am very much an average man) is like a car with less than 100,000 miles on the odometer. Things simply don't go wrong that often, and when they do, they are easily fixed. During that break-in period, if something really bad happens, most often it's because you either mistreated your vehicle or did something stupid.

A man after 50 is very similar to a car after 100,000 miles. It often starts to smell a little funny, has trouble getting going in the morning and probably isn't your first choice for any long trips. It leaks from places you can't figure out, and every so often, blows black smoke out of the tailpipe. Soon after passing that "best if used by" date, it starts spending more time in the repair shop than it does on the road.

For my first five decades on this planet, I have made it a point to avoid medical attention whenever possible. I got a checkup for a life insurance policy 10 years ago, and I figured that if the insurance people figured I was worth the risk, I was probably OK. They were betting a whole lot of money on my health for just a low monthly fee. …

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