Monday, September 13, 2010

Panic attacks

I should be thankful for what I have. But, like so many other things in life, everything is relative.

Life is good. It really is. We had a great weekend; I went for a run with Natali, initiated by her! She had this loop scoped out that she wanted to run 10 times. I don't know how far it was, maybe 1.5 miles total. She took walking breaks and didn't really want me close by. I ran around her, looking at her form and her walk-run strategy.

Then after our outing, she conned money out of me by doing little paid-for chores around the house. The Girl was out swimming, biking and running (I think she did all three) and I was trying to get the house ready for a friend's vists. I was getting bugged with the Lorax, so I paid Natti good money to take him down to the playground. Then, when she had made her money, she rode her bike the half mile into the old town and browsed the stores for a few hours.

She is doing so well. And yet, the panic is there. I revel in the nostalgia that will ensue once she is gone. Walking home through the old town Friday night, the wind was cool and the sun was setting over the roof tops. The first leaves were starting to fall. I told her "just think that this is the first day of fall and there will never be another first day of fall, when you are 9 and we're walking together like this". Completely sappy; she didn't buy it.

The thing is, I don't know if she is leaving next year or not, and I don't deal with that uncertainty well.

Then I panic about the responsibility. I missed a class meeting for the parents. It was listed online on an intranet I never check. Instead, I got a message from her teacher, recapping the events of the meeting - and reminding me to wrap her books. Which I still haven't done, and that was 2 weeks ago.

Her teeth are very crooked and she's supposed to get called in to see the orthodontist soon. But I don't know if I even want them to start working on her, if she will be back in the US next year. She is very aware of her crooked teeth, maybe because one of her front teeth reaches half way across the other. She wants braces now, and it frustrates me now know what to about it.

All this parenting stuff may sound so simple, like "get a clue" simple. Sometimes patients will describe how hard it is for them to get to appointments, and I generally have zero compassion. But this is kind of the same thing; a world where I have few skills, no experience and no confidence. I should just suck it up, get her that orthodontist appointment, wrap her books, anticipate that next meeting. And show up with homemade brownies.

Not that I am a bad dad. Natali proudly called me the coolest dad in her class; said that all the girls think I'm cool and funny. I had her at 26, which is very young for Denmark, and longterm student types do tend to stay hip. Ahem. No adult would ever call me hip, but these kids are delightfully unrefined.

Work is all right. Just all right. Again, I don't like the uncertainty; I don't know where this fellowship will take me. I don't have a dream job in mind. Working with critically ill or dying patients all the time is taxing. I have a weekly clinic day, where I see two or three new patients, who have been referred with a new blood cancer diagnosis. It's just a few patients, so it's not a lot of work; but the conversations drain me. They come in in profound crises, in packs of four or five, with daughters who are nurses or doctors. Sometimes, I feel like I'm about to pass out when I am done; after a few hard conversations, I collapse in my office with a candy bar for 10 minutes before I can venture out again.

Medicine in Denmark has pros and cons; overall, I'm glad we are eventually moving back to the US. I feel that, here, I'm just a cog in a big machine. The machine generally does a good job, but it's frustrating being unable to make a visible difference. This is compounded by hematology being a specialty, where the work-up for each disease is largely set in stone, even before the patient comes to the clinic.

I used to have this dream, if you can call it that, that I would be the type of hematologist that told patients his cell phone number. I thought I would say "here's my cell phone number; don't abuse it, but if panic sets it, you can use it". In the US, that would work wonders. But here, if someone called me at home on a Saturday, I would have no way of helping. All I could do would be to tell them to call the on-call hematologist or the hospital floor.

I'm happily married to a wonderwoman - who just happens to have the most stressful job in the universe. I don't know how she got duped into running her gargantuan study, but she did, and there's no other option than to tough it out. Tough it out for both of us, that is. We desperately need more time toghether, but none is on the horizon. I still dream about our 5 days in Duluth this summer. Best five days of the year, despite the Girl's miscarriage...

I mean, it could be worse. I'm on call right now, and will get home tomorrow before noon. Then we're running a 20-miler together on the trails. Yes, it could be a lot worse. I guess I had hoped there'd be more family dinners and quiet evenings watching a movie. But the Girl is constantly stressed out about her project; she would think of those things as a waste of time. This sometimes leads to evenings, where I'm a single parent of two, while she either exercises or works in her nearby office.

Oh, how I whine. The 30 people physically nearest to me right now (not counting the nurses) suffer from frightening nothing-is-ever-going-to-be-the-same blood disorders. If I one a loved one became that sick, we would pray and beg to have our blessed lives back.

Everything is fine. Relatively speaking.

1 comment:

olga said...

You know it is totally normal to whine. I try to compare to other's lives and think of people dying, sick, with kids ill to no end, about no roof over a head, no food on the table, no job, no something...yes, we do have it good. It doesn't mean we don't want it just a little bit better. Without this push, life stays in place.
But you know that. Sometimes we simply need to whine.
We had a whole hour and half watching TV as a family last night and eating watermelon:)