As most of you know, work is work. My work is particularly interesting and fulfilling, but it’s still work, which made last night particularly pleasant. Tuesday is what PalKid calls “early night”, meaning I’m home before her bedtime. But instead of the usual tucking-in duties, I took off with Bestest Oldest Friend down to the ball park.
After filling up on tsaganaki, oktapothi, and taramasalada, we sat through ten relaxing innings of baseball on a perfect, late-summer 72 degree evening, laughing in the way only the oldest of friends can (mostly at ourselves).
But late summer is a sad season, with fewer moments like this. The air is more still, the greenery futilely over-reaching itself; the days are hazy, and all the color has run out of them. I spend a lot of time with the elderly and the ill, and I wonder how differently they must see the passing seasons. Maybe most of us deal with mortality by pretending each day brings another, but in my work it’s hard to pretend.
All doctors deal with this in their own way. At the extremes are those who become cold, distant, and those who spend every other day attending patients’ funerals and making house calls. I like to think I keep to a good middle ground: every moment with a patient is a gift (mostly). I met a man who attended an Armistice Day parade–the first one (that’s 11/11/1918 for the non-historians). I’ve met drug dealers, reformed and otherwise, philanthropists, auto mechanics, CEOs. Each one has been willing to place their bodies in my hands, tell me things they wouldn’t tell a priest. Often enough, they’ve spoken their last words to me.
They’ve shown me pictures of their children, grand-children, great-grandchildren (the price being looking at PalKid pictures). They’ve yelled at me in fear and anger. If statistics hold, at least one of them will sue me some day. But mostly, each day in the exam room is a brief encounter, one in which two people with a similar goal learn to work with one another.
I’m thinking this might be a good year to invest in a pair of snowshoes. Winter always follows summer, and rather than pining and brooding, there must be better ways to put cold days to good use, to remember that each day usually does bring another.