A 71-year-old woman goes for an MRI of her painful left shoulder. If this sounds like the beginning of a joke, the punch line is that she had to force herself not to move while her mind danced to Beatles tunes.
Before being stuffed into the MRI tube, I had to assure the technicians three separate times that I was neither pregnant nor claustrophobic, and that I had no metal parts. Earplugs in, I climbed onto the gurney and was now asked what music I wanted to hear. White noise and NPR weren’t options, so I blurted out the first thing that popped into my head — the Beatles.
With my left arm and shoulder immobilized and the panic button in my right hand, in I went. The first song I heard was I Saw Her Standing There. As Paul belted out, “Well, she was just seventeen,” I was transported back to 1963. I was at the freshman mixer at the University of Michigan. It was the first time I had ever heard the Beatles, and I was hooked. I really wanted to dance again the way I did that day when I was truly just seventeen.
But here I was, more than fifty years later, stuffed into a tube and forbidden to move or even sniff, with an arm I couldn’t lift over my head or around my back. And yet, if I closed my eyes and ignored the persistent rat-tat-tat of the MRI, I was in college dancing up a storm.
I hoped the random assortment of tunes would not include Hey Jude, but that popped up next. The song always makes me cry but I was sure that was forbidden for a woman getting an MRI. I hoped the procedure would end before the song’s final chorus, but no such luck. In my mind, my arms swayed in the air while I sang the endless chorus of “Nah nah nah nah nah nah nah nah nah, hey Jude.” In reality, my left arm wouldn’t be able to do that even after it was released from MRI prison. Meanwhile, I was still pinned down in this infernal machine.
At this point, I was ready for an uplifting song, but I got Eleanor Rigby instead. “Ah look at all the lonely people,” including me getting this endless MRI. She may have been waiting at the window, “wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door,” but at least she could see the sun. And then I got stuck on wondering what on earth that line meant. What jar? Luckily, next up was a song that took me to my happy place, Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da. Yep, life goes on indeed.
My final MRI selection, The Long and Winding Road, seemed totally appropriate. This song represented the sad end of the Beatles, but for me, it meant the end of the MRI. I thought about what Paul McCartney probably meant when he wrote this song. He said, “It’s a sad song because it’s all about the unattainable; the door you never quite reach. This is the road that you never get to the end of.”
And so ended my MRI trip down memory lane. I took my sore left shoulder home. It would be a long and winding road to repair what time had done to me. Once — as the Beatles reminded me — I was just 17. Now I am 71. Weird.
Originally published in Midcentury Modern Magazine on April 6, 2017.
Boomer. Educator. Advocate. Eclectic topics: grandkids, special needs, values, aging, loss, & whatever. Author: Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real.