Wednesday, February 4, 2009

37 is a prime age

When I get sick it's rare, but always severe and always at the worst time. Until just recently my last bout with the bug was four or five years ago when I went to visit Carv in San Francisco. He was living in the Marina among the sanfranimals, and I spent the long weekend shivering beneath a pile of blankets on his living room couch.

This latest flu torpedoed my birthday, my birthday dinner and the Steelers record 6th Super Bowl win. And I had to go in to work, to boot.

I'd go through it all over again, though, if it meant missing my father's retirement party yesterday. It was an occasion I didn't think there would be much to. I thought this, I now realize, because I had never been privy to my father's life as a doctor. I had been to his office on occasion when I had been growing up. I knew a few of his associates, a few of his secretaries... but I had no understanding of how many lives he had intimately touched as a gastroenterologist.

And this was the running joke throughout the retirement party... exactly just how intimately a gastroenterologist touches people's lives. The party was held in Suburban General Hospital, and the dinner served was (unsurprisingly) hospital food. How I managed to keep my meal of overdone steak, overcooked asparagus and burnt rice down while listening to jokes about peptic ulcers and perforated colons is a testament to how special of an evening it was.

In addition to seeing my father in his element, who reveled in being the man of the hour, and my mother's obvious joy at his side, my own personal joy came from hearing from the doctors, nurses, patients and hospital staff who showed up to wish him a happy retirement. It came from gaining the knowledge that there was a group of people who admired him as much as I did, and who also testified to how much of a pain in the ass (no pun intended) he can be. Especially on the topic of politics. They also mused incredulously, like my mother, about what the hell he was going to do with all his free time.

In short, I became aware of a kinship I had with a group of complete strangers, and this I was not expecting.

Neither was I expecting the hospital to name its GI lab after him, plaque and all on the wall.

I'm feeling much better today, and my father's retirement party is responsible for this. Same goes for my birthday, which went unacknowledged here, and being a year older, too. I credit my dad's party for this, as well.

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