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Bob O’Connor: I’ve long been afflicted with ‘ostrich syndrome’

The other day, I was reading to my 2-year-old granddaughter and she reached up and pulled off my glasses. She put them on upside down and pretended she was Grandpa. She then twisted the glasses in her tiny hands and ripped one of the stems off. For a fraction of a second, she looked frightened. Then she remembered that the old gray-haired guy is a pushover and she began to laugh.

She handed me a pile of mangled plastic and lenses that was once my spectacles and said, “Don’t worry, Grampa, you can glue them.”

My wife was sitting nearby and seemed to take some sick pleasure in the fact that I was now effectively blind and it was my own fault for letting a toddler play with my eyeglasses. She spent her career teaching little ones and she knows the malicious mayhem that lurks in the heart of every preschooler.

“Now you’ll have to see the eye doctor,” my wife said. She’s been pestering me to make an appointment for months and I keep putting it off.

It’s not that I don’t like my eye doctor – he happens to be one of my brothers – but I hate it when he takes that nasty-looking scope and gets real close to my face and looks at the back of my eyes.

What good can come from looking into the back of someone’s eyeballs? When he gets done probing my very soul for signs of cancer, cataracts and diabetes, I always expect him to ask me if I have all my affairs in order.

There are people who love doctor, dentist and proctologist visits; I am not one of them. I have known hypochondriacs over the years and it seems to me they yearn to find out they have some exotic disease that has only been seen before in the British royal family and stock car drivers.

I believe that no news is good news and blood tests, MRIs and CT scans spell doom. Woody Allen once said: “I’m not afraid of dying; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” We are all going to die and all the health food, workouts and meditation aren’t going to save us. If I die two years earlier than expected because I consumed several tons of chocolate in my lifetime, I say it was worth it.

It occurred to me that I am the opposite of a hypochondriac. I went to my Roget’s and looked for the perfect word to describe my indifference to the medical world. “Stoic” was listed as the antonym, but that implies strength of character, so it doesn’t work for me. There is no word in the English language that adequately describes a person who avoids medical practitioners because he doesn’t want any kind of diagnosis. I suggest “the ostrich syndrome.”

I once had a boss who thought the word ostracize meant sticking your head in the sand to avoid danger. Not only is it a fallacy that ostriches do that, but the guy had no clue what the word actually meant – so I ostracized him.

Just about everyone knows somebody who avoided doctors for years only to learn that he had some incurable disease and had only days to live. My theory is that if he had never visited a physician, he would have had no idea the grim reaper was lurking in the hall closet. They say where ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise. Since I have never been accused of possessing wisdom, I will remain blissfully ignorant.

When I do pass on, I want my headstone to say: My wife told me to see a doctor!

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