September 19, 2023

The forest in early morning light.


“We few, we happy few; we band of brothers;

For he to-day that sheds his blood with me

Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile.”

-“St. Crispin’s Day Speech”, William Shakespeare


Waldo and I were able to sleep in until 7 today.  The sun is up, the sky is clear and the forecast is for temps in the low 70s when we are to finish our walk.  Although the temperature hasn’t dropped low enough yet to cause the leaves to change color, I can see that the season for falling leaves is not far off.  Weeds alongside the trail have lost their flowers, many are starting to droop and some have shriveled altogether.  Waldo loves to walk under the overhanging branches of the Japanese knotweed and they contribute green seeds to his back.  It makes him look like he has mint sprinkles.  They (mostly) fly off when he shakes himself, but they linger there until he does.

The humidity is still high and the plants seem to like it.  It makes it easier for them to keep from drying out.   The mosquitoes like it too – judging from their numbers.  I don’t know, but maybe the high humidity keeps the ponds and puddles from drying up which means that the little buggers can reproduce more prolifically.  All I know is that, when I get home, I have four or five new itchy red bumps to scratch in places not covered by my clothes.  Waldo’s hairy coat keeps them from bothering him, although I do sometimes see swarms of bugs flying around his butt.

I’m walking along, watching Waldo sniff out the world in front of me, while I’m swatting at mosquitoes and brushing away at any sensation I have on exposed skin.  I’m thinking about a get together I went to recently with some of the nurses I used to work with.  There were eight of us who showed up and most of those worked at my old hospital for decades.  None work there anymore, although I am the only one retired.  The others finally moved on to other places for various reasons.  We shared past memories of the crazy things that can and did happen in the emergency room, the sometimes bizarre people we ran into (not all of whom were patients) and shared what information we collectively had on the people we knew who weren’t there with us.  One of the things that bothered us the most was the way medical care has changed in small community hospitals.

Medical care, within the past few decades, has been concentrated into a few large hospitals in the larger cities.  The corporations that run them have bought out the smaller hospitals on their periphery and gutted their resources.  Services once available in the community hospitals have either been eliminated or diminished significantly, all in the name of efficiency.  That efficiency doesn’t translate into lower healthcare costs, as we all know.  It just means that the CEOs of the large corporations and the company’s stockholders get more money in their pockets.  The biggest problem is that needed services now have to be referred to the larger hospitals which are often two hours or more away.  I can remember many a night when there just wasn’t an ambulance available to take a sick patient to the mother ship and they had to wait an unreasonable length of time for the care they needed.  And I think it’s getting worse.

We talked about all these things as we ate fried cod and shellfish at a restaurant near where we used to work.  The important thing wasn’t in what we talked about, but about remaking old connections.  Working in the emergency room is a lot like doing battle in a war.  We never knew what would come in the door, life and death was involved and all of us depended on each other, under very stressful conditions, to get the job done.  That forms bonds that are deep and don’t easily go away.

I no longer have to deal with the issues I had as a physician and, today, my war buddy is Waldo and, occasionally, Christine and Phyllis.  Even so, life is still the main issue, death, as of yet, is not, and, although not as dramatic, I never know just what’s coming down the trail.  Things are more subdued and calm, but I still rely on my friends to keep me company – especially Waldo.  Every day is different and the battle has largely been reduced to struggling with the aches and pains that old age is heir to and the increasing fatigue that comes with getting even older.  Even so, I am grateful that I have others to share my journey and help me with whatever I struggle – including the heat, humidity and mosquitoes.

My band of brothers is now smaller, but they are very much my brothers.


Fort Meadow Reservoir in the morning.


Leave a Reply