She was a 20-year-old barista when we first met, working her way through college.
I was a newly minted attending physician. I’d stopped at the place she worked for coffee on the way to my office. When I got up to the front she was wearing sunglasses and apologized for them. She said she was having bad headaches, and couldn’t get into a doctor she’d been referred to. Feeling bad for her, and needing patients, I handed her my card.
She showed up a few days later, a little nervous as she’d never met a “regular” outside the coffee place before, and had brought her sister along for support.
She was back last week. Now she’s head of human resources for the same chain of local coffee shops. She’s married, with kids, a mortgage, and a minivan.
We were talking about our chance meeting and reminiscing. Her migraines had taken a few medication trials to control, but after a year or 2 we’d found the right one for her and she’s been on it since.
Like many of my longtime patients, she moved past calling me “doctor” long ago. Our one to two visits a year are now more social than medical, chatting about our kids, dogs, and lives.
The same passage of time that brings us from grade school, to medical school, to medical practice takes others along with it. We may not see the changes of days, but when they drop by only once a year it’s obvious. Just like the way we don’t see daily changes in family and friends, but when we look at old pictures we’re shocked by how different they (not to mention ourselves) look.
We all follow the same course around the sun, usually facing the same milestones and similar memories on the trip. Our long-term patients, like distant relatives, may only come by infrequently, so the changes are greater. I’m sure they say the same things about me. “I saw Dr. Block today; boy, he’s really gone gray.”
I don’t mind that (too much) anymore. My thinning, graying, hair (I hope) makes me look a little more distinguished, although my complete lack of fashion sense more than goes the other way.
The river only goes in one direction, carrying us, our patients, and our families, all along with it. We often lose track of time’s effects on us until we see the changes it has brought to another.
Dr. Block has a solo neurology practice in Scottsdale, Ariz.