“It ain’t over ‘til the fat lady sings.” Now there’s a phrase! It has a special meaning for me today: I just came back from a trip to one of my doctors, the delightful one who specializes in infectious diseases. It is she who will determine when I am ready to undergo another surgery to remove the concrete spacer lodged in my right hip and replace that with a new prosthesis. Needless to say, I was anticipating her assessment, though I bragged to Lisa and Jon that I was not allowing myself to count on a specific date or a result or any such thing, because I didn’t want to be slapped upside the head one more time.
Well, I talk a good game. The doctor said, “Wow! Your lab test results are looking good. Obviously our therapy is working; you’re just a slow responder. Let’s keep doing what we’re doing, and I will see you in three weeks.” Three weeks! Despite my brave talk to my children, my heart plummeted to the vicinity of my ankle bones.
Here’s my lesson: it ain’t over till the fat lady sings. The adage essentially means that one shouldn’t assume the outcome of some activity (frequently a sports game) until it has actually finished—or that’s what it means for many of us. The phrase is often attributed to sports commentator Dan Cook who made this remark in the late ‘70’s, in relation to the NBA playoffs. However, in another form, the phrase is, “the opera isn’t over until the fat lady sings”, and conjures up a vision of Brünnhilde (a very large Valkyrie) singing, and then riding onto Siegfried’s funeral pyre at the end of Wagner’s ring cycle.
Her blond braids hang down from under her horned helmet, and she is clearly a ‘woman of size’. And finally, in the South you will hear “church ain’t over until the fat lady sings”, referring ungraciously to a robust member of the church choir, I’d guess.
Regardless of its origin, the adage means the same: it’s a form of self-reassurance (or denial) in the face of long odds, and is usually muttered when things look grim. It’s the phrase that came to mind when I heard “See me again in three weeks.” What it meant to me was “Three more weeks at Orchard Creek”, and it reinforced the helplessness of being in a position where nothing I could do would alter the decision: it was out of my hands. My hoped-for outcome was not going to happen, and I will stay at Orchard Creek for three more weeks, or until my Medicare allotment of 100 days has expired, whichever comes first.
I listen to the concerns of the patients here at OC and I have a deeper respect for the obstacles they face: Miriam and Norm can’t afford to be in the supported living apartments and don’t know where they will go; Roseanne must leave her cozy house and live for a time with her son—she wonders if she will ever go to her own home again. It’s amazing, I think (not for the first time), that their spirits are high and that my companions keep working toward better health and self-sustainability.
They all must know the meaning of “It ain’t over ‘till the fat lady sings.”