Infertility 

Ellis Island hospital

Graciously bestowing 
You spilled your precious seed
Upon my barren ground
Ignorant and unknowing
An unfulfilled wanton need
Your attempt at marking 
A territory unfound
Traversing the open sea

The ownership unclaimed
My body left untamed
Believing you were deceived
I’m naked beneath the gown
Empty loss echoes down 
Long abandoned corridors
Infertility finally decreed
By the sterile orators 

Devoid of progeny 
The solemn sodomy
Repeats itself again
Another painful bleed
An unwelcome visitor
Testifing silently
Before the Inquisitor
Sounding the final amen

A viscous self loathing
Clogs the rusted plumbing
Magnified through your eyes
Value is forever drowned
Held down by a flood of lies
I’m merely something to breed
A conduit for birthing
Your immortality 

Worn

Interior, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Every year around this date I especially find myself marveling at love…

Love that is gained and lost, and found again. Love that is unrequited and unrewarded and yet still persists. Love that claws its way through the heart and lodges itself there against all logic and stays regardless of physical presence or absence. Love that endures despite being utterly spent, never quite reaching the point where it simply cannot love anymore. 

Lonely love.

Brilliant love.

Eternal love.

For over twenty years I have loved this love. At times gingerly, even tentatively, and at other times fiercely and with conviction. Is it more valuable for bearing all of the scars and scuff marks, the wear and tear of time and hurt? Is it more precious for simply surviving?

Perhaps….

But then, all love is precious. 

The Artist

Room detail, Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC

Over twelve years ago I met an artist.

What she had was a gift. I never had to tell her what to do. It was like she just knew. Left to create on her own she did the most amazing work.

Today was my last appointment with her. 

My hair stylist is retiring and I am grieving. She was the first and only person to ever take charge of my hair and make it look GOOD. She made me feel better about my hair, about myself. I cannot put into words how important and life changing that was.

When I ask patients what they do, often I’ll get the, “I’m JUST a…. fill in the blank.” Hair dresser, office worker, mail handler, Mom, etc. I hate, hate, hate that phrasing. 

Never doubt that what you do has an impact. No matter what your job happens to be, it matters to someone. 

It matters to me.

Maybe I will find someone just as good. 

Maybe I won’t. 

I loathe this kind of change so it will be a growing experience regardless but for now, I grieve. She was an artist in the true sense of the word and she will be missed.

The Tipping Point

Buildings in Philadelphia

“Do you have an appointment?” she asked.

“Nah. I’m just going to sit here until the weather passes,” the man said gruffly. He sat down in the corner out of her line of sight.

She shrugged and slid closed the clear glass window to the waiting room. He didn’t look threatening. Rain was pouring down outside. What did it matter if he sat for a few minutes?

He began talking into his phone loudly, clearly agitated about something. Patients looked at each other quizzically, shifting uncomfortably in their seats. They stole furtive glances at him, watching him mutter into the phone pressed against his face. It was impossible to hear exactly what he was saying between the growls.

When is the nurse going to call me back? Please let it be soon.

As he was talking the phone rang loudly. Clearly, he hadn’t been talking to anyone at all….

Then he stood, yelling into the ringing phone, threatening to kill anyone and everyone. As shaky fingers dialed 911, he bolted out of the door and ran across the parking lot never to be found again.

Perhaps I’m a silly dingbat but people behaving like that never would have bothered me in the past, at least not where I would have taken them seriously. 

Now though? We were all shaken up. I find myself wondering what is lying in wait around the corner of every person’s mind. I get nervous at airports and look over my shoulder at large events. Where is the next explosion going to come from? Who will fire the next bullet? Could I have stopped them?

Fear is sexy. Fear sells. Fear drives a wedge, keeping us from reaching out to help others. Fear protects us. Fear hurts us. Fear is necessary and yet it multiplies and it divides us. 

Part of me wants to just stay home, to never go anywhere anymore and then I remind myself that acts of courage are the only way to really combat fear. Anger only feeds fear. So does isolation. 

And so I get onto airplanes and take my kids to places that probably live as targets in someone else’s mind so that at least for me, fear will not win. 

Fatherless

Rose window example, San Antonio

“Can you tell me anything about your father’s medical history?”

“No. I don’t know him.” He shrugged as if it was no big deal but his voice said otherwise. 

Next patient…. 

“What about your father’s medical history?”

She scrunched up her face. “I think he’s still alive? I don’t know for sure. I never knew him.”

Next patient…

“So your mother is alive and has diabetes. Do you know anything about your father?”

“I’m not in contact with him.” The disdain came across loud and clear in her voice. “I hope he’s dead.”

If fathers ever think they don’t matter, they should sit in my seat and listen to the pain they can generate even when they are not there.

‘Tis the Season

Dried flower

There was a time I believed that the longer I was practicing medicine the easier the dying would get. Practice or callous formation, call it what you will. I just thought it would be easier.

That is not the case, though. 

These long standing relationships, the people I see for years and years, are the hardest to part with even when you are expecting it. It still hurts. And with each passing it brings me closer and closer to my own end.

This is the dying season, it seems, those couple of months after the holidays when everyone who was holding on is now ready to let go. 

Everyone but me. 

Not yet, anyway…

Tributary

bright uellow gerber daisy

There are exceptional people you can come across in life if you are lucky, people who make you feel like a better version of you. Smarter. Prettier. Kinder. More patient. 

