Monday, May 28, 2012
The Roles We Play
Charlie never really knew his parents. His father jumped ship when his mental shortcomings began to manifest during elementary school. A short time later his mother died from pneumonia, and he moved in with his grandparents. There were a few years of independent living in an apartment complex, but he returned to help around the house when his grandfather passed away.
Years ago, Charlie was labeled as "slow" before we had the nomenclature for the complex range of mentally challenging diseases that exists today. An accordingly, anyone who spent a few minutes talking to him could tell that something was different. A longer conversation, however, would reveal that a thinking, feeling person was present behind the facade that he had been labeled with. He held a job at the local grocery store for more than a decade, and was even named employee of the year a few times. He was fiercely protective of his grandmother and was a loyal friend.
Taking care of Charlie was a pleasure. He came to see me regularly and followed directions when given. He had a plethora of minor problems which we dealt with on an ongoing basis. It was the kind of visit I looked forward to.
Charlie entered the exam room in a button down shirt and blushed as he handed me the neck tie. His grandmother's vision had become to poor to help him do such things anymore. I stood a few inches behind him as we stared into the mirror. I took his hands in mine and gently guided him through the motions. By the end of the fifteen minute appointment, he could tie it by himself. I made him promise to take pictures and bring them to the next visit.
As a physician, I fulfill many roles for my patients. To some, I am like a son doting over his parent's every ache or pain. To others, I am a comrade who lends an ear during difficult times.
And occasionally, momentarily, I get to fill the space of a father who left long ago.
Being the product of a single parent family, it's a role I particular cherish.
Posted by Jordan Grumet at 5:39 PM