Saturday, January 8, 2011

Pink Hats 22: A Different Drummer

After-hours coffee and Danish from the Nook and Cranny had the earmarks of becoming a ritual between friends. Despite his pediatrics rotation having been complete around mid-September, Chuck continued drop by Bob's office throughout the first of his two required six-week internal medicine rotations and now an elective two weeks in radiology. On the other side of four more in OB/GYN lay psychiatry, at last. What he didn't expect was the residual effect of his initial month with Bob, Jessie, and the twins on his future.

"I keep thinking about that child-adolescent fellowship and it's all your fault," he said, hanging his head and faking misery.

"I've been blamed for a lot of things," Bob replied, ruefully, "including a baby when I was seventeen that I had absolutely nothing to do with -- and couldn't have even if I'd wanted to because I was on a Scouting trip during conception -- but this is a new one. Tell me."

They were sitting in Bob's office with their feet propped up on opposite sides of a massive roll top desk he'd inherited ten years ago from his pediatrics instructor who, at 80, decided it was a good time to retire and sail around the world. He made it, by the way, and now, he and his wife were trekking in Nepal, in celebration of his 90th birthday.

"Well, I thought I had everything planned out. Adult psychiatry was my bailiwick. Sure, I loved kids, just like you, but I enjoyed psychotherapy so much it was hard to see myself in another role. Then you came along -- and Jessie -- and the twins -- and the next thing you know, I couldn't get enough of pediatrics. Especially the kids with ADHD and parents who're going nuts trying to cope, the occasional bipolar disorder we've seen, and the substance-abusing teens. And frankly, I miss them. I feel like saying, along with the prophet Isaiah, 'Woe is me, for I am undone.'"

Bob pursed his lips and nodded, as though he had anticipated the news. "I had a feeling we were going to be a bad influence. It's even worse when the kids like you, and clearly, they do -- that's a trap waiting to be set. Top it off, when you can get teenagers talking -- well, all I can say is, you are in way wicked trouble, my friend." He broke into an appreciative smile.

"Looks like it. I don't know all the details yet, but I've got plenty of time -- see? You can't get rid of me, can you? Now, about the dream you mentioned a couple of days ago in passing, the one you had on the way home from Concord --"

"-- yeah, what did you think of that?" Bob asked, interrupting.

"It was a good one, especially coming on the heals of meeting Jessie's father."

"You're saying a dream's timing is as important as its content?"

"From the perspective of interpretation, yes. Dreams are one thing, the way we view them afterward, is another. My impression is, this one is suggesting you have your own rhythm. Kind of like Thoreau's comment, 'If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it's because he hears a different drummer.' In your dream, the bass drum was a stethoscope -- you're maintaining the 'beat' of the music all right, but in your way. Timing enters the picture because, from what you've told me about Jessie's dad, it sounds like he's inclined to do similarly. It's probably another one of the benefits of you being older, allowing the two of you to establish a more mature connection."

"I agree, but that didn't make it any easier. Sure, we were more likely to develop a peer-type relationship than would have been possible if I was nearer Jessie's age, but he's still her father and truthfully? I felt like I was 22 once again, sweaty palms included. I guess none of us are as 'together' as we'd like to believe."

"That holds true for me, I'll tell you. One thing you can definitely count on is your relationship with her father making life a great deal easier for Jessie."

Bob was in mid-bite on his Danish. He stopped, put it down, and said, "I would assume that's a 'given.'"

"It is, but there's more. It tells her she doesn't have to love one of you at the expense of the other. It gives her a deep, abiding sense of security about two of the most important relationships a woman can have with men. And a woman like Jessie, who clearly wants someone with more maturity than a guy closer to her own age might possess, has the unspoken expectation that whoever she brings home, should be someone her father can respect as well as one who respects him. You already know this, but she's really an extraordinary woman -- I hope I get half as lucky." With a gleam in his eye he added, "Wait a minute. Didn't you tell me she has a sister? Anyhow, looks to me like you hit this one out of the ballpark. When are you going to pop the question?"

Bob laughed, "One at a time. First, yes I did and she's available, but I think it would look better if Jessie played matchmaker. A professor setting up a date might appear as unfair advantage. As to the second, I haven't quite decided, but I'm thinking around Christmas. It's our favorite time of year and even a romantic moron like me can pick the right place. I need to find a ring and I haven't figured out how to get her size without coming out and asking. I could do that, I suppose, but then the cat would be out of the bag and I'd like this to be a surprise. Not that we haven't talked or at least alluded to it. I just want very badly for her to have the 'fairy tale,' you know?"

"Yes, I do, and she'll love you for it."

(Creative Commons image by Allie's Dad via Flickr)

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