Not empty flattery. No. They have a knack for finding the gem of you and making you sparkle and shine.

I have been blessed to find a few of these people in my lifetime. Paul Curran was one of those. I looked forward to his comments for that very selfish reason. He made me feel better about me.

I realize that he was a virtual friend, someone I never met, but what I feel now is a very real sense of grief and sadness. Strangely that is made worse by the fact that I can find no obituary, no mark of his passing except for the deafening silence that exists now on my blog and on many others. 

I want to fill up that emptiness. I want to shout out to the world, to his physical friends, to his family: I KNEW PAUL CURRAN. He was my friend. He existed. He was a priceless member of the human race. He touched many lives. He made a difference. He mattered.

Just as I hope someone will say about me when I am gone.

We’ve lost Paul Curran, our master guest columnist and prolific comment-leaver

Whenever I made a post, I could count on Paul to have something to say. Most of the time, his comments were better than my posts. I am going to miss him something fierce. Rest In Peace, my friend.

Mark Bialczak

Those of us who’ve grown to love the lively words that bounced from the head and fingers of Paul Curran will never be the same.

The writer from Canada has died, according to his neighbor Steve Watson.

I received this email on the contact tab from my blog:

With great sadness I have to tell you that Paul Curran has passed away. Paul passed last week.

Our guest blogger, Paul Curran. Our guest blogger, Paul Curran.

Your Barrista -- Paul Curran Your Barrista — Paul Curran

Now Your Barrista – Paul Curran Now Your Barrista – Paul
Curran

A series of the column head shots Paul sent me since 2013 to just a month ago.

I found the email this morning. I arrived yesterday. Steve Watson was listed as the photographer in the If We Were Having Coffee Sunday column Paul had me post here on Sept. 11 after his emergency operation.

I could not find an obituary through search engines.

Paul lived in Ottawa, Ontario…

View original post 518 more words

Say Wat?*

Cambodia 041

So, something that I have noticed is this:

Adopted people seem to often carry around a lot of baggage. 

Sometimes it’s obvious from childhood. There are times, though, they don’t even know it is there until they are all grown up.

I have seen this clinically and personally and throughout the blogging world. Even under the best of circumstances, with the best adoptive parents, there is a profound amount of baggage that accompanies adoption.

Who am I, really?

Where did I come from?

Why did she give me away? Didn’t she love me?

Now, let’s say it is an adoption situation where the child was adopted as a baby but the birth mother died and the father was never known. What would be the best approach? When do you tell the kiddo, who has only known you as a parent, about the death? 

It is easier in some ways to simply avoid the topic altogether, isn’t it? There is that temptation to not say a word about adoption and death, let that child go through life thinking they are 100% yours. Decades ago that might have been possible, but in the advent of DNA testing, these secrets never stay buried. I cannot tell you how many times I have had conversations with devastated patients about the seemingly innocuous DNA test done for fun that uncovered a few half siblings or even different parents. 

I have been thinking about this for some time. Maybe the point is not that there is a “right” way or a “right” time to have that discussion. There is no point in time that would make it all OK and would prevent subsequent life turmoil, so much as simply understanding that life sucks… sometimes it really sucks… and when you cannot make it better you just do your best to support them as they work through it all. Working through the grief and anger and abdandoment issues can be a lifelong process and that is OK.

What are your thoughts?

*This is a wat in Cambodia. A wat is a Buddist temple or monastery.

Passing Away

  

“This time of year, my mother’s birthday, I am always so sad.” She choked up and dabbed at the tears again. “My momma died ten years ago but I still just can’t get over it. We were so close.”

I handed her another box of tissues as she continued crying.

It was a strange mixture of emotions I felt sitting there watching her sob away. I hurt for her and yet at the same time I felt an odd guilt and jealousy that stuck in my throat and filled my mouth with bitterness.

How do people do that, get close to their parents? What would that feel like?

It has been six months since I have last seen her, my mother, despite the fact that we live less than 50 miles away. She hates to talk on the phone so I don’t ever call her. We play Words With Friends every day so there’s that, but I am not even following her on Facebook since I am not on Facebook in the first place.

I wonder how I will feel after she dies?

My mother and I are such different people. It strikes me that I can get along with a wide variety of individuals, mainly because I can give them the benefit of the doubt, open my heart, allow forgiveness. I can do that for a stranger, for someone I have never even met, but I cannot do that for my own mother.

Why?

Why do we judge our family, the people we love, so much more harshly than we judge the rest of the world? 

At this point, I don’t hate my mother. I don’t even dislike her. I simply don’t understand her. Allowing myself to try to understand her hurts too much. I have to take what I have believed about my own childhood and accept that maybe there is another side to things. Understanding her side may invalidate what I have come to believe about myself and about her and that prospect frightens me, as if it would be taking away part of who I am. 

Which then begs the question, who am I anyway and why does any of it matter to me in the first place?

Sometimes it feels even now as if I am a toddler on the verge of throwing tantrum, clinging to their crumbling binkie-blankie because they don’t want to let go of their childhood. 

It is all I know.

I want to ask her why she married my father. I want to ask her why she stayed with him even through his terrible emotional abuse. Did she love him? Does she love him now? Is she proud of me? But I am afraid of the answers. 

Maybe it is none of my business? 

Maybe I just want it to be none of my business? 

So I don’t ask….