Unable to get through to my step-mother, I step into the next exam room to see Mr. P, a 72-year-old man with stable coronary disease and Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). He has difficulty hearing and is here with his protective wife for a routine checkup.
I ask the usual questions and then ask him to get up on the exam table. He declines my offer of a paper gown and pulls off his shirt.
As I reach with my stethoscope to listen, the room blurs, and I become the strange doctor in the strange hospital miles away listening to an old man’s heart, talking to an old man’s tiny wife, distracted by all the other things I have to think about.
And all I can think right now as I pull myself back into this room here and now and refocus, re-listen, re-touch this gentle old man who also somewhere has a daughter who worries about him—all I can think is, all I can hope is, that the doctor touching my dad right now is also pausing to remember that the man he is touching is someone’s dad.