Monday, May 4, 2009


I moved to Tacoma the August before I turned 17.

Relocation to college, officially moving out of the house (though my parents had really moved out before me), and becoming a Northwesterner was quite a production in my family. Kathy hadn't worked all summer, I had worked at Rax Roast Beef (finally being old enough to work legally) and our days had consisted of soaps, suntanning, and me working swing shift and bringing home the milkshake machine-cleaning to the dog...

Mom and Dad had lived in Yellowstone all summer, so moving entailed a van, a trailer, two cars, and three different routes. My stuff was packed into the cars and lord help me but I can't remember how all the other household stuff made it to Washington. (My parents sold the house when I started college.)

Priorities for me were 1. orientation and 2. finding a doctor. My doc in Utah referred me to Dr. W, who was to be my doc for the next 20 years. (20! And yet at my last visit I encountered another teary-eyed woman who had been to the office for 24.) With Dr. W came a lot of really really bad jokes, opportunities to teen-sit and house-sit, a woolly golden retriever (who was not leash trained... my favorite was the day Kathy and I had to chase him all over Point Defiance), a Sunset-worthy acoustically perfect house, and a Volvo station wagon (thus starting my love affair with boxy cars). I was spoiled.

My typical visit with Dr. W -- no kidding -- was 5 minutes of how I am doing and then 10 minutes about life, family, travel, and sometimes even politics (I think we disagree). So, given 20 years at four times a year for 15 minutes each, that's approximately 20 hours total. Throw in the odd procedure (and for GIs they are truly odd procedures) and I've spent the equivalent of 6 dinner parties with Dr. W. Add in the interaction surrounding house-sitting and social gathering, and we'll call it 10 dinner parties.

How can someone with so little contact have so much influence? I don't know. I do know that not every doctor is for every patient, and vice versa. There's a lot to be said for bedside manner (no matter whether one is in the bed or out of it), but sometimes personalities just mesh okay. I have had other friends who have seen Dr. W (the world is full of people with GERD and IBS and such) who do not care so much for him as I do. And, by extension (and subsequently of their own accord) his family.

I guess even intermittent contacts have had profound impacts on my life... my hair dresser, my dentist, my financial advisor, people I knew when...,

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