“Fill this bottle, Sir”

Having been raised as a true Scots Presbyterian, I am of the generation that doesn’t go to the doctor unless you’re really, phlegm-producingly sick. This has resulted in a couple of serious incidents over the years, but the habits of a lifetime are deeply ingrained.

So it came to pass in my 71st year that Wendy finally persuaded me to have a health check. (Read: she made the appointment and threatened me.) Last Monday I duly presented myself at Doctor Ashley’s office and had my first proper check-up in ten years.

I’d taken along the medical history brought with me when I moved to the US from Scotland, and the academic paper on Nail Patella Syndrome that features a photograph of my toe-nails. (It’s a hereditary condition). To my great relief I received a clean bill of health – a surprise to Wendy, and I suspect even to the doctor!

But this wasn’t the end of it – oh no, not by a long way! This Monday I was scheduled for lab work. Admonished to fast beforehand and come early to deal with paperwork, when presenting myself at the counter, I admitted I’d had a breakfast bar at 7a.m.

The secretary said “whaaa?”

I repeated my crime, fearful now that I’d be turned away. She called in a senior member of staff, who asked me to “repeat that, please.”

“I had a breakfast bar at 7 a.m.”

“What’d you have?”

“A baaaaaarrrrrrr.” Experience has taught me that, when accents collide, strengthening the vowels can help SW VA ears.

“Yes,” said the woman, in the patient voice of one dealing with an imbecile. “But what was on it? Eggs? Bacon? Oatmeal? How much did you eat?”

Realization dawned at last, as my father-in-law is fond of breakfast bars—the Shoney’s kind, not the six-per-pack granola kind. I laughed and explained, she laughed and took me to the back—

–and poked me repeatedly, trying to get a vein. I told her a funny (now) story about a nurse years ago in Scotland with the same trouble. She bit her tongue and tried again. This became very unpleasant until she got what she wanted. I regretted telling her the funny story.

Several unspeakable samples and a couple of preventive shots later, I was wending my way home, a bandage the size of Russia around the drill site that had been my arm.

Satisfied, my darling Wendy?

Love, Cancer, Gas Money

February is short and cold and pushes the hearts-n-cupids love agenda–probably to keep us all from killing each other, given its dark icy muddiness.

Maybe the only thing worse than February by itself is February when you or someone you love is sick, and frightened. That’s why the bookshop is helping out Mountain Laurel Cancer Coalition. Mt. Laurel runs the Ruben Lovell Memorial Fund–named in honor of a lad whose personal fight ended in leaving us. The fund offers gas cards in the amounts of $35 and $50 to people who have to travel for chemo or diagnosis.

We all know that cancer is a curse visited more on SW VA than most places, and you can argue tobacco, mine runoff, lifestyle and the rest until the chickens leave their roosts in search of safer ones, but the fact remains that we have a LOT of people in the area who don’t have insurance but do have the big C.

They should be able to get the care they need to get better or die with comfort and dignity. Mt. Laurel’s Lovell fund has been seeing to that, quietly and competently, for several years now under the direction of Leigh Ann Bolinskey (nee Kennedy; yeah, she’s a hometown girl). And in 2012, their card requests went from about 200 to 300. And they didn’t have the money. So now they’re roughly $1000 down.

Tales of the Lonesome Pine (and a whole lot of other community members in this region) would like to see that go the other way. So for the month of February, when you buy romances from the LUV SHACK here, we will donate 100% of the purchase price to the Lovell fund. Romances are 50 cents paperback, 3 for $1, value boxes for $5. Hardbacks $2. With any luck, we can empty the shed of its 3,000 or so tomes and fill the coffers of Mt. Laurel Cancer Coalition’s Lovell fund. That’s what we’d all call a win-win.

It’s also what we’d call real love, and maybe a little light dawning in the cold scary dark.