I’m a lucky man. Two of my best friends from my childhood, Abe and Robert, married Linda and Annabelle, who subsequently became the other two of my best friends. Together with Renee, the six of us travel together, commiserate together, and share in life’s events good and bad. (Abe asked me if I was enjoying my journey through the past. I am. Of course, I’ve conveniently left off the bad stuff.)
Robert’s mother and mine were best friends and neighbors at the age of three. It was only natural for Robert and I to spend a lifetime together. I think Abe came along when I was 16 and got my license. Abe lived in Richmond near the corner of Stewart and Commonwealth Ave. Commonwealth was the name of my high school fraternity. Why I’m telling you this is a mystery to me. All I know is that street sign disappeared one night. I wonder where it could have gone.
As an adult, having childhood friends that you see regularly keeps you young. Following the kids and grandchildren through life brings its own sort of happiness and pride. This article is for Robert’s youngest daughter, Paula, who is graduating from VCU with the title of PMH Nurse Practitioner. Congrats, Paula!
When Renee and I got married and moved to Illinois, it opened a can of worms. Our parents, who lived in Norfolk, were none too pleased. We were young, stressed and newlyweds. I had a solid background in Psychiatry, so I set up an appointment with Michael Bresler, PhD. Counselling was extremely helpful; and, ultimately, Michael opened a satellite office in LZFTC. (Michael is another mentor of mine who is dead. I’m starting to think I’m dangerous!) Eventually, he was replaced by two of his students, Ron and Ginny, who worked out of my office until I retired. As a family physician, having psychologists on site was invaluable.
Now for my story and a joke. In residency, I met a psychiatrist extraordinaire! Harry was a little crazy and he knew it. Being crazy and knowing it is what made him so good. Most psychiatrists (people in general) I knew were crazy but didn’t know it. Since they thought they were normal, they recreated their patients according to their warped sense of normal. When their patients spoke, they sounded just like their psychologist/psychiatrist occasionally spewing forth psychobabble.
Harry, on the other hand, helped his patients find their own sanity. Renee and I sat with Harry at Ron and Ginny’s wedding. I turned to Harry and said, “Harry, there are times when I’m not certain whether you are the patient or the doc.” Harry answered without hesitation, “I get confused also. When I’m not sure whether I’m the patient or the doc, I look for my diploma. If it’s behind me, I’m the doc. If it’s in front of me, I’m the patient!”
Paula, I don’t need to tell you how rocky life can be and how stress affects people. When you are not sure what your role is on any given day, ask one simple question. Where is my diploma?
Now for the joke that unfortunately is probably real. An old psychiatrist and a young psychiatrist get in the elevator at 8 am every day and go up to the fourth floor. The young shrink goes to his right and the old guy goes to his left, each opening their offices and getting ready to see their patients. At 5 p.m., they get in the elevator to go down to the first floor and then to go home. The young guy is exhausted. The old guy is as fresh as if he had just awakened. After a month, the young shrink decides to ask his older companion how he does it. The old guy looks at him and says, “You don’t listen to them, do you?
Paula, you are going to be tired by the end of the day because you are going to listen to your patients. Listening to your patients is going to make you into a great practitioner. Your patients are going to be lucky to have you.
One more joke:
I complained to my psychiatrist that everyone hates me.
He said “Don’t be ridiculous! Everyone hasn’t met you yet.”