Words, like smells, unlock a treasure trove of memories we have stored away. Because I deal in the business of words, words can both embrace and jab.
What do you think when you hear the word SPECIAL? Most people have a warm and positive feeling toward this word. For me it is like somebody just insulted me BIG TIME.
It’s like this. It started with my childhood. Because the doctors couldn’t quite label me with an exact diagnosis, I was dubbed “special”. I guess they figured use a pretty word and it wouldn’t matter. So I took my special self and wore special shoes and visited special doctors in exotic locales. No doubt about it, for somebody living in a small town in Alabama driving to New Orleans for doctor’s appointments was pretty exotic and “special”.
When I graduated from orthopedic surgeons to a rotation with neurosurgeons, the word choice changed as well. I was seen as a “challenge”, “impressive” and a bit “remarkable”. Those words were not any better. I think the dictator of Syria is a challenge. Getting a book published to me is impressive! I find Michael Phelps, Steph Curry, and my beloved Crimson Tide… Remarkable.
So when I recently visited my brand-new bone doctor he requested a new bone density test with his machines. I was hopeful. I never truly believed my bones were in peril. I was good with a specialist. He also ran a panel of bloodwork. He dictated his findings. There was no change in the bone density. I still had osteoporosis but it was the bloodwork that was the true surprise.
He read it so fast “your blood levels are unremarkable”. WAIT!! WHAT?????????????
“Your blood levels are unremarkable”. So nonchalantly.
“Really?” For someone who has never, ever been unremarkable this was a HUGE moment in my history with men in white coats. A true medical milestone.
“Can I get that in writing?” He looked at me in a quizzical fashion.
“You are a strange little duck…” I interrupted.
“You don’t understand. I have never been unremarkable before”.
“However,” he began, “there is nothing unremarkable about those tennis shoes you wear.” He smiled for the first time and even laughed.
“These kicks can be yours if you go to Omega sports”.
“No. I think they are a perfect companion to your unremarkable blood results.” We walked out together. He gave me a printed copy where he called me unremarkable.
I realized something. In doctor’s offices many people are hoping and praying for “unremarkable” scans and “unremarkable” blood results. Their lives depend upon the very word.
But I realized something else. On any given day we are all remarkable. It may be offering a stranger a smile or paying for the next person’s coffee in the line at Starbucks. Remarkable acts of kindness happen every day. We can never render these “unremarkable”. These little miracles are amazing and keep the whole concept of “being human” afloat. However, something tells me I better hang on to my sheet of paper declaring me “unremarkable”. I am sure it won’t be too long until I see another man in a white coat who will anoint me with another astonishing adjective I won’t like.