My stomach turned as she described her childhood--alcoholic parents, frequent beatings, screaming, and incest. She didn’t mention any trips to an amusement park or a memorable birthday party. She had parents who didn’t protect her and didn’t seem to care.
When I was a child, I was a baseball fanatic. I loved fielding, hitting, sliding, and rooting for the Cincinnati Reds. My brother, two neighbor boys, and I played endless games of tennis ball in the neighbor’s yard. The rules were simple--right field was closed, pitcher’s hand, and over the bushes for a home run. I loved those bushes. Don’t tell my sixth-grade teacher, but my parents once allowed me to skip school, hang out with Grandma, and watch the Reds play their opening day game on TV. This was serious stuff.
Don’t get me wrong, I love education, research, and scientific discovery. But many of my most valuable insights during my career haven't come from a symposium or a journal article—they've come from my patients. These experiences put a face on a theory or provide meaningful context to scientific principles. Sometimes my patients just teach me life lessons that I relay to future patients—no data required.
When I was about 9 years old, someone in our small country church began selling vitamins. I don't know how long they stayed in the business before they gave up to move on to join a pyramid scheme where they sold super-concentrated laundry detergents, glass cleaner and toothpaste that had ground egg shells in it.
Barring some unforeseen longevity, I won't be around in fifty years. Who knows, I may not make it 'til tomorrow. As morbid as it is to ponder, someday I’ll join the great majority. My last breath will usher in lost opportunities to interact with my family and friends, and my relationships with acquaintances will come to a halt like a plant that succumbs to a hard freeze before it flowers.