Thursday, November 28, 2013

Grateful To Have Come This Far

On this chilly, breezy, sunny Thanksgiving morning, my gratitude list is topped by the mundane: I'm grateful to have power. Out here in the country, trees are plentiful and as you can see in the photo (pardon last winter's snow), they sometimes lean rather precariously close to the power lines. These particular ones are New England White Pines and are some of the oldest trees in the area, dating from the time of the Revolution. I'm very happy they resisted the forces of Nature once again and stood firm in the face of high winds.

I'm also grateful the hayfield wasn't completely under water when the dogs and I went out for their morning business. It rained yesterday, in case wherever you are isn't close to where I am and you came through the day dry. It rained enough that the Saco River estuary I call a stream, flirted with overflowing onto the west side of the field. It didn't and we only tramped through shallow ice-encrusted puddles instead of an ankle-deep pond.

Lately, the awareness I've completed medical school creeps up on me at odd times and I feel incredibly grateful. Watching 60 Minutes the other night, the lead story concerned veterans in treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. If you happened to see it, too, you may recall one of them saying he missed the camaraderie, the feeling of brotherhood, that developed within his unit. It was a closeness he was certain he'd never feel again, a closeness you had to experience to understand. I immediately identified with what he was saying, having gone through my own version alongside the members, especially, of my entering medical school class.

Maybe it's because I'm slightly older or prone to reflection. Maybe it's because it took me so long and entailed so much to become a medical student and then remain one to the end. Maybe it's none of these. I do know that because of all we shared, I'm not the same person who walked into our first year classroom in August 2006. Looking back, I was insecure, unsuspecting, and thoroughly wet behind the ears. So we all seemed, one way or another. We grew up together, facing death in Gross Anatomy and crawling on our bellies across a no-man's land strewn with disease indices and day-long exams, the like of which we couldn't ever have imagined.

I'm not sure whether it's the nature of our experience or the company we keep in the midst of it. For me, the company was as important as the landscape in which we found ourselves and found each other. Sitting in my comfortable chair with one dog stretched between my legs and the other curled up beside us, looking back on it all is a luxury I once only dreamed about. Now I dream about those who struggled by my side and I'm grateful to have come this far.

(Photo copyright 2013 by the author, all rights reserved)
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