One of the jokes I had with my youngest son while he was growing up was the old saw….”what is the Jewish definition of fetal viability?” The answer is “when it graduates from medical school”.
I never pushed or encouraged him to pursue medicine. Medicine has been good to me (at least it was for 25 years), and I enjoyed learning the human body, and understanding how our wonderful organism works. Youngest son and I were pretty much by ourselves from the time he was in 6th grade. He tolerated my world view, turned wrenches on planes with me, and at times simply got out of bed, rode to the hospital, and slept on a couch or hospital bed. High school provided an opportunity for him to negotiate a better ride (translation: diesel pickup truck) as long as his grades stayed at a 3.5 GPA. There were numerous times that wailing of “I just can’t do this!” was met with a shrug of the shoulders, and a “hand me the keys” statement. It has always amazed me how much a boy can do, if he really wants to drive a truck.
College provided some interesting moments. Everything from the mysterious (“somebody ran into the bumper of the old truck and set off the airbag”), to the sublime (graduating with high honors). The end of college also provided a (temporary) end to the subsidies that had provided sustenance up to that time. His “independence” was declared by moving to his sister’s place, and sleeping on her couch. Chicago called to him (I’m certain it had nothing to do with the girl that had moved there), and he got his master’s degree, learned things that still amaze me, got married, and eventually moved back south.
One day the phone rang. “Dad, the fetus is viable.” Huh? What on earth is he talking about? Is his wife pregnant? He started laughing….”don’t you remember? You always said the fetus was viable when it was out of medical school…well, I just got accepted!” Basic sciences (the first two years of medical school) was bad enough when I did it. Now, with all the genome mapping, the dramatic advances in molecular biology, and the knowledge explosion…it’s amazing. He finished the first two years.
“The Cat’s In The Cradle” plays in my head a lot. I remember so many times I was just too busy. Now, he is busy. The boy who could never be pried out of bed before noon on a Saturday will voluntarily be up at 0500 to get some extra studying done. The teenager who cried at the thought of memorizing material can recite neural pathways to me that not only make my head spin, but also contain things I don’t remember ever hearing! Needless to say, our long hours that we used to spend together are markedly diminished. Phone calls from him are the highlight of my
day, no, my week or month. They’re rare. And I understand why. I’ve been there. Medicine is a jealous mistress.
Last week I needed some documents from home. Rather urgently. I called, and got him on the phone. Our business done, I asked him about school. “It’s going good, Dad”.
I pushed for more detail. He had just finished his neurology rotation. Neurology always made my head spin. (Yes, pun intended). He’s now on his psychiatry rotation. That drove me crazy. (yeah, another cheap pun, but, hey, they’re my electrons).
I asked about his grades. (I guess some things never change). “Dad, I got high honors in neurology. And I got high honors in the first half of psych”.
The fetus is indeed viable.