“Lots and lots and lots and lots of money,” the doctor reveals to me. But that’s later. Jim comes into the space loud. He’s a small guy, gray frazzled hair, and vocal chords that can fill an arena. And it’s one of those annoying voices. I try to temper him by making my welcome sincere yet short. More than anything he looks lost. He stumbles into the space like he hasn’t been here since “the changes,” and I say this in quotes because I don’t think the clinic’s been redecorated since the doctor moved in 30 years ago. Jim’s appointment is at 2pm but he’s shown up a couple of hours early to wait for a chat with the doctor.
“She was a great woman.” He tells the doctor, who comes out of one of the four rooms that filled with patients. His mother, 95, died last Sunday. “It wasn’t right what they did.” He thinks she died prematurely, that the doctors didn’t do all they could to keep her alive. “Her vital signs were good. Her white blood cells were a little high but that’s it, Doctor,” he pleads. Sitting slumped in the chair like that, the doctor looking over him; Jim looks like a boy in a school uniform, pleading with his father. His face looks like he can burst into tears at any moment, but somehow his voice gives off a more reserved energy.
“They tried hard at Holy Cross. It’s like New York Presbyterian here. We had a doctor fly in to spend a half hour with her but when it’s too late, it’s too late.” The doctor nods his head in agreement; his quiet nature is soothing. “I’m sure my mom’s favorite doctor would have kept her alive and with me now, but he’s retired. Excellent doctor, doctor, from the University of Pittsburgh. What can I do?” I can image the other patients getting irritated at the thought that they’re being forced to listen to this conversation when the point to be here is to relax and escape. The doctor must be thinking the same thing, and so says some calming words to Jim before he makes his exit.
I look over at Jim. Poor guy, I feel sorry for him. Like a lost child, he stumbles to the bathroom and continues mumbling, “They could’ve done more…a great woman…”
“Lots and lots and lots of money.”