|J. Balfour Miller|
What is it with my family? From as early as I can remember, my grandmother was a dying woman. I’d call her on the phone or go see her and she’d scowl:
“Why haven’t you called me lately? I’m a dying woman, you know. I might not be around much longer.”
“Um, I just called you.”
“Well, you should do it more often. I might die.”
Way back in the early 80’s my (then) husband and I were running a restaurant. (We lost our behinds with that, btw. Never, ever again.) But I digress. Anyway, the phone rang and it was my grandmother calling to see what we were having for the daily special.
“Broadway Station,” said spouse.
A pitiful groan, followed by, ‘Hellooo?” Who is this?” Cough, cough! Sob.
“Oh, hi, Bessie Rose,” said spouse. “It’s Jeff.
“What do you have today, dear?”
After awhile she’d forget she was dying and start talking in a normal tone of voice.
“Oh, we’re having duck à l’orange. Would you like me to send you a plate?
A gasp followed by retching and coughing.
“God, child! Don’t you know dying people don’t eat duck?? Sob!”
My great uncle Balfour was a hypochondriac, too. No matter what time of day or night it was, he could always be found in his bathrobe and slippers in the TV room with a twinkle in his eye, a drink in his hand and spittle in the corners of his mouth, insisting on a kiss from the ladies. Out of deference for his age, most of them would comply. Well, okay. Maybe he was kinda cute.
When he was in his twenties, he predicted he’d be dead by thirty. When thirty passed him by, he decreed he’d be gone by forty. But somehow, he made it into his fifties, certain that someone that ill would never make it to his sixties, which is when I came along.
He spent his sixties with the Grim Reaper knocking at his door, and his seventies with one foot in the grave. It was about then that he started showing up at the hospital ICU, suitcase in hand. He’d pick a bed and climb in, and when the nurse asked him what he was doing there, he’d reply, “Well, I’m waiting for the doctor, of course.”
“But, sir. You’re not a registered patient here. We don’t have a doctor for you.”
“Well, then get me one,” he’d reply.
In the meantime, he’d call his favorite saleslady at Godchaux’s and ask her to bring a case of her best jewelry. There she’d sit on the side of the bed showing him brooches, rings and other assorted baubles, which he’d buy and give to his wife and her friends. It wouldn’t do to die without leaving something to remember him by.
By the time he reached his eighties, he and the Angel of Death were on a first-name basis. Rather than show up at the hospital, he had a hospital bed brought into his bedroom.
I remember a conversation I had with him when he was about 90. He said, “You know, when I turned seventy, I figured I’d better write my will. I knew I was going to die within a year or so. You know what I just realized? That was over twenty years ago.”
He was baffled.
But you know what? He was right. Hypochondria finally did kill him when he was ninety-three. He died in 1985 saying, “I told you I didn’t feel good.”
He’d even purchased a tombstone and had it engraved, “One of Natchez’s prominent philanthropists,” which now that I think about it, was awfully similar to the monument that had been erected for J.N. Carpenter, who did so much for the city of Natchez. Talk about keeping up with the Joneses.
One day, my great aunt Annet and her friend Lillie Vidal Boatner were driving through the cemetery. They passed Balfour’s stone.
“Oh, look, Annet,” exclaimed Lillie Vidal. “They’ve misspelled philanderer.”
Come to think of it, I think maybe Uncle Balfour was a bit of a narcissist...and a philanderer.
But enough about him. Let’s talk about me.
A few weeks ago, I suddenly started aching. It started with a sharp pain in my right knee. Then it migrated to the left knee. Then it went to my hip. And then sometimes I noticed when I woke up in the morning the joints in my fingers hurt.
So I’ve given it a lot of thought and have narrowed it down to two possibilities:
b. Lyme Disease
Oh, gosh! I think I might DIE! Of course, it could just be that I’m just getting old and fat.....nah.