The influence of a physician’s father

Because of my father

When you lose a parent during childhood, it effects just about everything you become.  Decisions about life naturally stem from enduring this trauma.  Some try to form families early and replace that which they feel has been lost.  Others spurn close connections and create a wall so firm that no one else can encroach.  An attempt to protect against pain.  Because of my father I have become so many things.  Whether healthy or not no longer matters.  I am a collection of disparate feelings.  A reaction.  Splayed along the years of being the yin, the equal and opposite to my father’s yang.

His death and my life.

Intertwined.

Becoming a doctor

Because of my father I became a doctor.  Childhood memories of white lab coats, stethoscopes, and penlights.  A room full of gadgets.  An answering machine chocked with messages from those needing help.  Doctors, and administrators, and patients.  Tons and tons of patients.

Before my father died, I wanted to be just like him.  And after he died, that’s what I became.

There was no obstacle that could hold me back.  The learning disability that hampered my early development disappeared.  The shy, unconfident, wiry child afraid of his own shadow and unsure of everything.

But not this.

My destiny returning from sea on the ripples of a wave.  Pushed violently by happenstance.

Hospice and palliative care

Because of my father, I professionally surrounded myself with death.  My first experience as a medical student spent volunteering in the local hospice.  I not only chose internal medicine but gravitated to the elderly.  The critically ill.  The dying.

I futilely tried to recreate my childhood and then inject some modicum of control.  As the doctor, I could ease the pain and suffering.  I could prepare families, and be there with the orders for pain medication when the discomfort came.

I could somehow take what had been foisted upon me cruelly and turn it into a situation of my making.  A world in which I wasn’t the victim.

And this brought me happiness.  Because somewhere in there it stopped being about me, and became about helping people.  The art of medicine.  Maybe my beginnings were auspicious, but my intentions now held true.

I no longer had to protect myself.

I had the power to help protect others.

Half retired

And because of my father I am going to let go of half my practice.  I am going to half retire.  Because his death at the age of forty can’t help but remind me that life is fleeting.  Not every road is endless.  In fact some are much more finite than others.

I cannot continue to immerse myself in activities that no longer give me joy.  What would my poor father say?

Life is too short to be unhappy!

I didn’t die for you to be unhappy!

Yet leaving my profession is like letting go of the part of myself that is most like him.  Is there any yin without yang?

“DocG” is a physician who blogs at DiverseFI.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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