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Sam's reminder
Pondering mortality

February 27, 2003
The Iranian

My entire family is in mourning as I write this article. Mourning because, Sam, my sister and brother in law's beloved Springer Spaniel was 'put to sleep' a couple of weeks ago. He was 11-years old and suffering from arthritis, cataracts and various intestinal problems which made his farts the thing of legend in the whole of North England. But mustn't joke about him nor that he is no longer with us.

Sam reached a stage where he was in constant pain and the heart wrenching decision had to be made by Robert, himself a doctor, to put him out of his misery. He was taken to the vet never to return home again. The news reached us the very same afternoon and I spent the rest of the evening thinking about the void in my sister and brother-in-law's lives.

You see, Sam was their baby. He slept (and snored) on their bed, he was taken for a two-hour walk around a local reservoir every day and Soheila (my sister), would even grab his face and kiss him full on his wet, salty nose on a regular basis.  When I made fun of Sam, she world run to him and hold her hands over his furry, long ears so he wouldn't be upset by my comments about his weight, the bald patch on his back or his general lack of intelligence.

Sam wasn't the sharpest knife in the cutlery drawer and, to be honest, his features did not help him. If you looked at him face on, you would notice that his eyes were crossed. If you moved your head around to look at his profile, you would notice that his lower jaw stuck out further than his top jaw. The net result was what appeared to be a growling, teeth baring expression when, in fact, his lower teeth were simply pushing his top 'lip' up and making him look like he was growling. A quick look into his eyes would reveal that there was not one ounce of aggression in him.

Any death, human or animal, makes me ponder my own mortality. The one thing we can all be absolutely certain of is that one fine day, each and every one of us is going to expire, or as mummy says: "Gooz-e-aakhar-o-bede..."

I have reached the age where I have started to worry about dropping dead suddenly and leaving everyone else, including my beloved wife Varinder, to pick up the pieces. So a week after Sam went to that big park in the sky full of fit looking Springer Spaniel bitches, I went for a cholesterol and diabetes test.

A few days later I had a call from my GP to go and see her. The good news was that I was not a diabetic. The not so good news was that my cholesterol was too high. It was 6.2 when it should have been no higher than 5.2. After breaking the news she punched my age (37), cholesterol reading and a few other variables into her computer before telling me that I had a 4% chance of having a heart attack in the next 10 years.

This was not good. A heart attack, after all, can kill. 4% or l in 25 is statistically too high for a guy like me who wants to see his grandchildren but doesn't even have any children yet. Something had to be done.

Two days ago, against my better judgement, I found myself sinking into a large and comfortable leather recliner belonging to a hypnotist.

"Mr Salari, you do realise that only you can make yourself lose weight," she said to me

I gave her one of my pregnant pause-like stares. The look which said, Why am I sitting here and paying you by the minute then?

"Hypnosis is not some sort of mind control technique which can suddenly make you lose lots of weight, you know" She was beginning to patronize me.

"But my friend went to a hypnotist and gave up smoking overnight. He hasn't smoked since!"

"It's far easier to give something up using hypnosis than to slow something down. You can't suddenly stop eating food now can you now?"

In the first 5 minutes of my consultation she had succeeded in making me feel very stupid. I had another hour and 5 minutes to go before having to part with £40.

I have to say that despite the shaky start, the rest of the session proved to be refreshingly good.  I may write about exactly what she told me because I know other dieters will find it instructive. She even managed to give me a short 20-minute hypnosis session where she suggested to my subconscious that I drink water in place of a snack wherever I felt like having a binge. Next week we will have a longer hypnosis session and the week after (our final session) we will have an even longer hypnosis session. I will report back.

To conclude, I am beginning to view death as a process which takes place by stealth. One has to look for the signs. I once read that no part of the human body is ever more than 7-years old. Cells, apparently, renew themselves. And the aging process occurs because every time our body renews itself, it doesn't do so perfectly. A little like a VHS tape that is used again and again.

With this in mind, today, for example, I noticed the third grey hair on my chest while drying myself after a shower. I immediately looked in the mirror to see if my eyebrows too had started to succumb to grey hairs.

Just as I was pulling my face away from the magnifying mirror (relieved at not seeing any), I noticed the longest and thickest white hair I had ever seen sprouting from my left nostril. It was long enough for me to pinch with my index finger and thumb to yank out. I gave a sharp pull and it was as if the follicle was anchored to the inside of my skull. My entire head jerked down and my eyes began to water at the intense pain. The nasal hair was still attached to my nostril. I decided to gently push it back in and leave it there until I bought myself a nasal hair trimmer.

My hypnosis sessions will become my VHS tape-head cleaner.

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