Tuesday, February 17, 2015

On my father's completing 50 years of medical practice

Yesterday my father, who is a general practitioner, completed 50 years of being one. We had a little celebration in his clinic today, organized by my sister, who is a dentist and works with him. My sister and her staff decorated the place with ribbons and flowers and festoons and whatnot and got him to cut a cake. The celebrations lasted for about 15 minutes after which it was business as usual for him, with patients lining up with ailments, some real, some imagined.

He nearly didn't get this far. He had some pretty radical cancer surgery in 2001 and pulled through with as little fuss as you could possibly imagine and then, a couple of years ago, a pretty difficult angioplasty which had everyone worried, through which he sailed with complete calm. (I'm writing this post mostly for myself because I'm kind of overcome with a great deal of I don't know what and I want to preserve that as best as I can. So if I'm boring you, my apologies. I'll try and come up with something jollier in the next post.)

Coming back to the res, my father is the calmest person I have known. Calm in a quiet, unobtrusive way. Not in-your-face insouciant or a rebellious I-don't-care. He is simply calm. Some kind of inner peace keeps him going even when faced with situations that lesser people, such as I, would find impossible to countenance without substantial wailing and screaming.

I'll give you an example. When he was being assessed for the surgery, the doctor solemnly warned all of us - including him - that since it was a long and radical surgery and since he had angina, hypertension and diabetes, there was a fairly high risk that he, well, mightn't make it. We were understandably downcast and on the day we went to admit him to the hospital for the surgery, we were choked by the possibility that this might be his last journey from our house and similar dismal thoughts. And him? He said he would like to go to Modern Lunch Home, an eatery en route to the cancer hospital, specializing in sea food, because he mightn't get the chance again. We went, my mother, I and him. The food simply turned to ashes in my mother's mouth and in mine but he ate heartily with the enthusiasm of a teenager. I tell you, when MY time comes, as it surely will, (though hopefully not for several decades yet), I hope I will be able to face the prospect of my own death with even one hundredth of that equanimity. Actually I'm pretty sure I won't. I'm scared of dying. Nearly everyone I know is. Everyone, that is, with the exception of my dad.

But enough of this moroseness. His medical practice has been a tremendous success, if you count it in the number of people who see him as their saviour and cling to him for support. He has saved lives and given hope to literally thousands of his patients, many of whom acknowledge it in the most touching ways.

He continues to work. His patients come to him, often for medical advice, but just as often for advice on their lives in general. People with troubled marriages, problem children, domestic conflicts and what have you, troop in regularly in the hope that he will counsel something that will miraculously make the trouble go away. Incredibly, ever so often,  it does! Sometimes he will scold, at other times plead, but mostly, I think it is that wonderful inner calm of his that gets through to the most troubled soul, It seems to soothe the turbulent emotions that seem to be at the core of most interpersonal problems and I've seen it in action a few times. It's like magic!

So, congratulations, Pappa! Keep going!