Sunday, July 30, 2017


I’ve been going most weeks to the palliative care team meeting across town. People from several hospitals attend this meeting. The first time I went, someone told a long, long story about a  patient. I wondered why this person was going on at such length, and then I realized that the whole point of this meeting is to share stories about patients. We start by introducing ourselves and we hear a poem, and then we tell stories about patients, and at the end, we each share something we feel grateful for. Emotions are welcome, which is not at all true in many areas of medicine, so this meeting is special. The leader, a palliative care doctor, said a couple of weeks ago, “If you’ve come to this meeting once, you’re welcome for life.” I plan to keep going after CPE is over.

Mid-July, I flew to Seattle for a long weekend to visit my cousin and her husband and their two children and my cousin’s mother-in-law and their dog and four cats. They live in a house north of downtown that overlooks a shimmering spring-fed lake. I had met Sarah, who is now four, on a past visit, and got to meet Thomas, two, for the first time. One day my cousin was in the back yard with her daughter. Thomas asked his father, “What are those girls doing down there?”

The weather was gorgeous: sunny, clear, warm. On Saturday, my cousin gave me a ride to Kenmore, where David and Lisa now own a home, and we took a beautiful 10-mile bike ride along the Sammamish River to Redmond, where we had lunch at Ooba Tooba’s, a taqueria, before riding back. It was a perfect day, and the whole trip was lovely and relaxing. I was really conscious of enjoying every moment of it.

My cousin’s mother-in-law is an astute genealogy researcher and has been looking into my cousin’s, and therefore my, family. I learned some interesting new things. On Monday, she took me back to the University of Washington LINK light rail station, where she had picked me up on Friday, and I took the $3.25 trip back to the airport.

At the San Francisco airport, I stepped out of the terminal to tell the fellow I’d like to take SuperShuttle home and was astonished when he said it might take up to an hour; usually the wait is about ten minutes. I spotted a man seated on a bench who had been in the shuttle I took to the airport on Friday. He was in the same boat (so to speak) and had just learned that there are 70 SuperShuttle vans sitting idle on a lot somewhere because so many drivers have gone to work for Uber. Furthermore, all the Ubers on the road are clogging traffic, exacerbating the problem. How anyone could have thought having one passenger in each Uber would be good for traffic is beyond me.

Having seven people in a SuperShuttle van is good for traffic. Having 50 people in a bus is good for traffic. (Unless it’s a Google employee bus full of people driving the rents beyond comprehension, of course.)

“I heard there are 45,000 Ubers in San Francisco,” I said. Then I remembered I had actually heard it from him, during the shuttle ride three days earlier. Fortunately, a SuperShuttle van turned up in about ten minutes.

Wednesday of the following week, we had a work retreat in Golden Gate Park. We did tai chi and partner exercises and had lunch al fresco, and in the afternoon we were free to do whatever we wanted. I went boating on Stow Lake (a man-made lake three feet deep, but it looks like a lake, and is surrounded by greenery, and there are ducks and turtles) with Sam and two other guys. It was extremely fun, including Sam shrieking, “Mayday! Mayday!” when we went into the branches at the side of the lake. When we returned, we partnered up again and shared our aspirations for the rest of CPE and beyond with our partner, and offered each other blessings—CPE students do this kind of thing all the time. My partner offered me such a lovely, heartfelt blessing that we overflowed with good feeling and joined the pair next to us for a group hug. “Aw, that was so good! Group hug!”

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