The answer was the same every time I met him. It always began; when he was greeted with the familiar words, “How are you.”
His response was consistent, “Worse, thank you:” “Hope you’re the same.” He was a confirmed hypochondriac who made no excuses for this bizarre trait. Whatever symptoms were mentioned, he claimed to have suffered at one time or another.
Given the opportunity, he could expound for hours on his ailments and the treatment of which did; “absolutely no good.” Notwithstanding was the fact that his appearance belied his belief that he was not well. Standing six feet tall and weighing two hundred and fifty pounds; he was the picture of perfect health.
He explained this as one of the positive symptoms of his declining fitness. “Sort of sneaks up on you.” “One day, you’re fine and then; ‘boom;’ you’re gone:” He is fond of saying.
Even those around him were subject to comparable illnesses. “Martha ain’t had a minute’s peace since she had the Flu, last fall.” “She has reached the point that she can’t hoe an entire row of cotton.” “Before she was afflicted; she was one of the best hoers in the county.”
Although his disabilities prevented him from securing and holding permanent employment: He was able to spend much of his time following his pedigreed foxhounds for entire evenings. This in itself caused much doubt in the community about the proficiency of diagnosis for his particular disorders.
Mixed feelings were prevalent throughout the county as to the true state of his health. There were those who felt extremely sorry for him and their offers of assistance were accepted with gratitude.
The others claimed that he was just lazy; and refused to be a part of his deception. It was to this latter group that he directed his latest response when asked about the state of his health. It was simply, “Compared to what?”
As he grew older, he became obsessed with the notion of making final preparations for his impending demise. He ordered an elaborate tombstone which was engraved with his name and the date of his birth. A space was left blank in which the date of his death would be engraved when the time came.
Underneath was inscribed, in beautiful script: The words…