In any profession, I know that some days are harder than others, and I know this is even truer of professions that involve difficult, delicate situations. My father’s profession is that of family physician, a much-loved doctor who has been practicing in the same town for… let me see… 37 or 38 years. (I was there at the time he started, but I’m afraid I don’t remember back that far all too well, as I was a newborn.) Dad wouldn’t tell us about his patients, but I know they loved him then – and do now – for the knowledge, care and compassion he offers.
I know that my chatty side doesn’t come from my father, as he is not a man of many words. In fact, there are often times that I don’t really know what Dad is thinking – or feeling. (Actually, this isn’t as frequent as I’ve grown older – perhaps I’ve matured, he’s mellowed a bit, or maybe both.) Now that I am a parent, I think I understand a little more about the feelings a parent feels when a child hurts… and as a doctor, I know that Dad has had many a heartache on my behalf. This would have been very true in May 1997.
At that time, I had an MRI of the brain, as an ophthalmologist suspected something and sent me in for this test. (This doctor wouldn’t tell me what he suspected, but I think Dad knew.) Because of our coming move, my mother came with me to the doctor appointment on June 3. Mom had a message my father had wanted to share with me. He was my physician, so the MRI results were sent to him as well as the neurologist to whom I was referred. And Dad wanted to let me know before I went that it was quite likely I had multiple sclerosis.
Twelve years have passed, and Dad has attended more classes, read more publications about MS that just about any other family physician I think you could find. But what really strikes me, as I reflect, is what that spring of 1997 must have felt like to him. For me, I was frightened and searching, but for him, he had to watch as his baby girl, his only daughter, was diagnosed with a chronic illness… and there was nothing he could do about it. As I type this, I’m tearing up a bit… Dad doesn’t display his emotions on his sleeve, but I know he feels them. And he feels them deeply.
Dad, thank you for the love and support and tears and strength that you’ve given to me! This post could go on for pages, chapters, and that wouldn’t even be enough. So I’ll stop here.
I love you,