Another school year, another athletic season, another annual “well visit”. Regular physicals become a regular part of scholastic planning and are just as important as paying fees and buying supplies. And if you want to play rugby then you better complete a current health form!
I’ve been taking my son to the same pediatrician since arguably before he was even born. Like most parents, “interviewing” and vetting potential physicians was on the top of our to-do list before having our baby. I think back to that time and wonder what we were thinking – how on earth could we even have predicted quality or suitability of a doctor back then (or ever for that matter) based on a wink and a handshake? I guess it came down to first impressions, likeability, chemistry…you know, the important stuff. *Just in case, this is where you should insert the sarcasm disclaimer please – that being said, our guy actually turned out to be the BEST doctor anyway so there’s that!*
I can’t help but reminisce every time we walk into that lobby…granted, the practice has grown and this lobby was not the original lobby but the chairs, book racks and youthful clientele remain the same. Protocol may vary slightly but is always repeated – sign in, note any changes, wait, smile at the babies, play with the toddlers, wait, read to anyone who plops a book in my lap, wait, check the time, then head back to get weighed and measured and examined and…
We scheduled this appointment, on this date and at this time, on purpose. Today was the last day and we were the last consultation for our doctor before he retired. A seemingly long and illustrious career, I can only imagine and be hopeful that it was also successful and satisfying along the way. I would like to guess that the many photos and Christmas cards that lined the halls with grateful parents and smiling children in addition to our own adoration of this man confirmed what I had always hoped.
We greeted him warmly, as always, and then I left the room. Ever since my son turned twelve or so, my time in the examination room had been limited. Another one of those things that as moms we have to give leeway to since, like diapers and walking, at some point there are things that our boys are just going to have to learn to do on their own! Our dentist has the same independence building practice – parents actually wait in the lobby for the entire dental visit while the children are led back to a wonderful environment with smiling staff, video games and bright colors – they’ve got a great approach to at least creating a positive foundation for children and not a scary one.
As I sat alone in the waiting room, waiting, I could hear a tiny baby wailing from somewhere beyond the closed doors. Something deep inside of me always goes back to that first shot or that first fall or bloody lip EVERY TIME I hear a newborn crying…and sure enough, these very same reverberating tears reminded me of my own insecurities and lack of confidence as a new mom back then and at the same time hinted at how far my son and I had both grown since.
Having a reaction to someone else’s crying child is one of the many “mommy curses” we are afflicted with throughout our unending motherhood (yes, I said unending. Once a mom, always a mom, guaranteed). For me, as soon as I found out we were pregnant I also started having all sorts of dreams about the terrible things that could, might, maybe befall my baby…nightmares about all sorts of horrible accidents and hypotheticals! Funny thing is that real life can prove more often than not to be far worse than anything fictitious or imagined. The disgust and uneasiness of the unknown is both the monster and the blessing, simultaneously. Oh and we also worry way too much, love way too fiercely and sacrifice way too often but it’s how we are wired, it is in our DNA and I’d bet not one of us would change a thing!
The big, locked door opened once again and I was finally asked to come on back! It was a bittersweet walk past all of the many families that had walked these same hallways before…countless exams, shots, well visits, stitches, broken bones, tears, giggles, struggles, triumphs and even losses scattered these walls. How amazing that one man could affect so many different people in so many different ways yet they all still had one simple thing in common – gratitude.
I had already been bracing myself for the fact that our doctor would no longer be our doctor. As someone who doesn’t do well with change usually, I had already prepped myself pretty adequately for the fact that my son would transition to another doctor at some point. It happens, we move on, we get older, yadda yadda yadda. But what I hadn’t considered was that because he was over seventeen years old now that his transition would not only involve a new doctor but leaving this practice behind altogether. And then it happened…
It suddenly dawned on me that this wonderful man, who had seen us through a lifetime of trials and tribulations, who had stitched wounds and set countless baseball fractures, would no longer be in our corner. This well educated, compassionate, devoted doctor was one of few non-relatives who had known my son from the beginning and thus kept up with him for his entire life. This person had witnessed our greatest loss when Ben’s father died suddenly, grieved right along with us in sharing his own faithful journey, and always encouraged us with helpful advice for almost two decades. A lifetime. And now we were saying goodbye.
I could see his own reluctance and sadness at moving on but like getting a new doctor or recommending effective vaccines this was just another step in his own evolution. I asked if we could have his address, promised not to stalk him…with the full intention of sharing these exact words with him at a later date. I wondered if he knew how much I appreciated him or would miss his clever wit, calm demeanor and matter of fact delivery. I wondered if my shaky voice or trembling hug conveyed how much respect and appreciation I had for him and his time over the years…
And just then, as unceremoniously as this visit had begun, so did it come to an end. We said goodbye and wished him well. We gathered our things and when the examination room was once again empty, my son and I took one last peek into the prize basket that we knew would be hidden on one of the shelves above the sink. In years past, this tradition was coveted and looked forward to, especially after a shot or two in the arm. A teenager hardly looks forward anymore to temporary tattoos or bouncy balls and such but we agreed to one last prize…and for whatever reason it was decided that I would be the one to pick.
So I chose the first thing that caught my eye, one of those little rubber bracelets that proclaim all sorts of mantras and mayhem. But ironically this one was different, as if placed there just for us to find. It said “I Love Baseball” and it took my breath away…because at this end of an era, this rite of passage, was yet another milestone that Ben’s father and favorite coach would miss but somehow still found a way to let us know that he is with us in spirit, even in … especially in … moments like this one…
As we walked back down the decorated hallway, we could hear the loud cries of a tiny baby echoing through the corridor. Another life beginning. Another chance at endless possibilities. Another rite of passage.