My practice is in a small rural Wisconsin town just down the road from a large military base. I see soldiers pretty regularly these days; they stay here for several weeks of pre-deployment training before shipping off to Iraq. They come from all over the country–men and women of various ages, some single, some married and with families. Their health-care needs aren’t too different from those of my civilian patients: maternity care, chronic illness management and the usual scrapes and bruises. I like having them on my schedule; their Boston accents and Georgia drawls make a pleasant change from my neighbors’ familiar, made-for-radio Midwestern monotone.
I don’t dwell much on what these soldiers do for a living. I do
Five months ago my husband and I moved from Manhattan to Queens to take care of his 84-year-old aunt, who has Alzheimer’s. Although she can’t cook, shop, or manage her money anymore, Helen is remarkably functional in her own home. She’s lived here almost forty years, more than half of them alone, as a widow.
Nothing has changed–the furniture, the bric-a-brac, even the refrigerator magnets–since my husband was a child. Neither has Helen’s daily routine. She spends the day on autopilot, brewing cups of weak Lipton tea loaded with half-and-half, washing tiny machine-loads of hankies and hand towels, and making her way through the house at dusk, flicking on plug-in nightlights along the way. It’s the perfect setup for