February 25, 2018, 10:02 am
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One word for the wise

In grade school, our teachers – some of whom were American nuns –  would often tell us: “One word for the wise is enough.” It was a tongue-in-cheek admonition, actually. It meant that if you had to be warned more than once, then you’re not too bright. (Read: you’re pathetic; pitifully stupid.) And it also meant that if you had to be told more than once before you’d obey or listen, then get ready for a life of misery! You’re going to have to learn things the hard way. 

As the adage goes: The harder the nut to crack, the bigger the hammer  is needed. 

Well, I was reminded of that saying recently. You see, quite a number of my friends have been getting sick – mainly from overwork, stress, fatigue, going to the office even if they’re sick, engaging in strenuous activities beyond their physical-mental capacities, and (horror of horrors) not taking their maintenance meds because they’re making tipid. (I don’t know if that ought to make me laugh or cry.) 

Some, on the other hand, are simply in denial about their age -- can’t accept the fact that they’re not 16 anymore but 60. So they’re not slowing down by pacing themselves. They’re too embarrassed to even admit they’re human; that they can actually get sick like the rest of us ordinary mortals.

You may be one of those people who are ultra defensive when it comes to their health. Meaning, you tend to play down your illnesses or health issues. And you never really want to talk about what’s physically wrong with you since you think it’s going to be perceived as weakness.

Many times, people don’t want others to know that they’re sick because they want to zealously protect their reputation of being healthy, fit, and strong. 

Well, I remember those times when we had to rush my mom to the ER because she was diabetic and didn’t take her insulin shots, or ate too many grapes and mangoes, or stressed herself out again. It was always panic time when we brought her to the hospital. Eventually she’d have to be confined after every ER episode. Our bill would often hit six figures every time she was hospitalized. 

To add to our anxiety, my mom was too old to have medical insurance, so we just kind of rolled with the punches. Thank goodness we had set aside a fund for her medical needs -- long before she needed it. (Something we highly recommend, by the way, to those who have aging parents. Prepare for it, and spare yourself the agony of having to scrounge around for money whenever your aging parents are hospitalized!) 

My mom’s six-figure hospital bills were always alarming and heart-stopping for my husband and I because I’m an only child. I have no siblings who’d split the bill with me, or take turns taking care of my mom in the hospital. Take note: If you have family members who can alternate with you making bantay in the hospital, consider yourself blessed!  

Well, one day, something quite fortuitous happened from out of the blue. You see, there was this one doctor who paid my mom a memorable visit, one fine morning. He was already quite, quite frustrated with my mom who never listened to his advice,  or heeded his warnings about the things she shouldn’t eat because she was diabetic. 

The doctor stared at my mom for a few minutes without saying a thing. It seemed like an eternity! It seemed to me like he was trying very, very hard to control himself from scolding her. And was probably weighing his thoughts and words.  

Finally, he spoke. He leaned over and said something to my mom, very up close and personal. Very in-her-face. I cannot forget what happened next. 

He looked at my mom straight in the eye and told her, “Lola. Sana namasyal ka nalang sa Europe instead of spending your money in this hospital. Sayang naman, Lola. Sana nag-Europe ka nalang!” 

And with that, he quickly turned around and left. He didn’t say another word to my incorrigible mom. 

End Result: after her doctor had left, my mom looked at me. She was very quiet. Looked really sad. Perplexed. And quite forlorn. Which was so unlike my mom who was usually opinionated, stubborn, and feisty. 

Wonder of wonders, after that close encounter with her doctor, she started taking her insulin shots religiously. She actually asked her caregivers to give her less sweets. And scolded them if they forgot to let her take her medicines. 

For a while, my mom went traveling again. Asia, she said, was interesting. Although her favorites were always New York and Paris. But still, it was like she got a new lease on life! 

Indeed. One word for the wise is enough. That one word from her doctor finally sank in! 

My mom died at the ripe, old age of 92. She was reading her Bible and Harry Potter for years. No dialysis. No paralysis. No amputations. No blindness or deafness. No heart attacks. No major strokes. She was never bedridden so she never had bedsores. Her eyesight was better than mine after I had her eyes operated on for lens implants. She could read and watch TV without eyeglasses. Amazing. 

I guess, at just the right time, she finally learned that “One word for the wise is enough.”  

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