Sunday, June 20, 2010

Medical Boards and More: A Father's Perspective

Fathers Day

Two days away from my original "second date" with our osteopathic medical board exams, it's also Father's Day and I'm wondering what my dad would have to say. Knowing him (and me), probably several things (like father, like son), but I have no doubt he'd begin with, "Don't worry, I've prayed about it and you're going to do fine."

My father wasn't always "religious," you know. If he were here to tell you, he'd admit freely he had little use for religion and even less tolerance for ministers as a younger man. But it wasn't age that changed him, it was the awareness that the vertical dimension to life is as significant as the horizontal one. After my mother died and he was diagnosed with pre-leukemia, his faith grew immensely, so if he said he prayed for you and you were going to be all right, he was certain even if you weren't.

After providing encouragement (
encourage was his favorite word) and reassurance, he'd say, "Now, that doesn't mean you don't need to buckle down, just don't make yourself sick in the process. Have some fun, even if it's only for an hour a day." From someone who rarely practiced the principles of a balanced life, this alone is huge. He learned a lot from his illness, things he wished he'd known years before, but he also knew regret could be poisonous, so he focused on the present and lived for the future.

As far as my decision to push back my exam date an additional thirty days to reinforce my preparation is concerned, I can hear him: "Don't beat yourself up. You took a long, hard look at where you were, where you wanted to be, and said, 'I'm not quite ready.' Better over-prepared than under. Being honest with yourself instead of covering up the truth for the sake of pride or what other people think, is the first step toward getting things right." I couldn't have said it any better.

Finally, he'd remind me why I got into medicine. "I knew all along you were cut out for the ministry, just not the pastorate or at least not forever, but you had to sort that out for yourself. Some things no one can do for us. Not even fathers and sometimes, especially not fathers; it's all part of growing up. You found your place -- you were my 'doctor' when I was on my death bed, remember? So go ahead, fulfill your calling. Be the person you were meant to be."

My father will have been ten years gone this November 5th, but many of the words I've put in his mouth he actually said at one time or another, in one way or another. I was watching the movie
Transformers the other evening and in the scene where the main character's father wishes to buy his son a clunker for his first car, I was reminded of the way my father handled a similar situation. I'd just got home one afternoon -- in November, interestingly enough -- from college when he took me to a local dealership saying he'd found a car, a 1966 Mustang that I've written about previously (see 10/13/09).

My point is, dad consistently remembered what it was like to be me, even when I managed to forget. He taught me that stability is a value to be nurtured in myself and discovered in others. He also taught me nothing can replace it -- not looks, money, intelligence or influence. Someone who can be relied on in a pinch is worth more than a million promises from someone who never shows up. And dad always showed up. So, today I'm remembering the stability and encouragement he'd pass along as easily as one might take keys from their pocket, as though he had a pile stashed somewhere and was ready to hand it over without a second thought.

Happy Father's Day.


(Creative Commons image by loswl via Flickr)
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