A couple of weeks ago a patient came into our main office for the first time. He was a patient at one of our satellite offices for a few years but now that he and his wife have been moved to a retirement condo on the west side of town he needed to come to the Southfield office to be seen by his doctor. He sees me and says, "Is that Jane?" I recognized him right away and corrected him by saying, "No I'm Jan". He remembered me actually from a previous employer. He used to come in and buy glasses from us when I worked for a private optometrist many years ago. He was always nice and I talked to him for a minute. He was pretty spry for 92, with a darn good memory.
Then he says, "I saw a little blonde go by here. Was that Barb?" I was kind of surprised as he had bad macular degeneration and his vision was very poor. I agreed that he had seen Barb racing by earlier, and he asked me if I could just tell her that he would like to say hello. I agreed and hurried off to find Barb. She wasn't sure who I meant at first, and then by my description she did remember him and asked what room he was in. I followed her down the hall and we both went into Room 2 to speak to him.
He was so happy to recognize two employees from our small eastside office. We sometimes forget how much it means to these patients to come in and see familiar faces. And if our faces aren't familiar sometimes there is hell to pay. They don't like new faces! So anyway, the patient, Barb and I all chatted for a few minutes. Somehow we got onto the subject of how he met his wife and how her family hated him because he was Italian. Now that doesn't seem like a big deal but I guess back then it was. His eyes lit up as he described how he and his little girlfriend got married one day and then she went back to her house and went to school like normal. Well, according to the 92 year old patient, the mother went snooping in the girl's room and found out that they had gotten married. The mother confronted the poor girl after school and she admitted the deed and they ended up moving to Detroit to live. He laughed as he told us how since he had been to Detroit before he felt like a man of the world (he was 18 years old). He knew he could get a job down here and he did. I am sure he made a nice living for his family and they had a nice, comfortable home in Sterling Heights. He continued to reminisce about his grown children and how they moved all their possessions into a condominium while he and his wife were enjoying their summer home in upper Michigan. He said it was so nice that they just went right to the new place and the "kids" took care of everything. Lots of patients aren't happy about moving out of the family home. Not this guy.
Then he went from recalling the past right into telling us how he was looking forward to spring and to the time that he and his wife could go back "up north" to the summer home and enjoy the lake and eat pasties. A pastie is a type of meat pie that the miners used to take for lunch. They could take it down in the mine and it was all contained in the pastry. That was kind of refreshing to me. Most macular degeneration/glaucoma patients are not looking forward to the good things in life. We hear all the bad things. We hear how the patient just lost the 95 year old mother. We hear the recent diagnoses of cancer, heart disease, kidney disease, etc. It made me feel good to talk to this guy and hear of his optimistic plans for the future (spring). He wasn't looking past spring and didn't know how many springs he and his wife of 70some years would have. He wasn't complaining about his vision and how he couldn't do all the things he wanted to do. He didn't resent the "kids" for taking charge and helping them.
I felt better about human nature, aging, our patients, etc. the rest of the day. And even now, as I think about that guy it just makes me more optimistic too.
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