I'm not sure where I'm going with this story or even why I'm telling it. I've convinced myself that it's okay to tell it, even though it's a real patient story, and I'll confabulate some details, but basically it's true. I haven't seen the patient in over ten years, I don't recall his name, I'm not sure if he's even alive. It's one of those stories, however, that sticks in my head; one I think about from time to time, one that makes me wish I could tell it to the people it involves.
So John (not his real name) was an elderly, but not old, gentleman. He laughed easily and found joy in many things. He and his wife of 53 years had many wonderful things going on in their lives.
He talked about his father who had come to this country from Europe. His father had very definitive ideas about how John should live his life and the rules were spelled out quite clearly. As a young man, John had fallen in love with a young woman and he'd wanted to propose-- his father disapproved and wanted him to put his education first. The young woman married someone else and my patient met his current, and only, wife. He'd long ago lost touch with his first love, but he did know what had become of her-- she'd become quite prominent in her own career and John knew that she still lived in town.
He had spent 54 years thinking about this woman, feeling he'd made a mistake, pining for the one that got away. His wife was kind and attentive, and they got along well, but he'd lived out his adult life quietly wondering 'What if?'
And why is this a blog-worthy story? In fact, I've wanted to write about it for 2 years, I' m not sure what has quite stopped me.
So the patient told me his first love's name. I knew this woman-- she is the mother of one of my friends. I didn't know her 54 years ago, but in the here and now, she's a cranky soul and, if you ask me, my patient is better off with the lovely wife he has. The funny thing is that my friend's dad is a lot like my patient.
I wondered then if I should say something. What would I say and would it help? I didn't, by the way-- I was afraid it might make things worse and that I would regret having opened this door. It's always a little awkward when my worlds intersect.