Friday, September 09, 2016

Bazooka Joe

So, let’s see here, I did take Hammett to his doctor in the middle of August and he was examined and had more bloodwork done and got body X-rays to make sure he didn’t have a bulging tumor in his midsection. The prior appointment and labwork had cost about $150, and had shown that Hammett’s thyroid level was a bit elevated, but not enough to have caused his weight loss, in his doctor’s view. The second appointment and tests—which all proved to look perfect—cost $650 more, for a grand total of $799, after which Hammett’s doctor concluded that elevated thyroid was, after all, the culprit, and advised increasing the amount of methimazole he gets daily.

Since Hammett did have a known condition and his symptoms and original labwork were perfectly consistent with that, I’m planning to say something about this and am in the process of wording my remarks. I think highly of this doctor and count on him absolutely, but, as I was reading somewhere about the training of medical professionals, when you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras.

You may recall Jacqueline, Samantha’s boss, saying she would not consider someone for even a part-time per diem position as a hospital chaplain unless that person had finished all the education plus a year of CPE, and furthermore that the CPE would have to be after the education, not before. Therefore I was flattered and very surprised when, toward the end of my summer of clinical pastoral education at the Very Fantastic Medical Center, she offered me a part-time job, one eight-hour day plus one 24-hour on-call shift weekly.

She invited me to her office for an interview and told me how to change my resume to make it into more of a chaplaincy resume, and we had a discussion or two on the phone. She wanted someone to be on call every Saturday, and I suppose that, as a fledging chaplain, I should have leapt at the opportunity, but I really didn’t want to do that, and after saying so, I didn’t hear from her again, and concluded that might be that. I know that at least one person finishing up the yearlong program at the Truly Wonderful Medical Center (where I would have started earlier this week had I started there earlier this week) has applied for the same job, and will probably get it. That’s OK. I’m on the slow and leisurely track, and if I never get there at all, that’s all right.

Poor Samantha, who is pregnant with twins, was extremely ill our final week of CPE and only able to drag herself in on the very last day. I’ve never seen anyone at work who looked more miserable. She came to oversee our presentations of our final self-evaluations, in which we also had to write about our relationships with our peers and with Samantha. The latter opened a final can of worms or two which I suppose will go permanently unresolved.

After that, we rushed over to another campus of the medical center for our graduation ceremony, and Samantha went home. We three interns graduated that day, plus the four people who had done the yearlong program. In addition, a couple of the five people starting the yearlong program now underway attended our ceremony and one of them said that if he didn’t get a chance to speak to me again, he wanted to thank me for being the only person in the spiritual care department who was friendly to him when he started! I don’t know what to make of that. Shouldn’t spiritual care providers be extra-friendly, or at least no less friendly than the general population?

There was one day between CPE ending and my nine-day retreat at Spirit Rock Meditation Center beginning, and I spent that day making final changes to my self-evaluation and updating my resume per Jacqueline. On that day, I also noticed a painful lump in one breast, very similar to that which proved to be mastitis a year ago, except that there was no red streak. This was not good at all, because my breast cancer surgeon lately retired, and I was positive my new doctor would insist upon my coming in before prescribing antibiotics. I did some research and concluded that it might be a blocked duct, which I commenced treating with a heating pad and massage, including applying the flat end of my electric toothbrush, and over the next couple of days, it cleared up and no red streak ever appeared.

The retreat was wonderful, partly because I had an extremely difficult roommate and was forced to exert extra effort to return to my chosen object, which I did successfully over and over and over. My teachers were pleased. Phillip said, “I’ve known you for many years and this is a new level.” Sally encouraged me to apply for the Dedicated Practitioners Program and said I could use her as my sponsoring teacher. She said, “You’re one of the more sincere practitioners that I work with.”

I really did not have very much discursive thought during this retreat, but each day we did a period of metta practice, and I was using my father as my benefactor, which caused me to recall the afternoon he set out to teach me how to blow bubbles with bubble gum. I was maybe four years old, and I distinctly remember our being in the front yard of the first house I lived in in Ann Arbor, and my father giving me a couple of pieces of Bazooka Joe. It was touching to think of him, rather a young man himself—28, if I was four—perhaps having made a mental list of all the things his children would need to know, including how to blow bubbles, how to play tennis, and that exercise is good for you.

When we were children, he bought each of us a brightly colored duffel bag, perhaps thinking of the family trips we would take. I still have that red bag, plus another extremely durable duffel bag he bought me. In fact, I had that latter bag with me at the retreat. I use it regularly, and 40 or 45 years after my receiving it, it shows virtually no signs of wear. (It was from Lands’ End.)

One day, from my dorm window, I saw two young deer foraging for food near their mother, who was sitting on the ground nearby. Charmingly, one of the youngsters discovered a promising long blade of grass—sticking out of its sibling’s mouth—and did its best to get its share.

Since being back from retreat, I have been recuperating from my summer of CPE, and going to Howie’s to meditate on Tuesday nights, and volunteering at the soup kitchen.
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