No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one’s laughing at God
When they’re starving or freezing or so very poor
No one laughs at God
When the doctor calls after some routine tests
No one’s laughing at God
When it’s gotten real late
And their kid’s not back from the party yet
A couple of weeks ago my Spotify hosted a song by Regina Spektor called “Laughing With”. I related to some verses well. Yet this one was not something I thought I’d be worrying about a few days later;
“When the doctor calls after some routine tests”
Having a mother who was paranoid about how my neck was showing signs of a swollen thyroid, I spent most of my puberty years in doctor’s offices being prescribed head-to-toe examinations and tests. The syringe taking my hard-earned blood was not a stranger to my frail left elbow. I was always told that there was nothing wrong. My mother was once faced with a stern reply of her own doctor saying “You need to stop making her believe she needs to worry. She just has a long neck. Girls would kill for long necks.” Upon our arrival home my father’s question on what the doctor had said was answered by my mother with a “She’s a Pear-Neck”. And that became our family joke, one I did not enjoy being the target of.
After moving abroad and not having my mother to man-handle me to doctors and pathobiologists, I decided enough time had passed after my last check up. I voluntarily went to see my Hausarzt; a calm 50-something-year-old lady, with a voice I had to lean forward to hear. She asked me if anything was wrong, receiving the simple “I love my sleep, and recently I just can’t get enough of it” as a response.
Sitting there in my short summer dress, and a bob that highlighted the length of my neck, I noticed her examining my figure. After asking some questions about my height and weight and diet she concluded that I was too thin. That was not the first time I had heard that. I explained that meat, dairy products and vegetables are members of my daily diet. She didn’t seem to care. “We need to run some tests.”
And with that I was anointed an appointment for the coming Monday to have yet another needle stuck into my left elbow, sucking my blood in a vampire-esque fashion, only these doctors are crueler. Even vampires feed you before they feed off of you. I was told to show up without my daily intake of the full breakfast I am accustomed to, again compliments of the food junkie of a mother I have. The test went smooth and I wasn’t even given the pee-in-a-cup order, my blood sufficed. The “Fertig” announcement was made and I rushed up Hauptstrasse to get to my first class, having just about enough time to stop for coffee and a croissant, for who can ever resist the smell of German baked goods in the morning?
I was so sure that the tests would show my perfect health that I forgot to go and pick the results up the next morning, and the next four days that would come. I was only reminded by my friend who was kind enough to ask. (Yes, contrary to popular belief Germans are kind, caring people, even the men). Friday the 13th stayed faithful to its bad reputation. We were greeted by a warm summer shower stronger than those in our bathroom cubes. I sat in the waiting room flipping through the gossip magazines silently applauding myself for understanding the German used in the cheap tabloids similar to those I would yell at my sister to put down when she would want to read a page or two while waiting for her dentist to see her. I didn’t have to read too much about TomKat’s separation before the doctor called me in. While she was explaining that everything was normal and good, my eyes kept treading to the digits that were blotted in a dark shade of red ink. She finally decided to tell me the “concerning news”, and that was we knew nothing before there were other tests done. She went on to ask about cancer in my family. Grandparents from both sides had died from cancer. Her eyebrows were raised. “Liver malfunction is not a light matter.” And at that time my heart sank. And though I was quite sure it was nothing serious, and though my whole life did not flash before my eyes, it was an eerie feeling. All I could think of was “All my life I took my health for granted.” And the second thought was “Haven’t these German doctors heard of the term Sugar-Coating?”
My BMI was calculated, and to no one’s surprise my 5 foot 8 figure needed more than the 114 pounds it already had to carry. “Well, the good news is that you can easily start a career in modeling” she was one of the funny ones. And though I would always have a response along the lines of “I believe I have other things to offer” when faced with that complimentary comment, I remained silent only offering her a smile.
My face showing all I was feeling, she sensed she had to console me “We should not worry before we have to worry.”
I was asked to wait until Tuesday so she could run more tests and call me.
I stepped out of the office and decided to do some therapeutic shopping. It was a failure, either because of my mood or because my wardrobe was already filled with attire, some still bearing their tags, crisp and fresh. I was saturated. Samuel, the lovely human being that he is texted me all the way from the little island they like to call Britain, offering his hugs and support. I could tell upon answering her call that Kathrin’s voice stored sisterly concern and what one would colloquially name “freaking out”. Tatum’s face the night I told him was blank. I don’t know if it were the qualities he inherited from his German father or the fact that he did not know how to respond. “Now would be a good time to tell me I’m gonna be alright” I laughed.
“No, I mean you’re young and chemotherapy won’t kill you that easily.” I took that as the sense of humour his American mother had gifted him with. He did try to polish it up; “You won’t die.” He was the comic relief of that story.
Four days did not go by slowly, though one would expect it to. I was quite sure that there was nothing wrong with me, yet I could not let go of the sudden realisation of the phenomenon that life can change in a blink of an eye. What feelings it boiled inside me and how many things it made me take into notice are too numerous and complicated to be typed out in a blog. Yet the only thing I thought of while I waited was (no matter how cheesy and cliché it sounded in my head and on my tongue) things can change so fast and so dramatically that you can’t remember what it felt like before. The same day my childhood friend Taniji, while talking on a totally different topic, gave me a compliment that decorated my face with a smile from east to west;
“You’ve turned out veeeery well. Love the way you view life. I dunno, I just see your posts and stuff and it seems like you know what’s really going on in the world and you would fight for the people if that time came in our lifetime”
I did not laugh at God nor with him. I waited patiently until my doctor called and said there is nothing to worry about. If only it were socially convenient to tell your doctor “I told you so”…
The song has an interesting twist though;
But God can be funny
At a cocktail party when listening to a good God-themed joke
Or when the crazies say He hates us
And they get so red in the head you think they’re ’bout to choke
God can be funny,
When told he’ll give you money if you just pray the right way
And when presented like a genie who does magic like Houdini
Or grants wishes like Jiminy Cricket and Santa Claus
God can be so hilarious
Well the universe does have a funny way of telling you to be thankful for what you have…