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King of the Pill

When men of a certain age gather to drink a beer or play a little poker they do not talk about sex, baseball or rumors that Betty White, in a resurgence of her busy life, is about to pose nude  for Playboy Magazine.  They talk about their prostate glands.

“How’s the gland?” is a familiar greeting at Abuelitas, the local Mexican restaurant, or at a poker table in someone’s home. We all know what gland is in question.

There is occasionally one among us who, due to genetic caprice or a lifelong regimen of exercise and diet, knows that his prostrate, heart, liver, pancreas, gall bladder, lungs and entrails are all in mint condition and he would rather therefore discuss either the comeback of Tiger Woods or the charms of a certain cinematic queen he considers the epitome of sexuality.

He’s in love with Meryl Streep and not afraid to say so.

The prostate is a metaphor for all of the health issues brought up while we are sipping on a second beer or raising the dealer a quarter on a pair of jacks. Our medications are a big topic of conversation too. And when it comes to pills, I am king.

Due to a lifetime of bad habits I am condemned in the eighth decade of my life to ingesting 14 pills every day, from Allopurinol to Zantac, and another two or three as needed. I also use a nebulizer, which blows medicated steam into my lungs, and an inhaler that keep my breathing passages clear.

If I miss a day, it must flash red lights in the offices of my internist, my cardiologist, my pulmonologist or my gastroenterologist, because they all seem to know when I have not taken a pill for a day. “Alfred,” they say in the tone of admonishment my mother used when I wouldn’t eat my broccoli, “a little bird tells me that you are skipping certain medications. That is bad, Alfred, very bad.”

But down at Abuelitas they praise my defiance and applaud my spirit of medication rebellion. We order another round of Dos Equis and toast the good life of beer and poker, and to hell with broccoli.