Monday, October 24, 2011

Memories Of My Father

So it happened again the other day. I was admitting a patient with kidney failure and his potassium came back at 6.9. I quickly got on the phone and dialed the patient’s nephrologist. He was an older gentleman who I rarely worked with. His secretary kindly took my information and replied,

“OK Dr. Grumet, I'll let him know you’re holding”.

After a minute he picked up the phone:


It took me aback for a moment although it shouldn’t have. It’s already happened a few times since I moved to Highland Park.

“High Dr. H, this is Jordan Grumet. Jerry (Gerald) was my father”

"Of course, Of course, Jerry died years ago. I knew your father well. Hell of a physician. We worked together at Northwestern”

Although my father died in the early eighties, i’t sometimes seems that he is still alive and well, roaming the halls of the hospital. No matter where I practice, someone goes out of their way to tell me what a wonderful physician he was. One day it will be a colleague and the next a nurse. A few of my patients even knew him.

And yes, I still get called “Jerry” all the time. I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, I am extremely proud that twenty plus years after his death his memory is still strong. That he was a great physician and people carry his kindness and wisdom with them. On the other, I'm getting to the point in my career where I am no longer content to be known as the son of a great physician. Sometimes I want to be acknowledged for my own achievements and merit.

But the truth is, when I reread the last paragraph, I guess I'm lying to myself. Because what really burns is that all these people have a piece of my father that I will never own. They knew him as a physician.

And there have been times when I really needed to know that aspect of him. When I was struggling in residency after countless sleepless nights, I could have used his encouragement. When I did my best and watched my patients die anyway, I so yearned for his support. When I became disillusioned with medicine and felt like leaving, it would have been helpful to know that he went through the same thing. And when a colleague accidentally picks up the phone and calls me “Jerry” it would be nice to hear his laughter as he slaps me on the back and exclaims,

“if only I was half as good a physician as you are at your age!”

Because at the core, stripped of the years of education and medical degrees, I am still just a little boy trying his best to gain the respect and love of his father.

And sadly, I am all to aware, that thirty years after his death...

that is no longer possible.


jimbo26 said...

Take it as it comes , and be proud of him . It will change in time .

Maggie said...

I hear you loud and clear. I hope I'm not presumptuous in sharing this story with you.

My Dad died when I was 23. More than 25 years later I was having PT for a frozen shoulder when I suddenly burst into tears during the session and began talking about my grief at his loss. The wise therapist suggested that I just try talking to him anyway, even though he was long dead.

Nowadays he often appears in my dreams, especially when I'm trying to solve some problem he might have found interesting when he was alive.

Best dream ever: shortly after I began my first chaplaincy courses, I dreamed that my father was taking me on a tour of the church he served as occasional lay preacher. We walked along the corridors together, he in his 50s as he was when he died, me in my 50s as I was at the time I had the dream. He opened cupboards for me and showed me where the secrets were.

My wish for you: a dream you can remember in the morning, in which your father the physician welcomes you as a colleague and lets you know how proud he is of you as he sees you now.

Chrysalis said...

"I am still just a little boy trying his best to gain the respect and love of his father.

And sadly, I am all to aware, that thirty years after his death...

that is no longer possible. "

I disagree.

I do believe he is very proud of you, and loves you very much. He's telling you right now. He understands all the feelings and emotions you have been facing, and he supports you. The separation is but for a time.

You may be depleted at the moment, but you have had to expend much energy both physically and emotionally along the will recharge and you will find your footing.