Long Distance

“I had lunch with your dad a couple of days before he died.”

“What?”

We were talking about the logistics of his own grandfather transferring to another facility so he could be with his wife.

“Yeah. When I’m in town I always have lunch with my grandpa. He and your dad were lunch buddies.”

I’d had no idea my father was having lunch with one of my patients. And apparently my patient had no idea he was eating lunch with his doctor’s father until the picture was flashed up after he died. He saw the name and realized the man’s daughter who was a doctor was….

Me.

That meal was the beginning of the end. Something happened. That afternoon as I was wrapping up clinic the assisted living facility called to tell me he wasn’t doing well. When I got there he said he had choked then urinated on himself. His blood pressure was dangerously low and he had a terrible headache, severe back pain. He had apparently left the meal without telling anyone at the table what was going on.

My father suffered the indignities of dementia, angry about having his freedoms taken away one by one….. He had already lived through polio. One pandemic should be enough for any human being. I am glad he died before COVID. He would not have done well with quarantine thrown into the mix. His facility on lockdown? He needed family to visit, to keep him sane. Someone to yell at.

I went as often as I could.

It still didn’t feel like enough.

My father, if he were here, would likely subscribe to all of the COVID conspiracy theories. He would have cheered healthcare workers going from heroes in the US to suspect individuals, purveyors of falsehoods to keep the American people under control. I think he would have been one of those that refuses to wear a mask.

Or maybe not?

I didn’t know him that well, after all.

How strange to have a man, halfway around the world, tell you out of the blue that he had lunch with your father a year ago. A man you have never met. If God allows things happen for a reason, what reason for this?

“My grandfather thinks highly of you. He might not put a lot of stock into what other people say, but you? You he listens to.”

And there I was. Sitting at my desk, gooseflesh standing out on my arms. Hot from working outside in the sweltering heat. Tired of telling suspicious people all day that COVID is real and they need to take it seriously.

“Thank you.” Thank you for taking the time to tell me.

It felt like I had just gotten a big hug from my dad.

Maybe he doesn’t hate me after all.

Advertisement

The Shift

Getting ready for work is super easy now. I throw on a pair of scrubs and my tennis shoes, pull back my hair into a ponytail, slap on a smattering of make-up and I am done. No rings or necklaces for germs to hitchhike home on. I kind of feel like I am back in residency but I don’t want my hair getting tangled in the face mask and who needs lipstick when you can’t see it anyway?

Face mask cons: they cause an increase in zits and blemishes

Face mask pros: they cover said blemishes

Right now I am running a Covid suspect clinic, meaning if you have respiratory symptoms that indicate possible Covid-19, you are sent to me for evaluation and testing. I have a safe harbor letter that allows me to go to and from work in case I am pulled over for being out during lockdown. That sounds weird.

Safe harbor?

This does not feel safe….

My kids are struggling, trying do online school with a grandmother who is not entirely technically savvy or a dad who is having to work from home. They miss their friends. They miss their mom. AND they don’t understand why they cannot use toilet paper for craft projects right now. Everyone started talking about toilet paper shortages and all of a sudden my kids decide it is great for all manner of things beyond wiping your butt.

Go figure.

There are dire predictions abounding everywhere. It is dizzying how much the world has changed in less than a month. BUT humans have a history of facing dire circumstances with ingenuity and sacrifice. Are we scared? Sure. But fear is helpful. It ensures we make safer choices. Will people die? Yes. Many already have. And yet many more will live.

So listen up, people! We are going to make it through this. We are all stronger than we know.