Tuesday, February 20, 2007

“Nothing is Better…” (An Ode to Oatmeal)
— A Miniseries (2 of 3)

“Quaker? I just met ‘er!”
Unless you’re nearly as old as I am, you probably don’t remember when that gentleman with the long, white locks and wide-brimmed hat, whose grinnin’ puss is still depicted on the Quaker Oats package, actually spoke on that venerable cereal’s television commercials. His lips never moved, but for years the spots would end with the sound of his deep, kindly voice uttering a familiar slogan, “Nothing is better for thee than me.”

I’m not sure why, but somehow over the years that fact apparently slipped my mind.

I had always loved oatmeal; I can’t remember not loving it. However after having eaten the ubiquitous porridge for breakfast practically every day of my life — from nursery school through high school — for some reason, I just stopped when I became an adult. It wasn’t as though I’d decided I no longer liked it, or had even grown tired of eating it — I just got out of the habit, I suppose. Of course the fact that when I became a bachelor, I would then have actually had to boil the water myself to make it might have had something to do with it…

Whatever the reason, the years passed and I just never thought about it, save for those very few occasions when I’d see someone enjoying a bowl in the caf’ at work, and think, “Hmmm…it sure has been a long time since I’ve had oatmeal.” But then the thought would pass and nothing more would be done.

Call me a pathetic, pampered chauvinist, but that earlier poke at myself regarding boiling water isn’t all that far-fetched. Until recently I had honestly never prepared a batch of oatmeal myself — ridiculous as that may sound. I had on various occasions done the instant microwave variety but that stuff just tastes like so much hobby paste to me; I’m sure those experiences didn’t exactly rekindle my affinity for oatmeal either.

However, my ineptitudes in the kitchen aside, there is one good reason why I don’t cook. Michelle has completely dominated our relationship in that regard from the first time she stepped foot into my apartment back when we were dating. She pan-fried me a rib eye steak one evening that absolutely melted in my mouth; I’ve been wrapped up in her culinary spell ever since.

Michelle believes that cooking is as much her role in our marriage as mowing the yard is mine. It’s just another of the myriad reasons why, physically as well as emotionally, I’d be up shit creek without a paddle if she ever left me.

Beyond that, growing up in the South as she did, with her Southern Belle Mother doing the cooking, it was grits, not oatmeal was a part of normal breakfast faire. In that regard Michelle was the exact opposite of me, having experienced oatmeal much more after she left home than she had during her childhood.

I actually learned to like grits after we got married, on those occasions when Mom-in-Law cooked them for breakfast — that is, just so long as I was allowed fix them up like I always did my oatmeal — with butter, a little sugar and a splash of milk. This of course was near-cause for the renting of garments amongst the in-laws; it was the quintessential yankee-fication of a cherished southern breakfast staple, for which I was good-naturedly chided many times over. But undaunted, I enjoyed the grits, not so much for the taste as for the way eating it made me feel; that connection to my past that the warm cereal, dressed in butter, sugar and milk always seemed to make.

But despite the many times that eating my Mother-in-Law’s grits drew forth memories of my childhood, I still never followed up on that always-fleeting thought to add oatmeal back into my diet. It should have been a no-brainer a long time ago; ever since my doctor diagnosed me with cholesterol high enough to put me on 40 milligrams per day of Lipitor, the well-known statin-type anti-cholesterol drug.

Oatmeal’s benefits in controlling “bad” cholesterol are well-known, but it still never dawned on me that it might actually be in my best interest to try. Interestingly though, how I eventually did was a result of two acts — one of omission and the other of commission — by separate parties who both play a vital role in my life and overall health.

Don’t gimme no ‘Lip’
The ommisive act was that of my doctor’s office. Since I began my cholesterol drug therapy a little more than two-and-a-half years ago, my doctor wanted to closely monitor my progress. Given the family history of my Dad, in 2002, followed by my eldest brother, Jack, two years later going under the knife for multiple-bypass heart surgeries, I realized that I am most certainly at risk for heart disease. Now more than at any other time in my life, I need to treat that risk seriously — ’bout as serious as a heart attack, I reckon.

Heart disease and high blood pressure run in my family on my Pop’s side, the biggest factor for which is naturally-high cholesterol. But to be honest, that’s not something I’d spent a lot of time thinking about over the years— hardly any in fact. I always figured that if anything, what I would need to be concerned about was the Early-Onset Alzheimer’s from the maternal end of the family gene pool.

But wouldn’t you know it, just at the point I’d become reasonably certain I had dodged the family curse, Jack calls and says he’s going in for a double-bypass, and warns that I now need to start thinking about my heart — and not just my head.

I guess there just ain’t no easy ticket, is there?

But as usual, I digress…

I had been on a consistent regimen of Lipitor since March of 2004 when in the middle of last December 2006 I realized I had run out of my prescription.

Like most people in my position, whenever my standing prescription runs out I simply call my Doctor’s office to let them know, and in short order — usually within a day — my ‘script is renewed and I can go get my drugs.

However this time, when I discovered my dilemma it was a Saturday, and obviously the Doc’s office was closed. So I called the pharmacy to see what they could do. They told me that they would fax my doctor on Monday, and that things like this were common; no biggie. They said I wouldn’t have to do anything more; just check back on Tuesday and the prescription should be in place.

“Okay,” I thought, “I’ll check back on Tuesday.”

On Tuesday I called the pharmacy and my doctor’s office still hadn’t responded. They told me to give it another day. “Great,” I thought, “Should I try and contact the office or just wait like the pharmacist suggested?”

Then I realized that it was now a week away from Christmas, all the presents had been purchased and we were pretty much out o’ dough — with nearly two weeks to go until the next payday, no less. The fact of the matter was I really couldn’t justify spending the $30.00 it would cost to refill the prescription anyway, so I let it ride. I’d had lapses in my Lipitor therapy before; what was another one gonna hurt?

But then I began to think about it and all of a sudden, another reason to skip the Lip’ occurred to me.

I had a field test to conduct.

Next: Sorely missed?
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