Reaching down to pick up her dance bag off the ground, I began to close the van door, knowing the child safety feature would not allow complete closure. This really got her attention. She grabbed the bag, used her body to block the door, and hopped back into the van. “Wait! I want you as my mother.” She even wanted to go home with me. Skeptical, I clarified, “Are you sure? It means you must commit to being my daughter from now on?” She nodded.
While there have been no more 9-1-1 calls and unexpected visits from police officers, this experience is another one of those parenting life lessons. Most of all, I am thankful the deputies “dropped by” when the scene was calm. If they were on my doorstep on any other regular evening, things might have turned out differently. I wish all of you a Happy Thanksgiving, and may you enjoy a day free of a surprise visit from your local Sheriffs’ deputies.
After my father passed away, each child has grieved in their own way, sharing things about him they will miss most, while my four year old has only said “I am sad papa died, mommy.” Knowledgeable on the developmental capacity at the tender age of 4, I considered excluding my youngest from the graveside service last week on the presumption he didn’t “need’ to see a process which he could not place in a larger context. That decision would have been short sighted. Instead, I asked my youngest child if he wanted to attend the service. He chose to go with all of us to the cemetery. It was a solemn affair and the children understood the significance of the occasion.
“I am so sorry,” I said. I was sorry for many more things than I could say. This is one moment I wish could be erased from my memory and done again, though differently. Ideally, I would greet the mother and child with a warm smile, take an extensive history, perform a thorough physical exam, discuss a list of possible diagnoses with mom, and send blood tests accordingly. I would reassure this mother we would properly evaluate her concerns.
Whether or not we reach 100, 1,000, or even 10,000 miles together in our lifetime, we will have time spent enjoying one another. Time is a gift we should all appreciate. I am well aware of the fact in 10 years, she could recoil at the thought of taking a walk with dear old mom, but what if she doesn’t?
Something that cannot be lost is almost 27 years of shared memories. His smile is indelibly imprinted on my brain, his laugh can be found tucked away deep inside my soul, and his infectious personality is intricately woven into each story I share. Preparing him for those job interviews, giving him advice about girls, and helping him clean his perpetually messy apartment are experiences to be cherished for the rest of my life.
As physicians, we do our best to set patients up for successful futures. This instruction can begin when a person is a few days old and may continue for a lifetime. In primary care, we observe children grow into adults, finish their educations, and embark on families of their very own. The single greatest aspect of medicine for me has been to realize the impact our lasting relationships can have; something that was facilitated by being a female physician.
Apparently, someone had purchased Nix, used it at home, put the nearly empty bottles back inside the box, and glued the top shut (in hindsight, there was a lot of glue inside the box top.) Sadly, I returned to the store, explained what had happened, purchased another two bottle package, and headed home for some “louse and me” time. Hopefully, you are laughing because I was not last night heading back to the store.
Every year when this child comes in for an annual check-up, I think back to the moments when I seemed like both hero and villain. This fragile infant recovered and has grown into a young man. It is important that physicians be intelligent, caring, empathetic, and work hard, but sometimes timing can make all the difference. While I do hope my future holds more days as a hero than a villain, this young man is a constant reminder for me to be grateful to those parents who place their precious children in my loving hands.