Friday, November 23, 2012

home, that's where I long to be

It's black Friday, allegedly. It's times like this in residency that I feel quite disconnected to the outside world. I've no concept of black Friday. It doesn't sound like my cup of tea, though, to be sure.

It's black Friday and I'm home after a long day, and I'm worried. It's something they never tell you about medicine when you get into it. How much you worry. Constant and diverse too. Worry about the patients you just admitted, two of which don't look so hot despite your best efforts to 'fix' them before you left for the day. What if I had worked 18 hours instead of 16? Maybe then I could be sure those patients would be okay? Worry that the other resident worked late, even though I was trying to get her out early. Worry that I haven't been teaching the medical students. Worry that the attending thinks I'm incompetent. Worry that I'm losing my grip on humanity, what with the gallows humor and the complaints about 'lame' admissions. Worry that I'm coming down with something, worry that I'm not going to get enough sleep tonight to beat whatever it is that's brewing in my lungs. Just endless worrying. It's a bottomless cup. At some point, you go home and just try to think about something else. Mostly that just leads to more worrying about whether this worrying will ever subside.

Thanksgiving was a bit of a bust this year. It seems to be a running theme. That things fall apart, tend towards entropy, and I can't find the energy to be worked up about it. I was on call the night prior to Thanksgiving, and it was busy. When I got home on Thanksgiving morning, I channeled some surge of sleep-deprived delirium, and baked a pecan pie. It turned out really well, better than any previous version (50% corn syrup, 50% maple syrup, people, it is magic). Then I told myself I would take a quick nap, wake up and make apple pie. That quick nap was supposed to be 2 hours. It wound up being 7. Oops. Missed Thanksgiving dinner, couldn't come up with the energy to even bring over my stupid pecan pie to the party, because I was too tired. Brought it into work the next day, and it was consumed nonetheless. Oh well. One year without turkey and whatever will certainly not kill me.

This time of year, I am reminded of how much life has changed, I suppose. There was a time that Thanksgiving meant sitting around the table, around a big, crazy meal. Even though my family did not really get the whole Thanksgiving thing in my earlier years, when I reached adolescence I was so obstinate that we ought to celebrate things in what I considered to be a traditional manner that we all rallied together to make it happen. My mother, a strict vegetarian, even prepared a bird one year, though most of the time, we settled on buying a pre-cooked one. But the sides and dessert, we made as an entire family. In addition, we always cooked a big vegetarian spread for all of our parents. My cousins and I used to take over the kitchen on Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I have both pleasant and stressful memories of trying to herd the cats that were my crazy cousins so that we could all, together, make these meals. I saw my cousin C last weekend, and she still fondly remembers the apple crumble pie we used to make together -- and by make together, I mean that she would peel the apples, and after slicing one in a less-than-satisfactory manner, she would relinquish the rest of the task to me. I doubt it would taste as good to her now as it did to her then, but she still talks about that pie, it's etched in her memory.

One year, my aunt made us go around the table saying what we were thankful for, and it took an hour and a half, and we all complained. Some people said silly things, other people said passive-aggresive things (hi, mom), and other people said sentimental things- and of course, we teased the latter mercilessly.

We kept creating traditions in our family, and I still have fond memories of them, even though we are all scattered too far and life is too hectic and wild for us now to all be together. And as crazy and non-traditional as those Thanksgivings probably were, they were ours, and it makes me feel like home, and everything else really seems like a lame substitute. So I find I can't really be that heartbroken over sleeping my way through Thanksgiving this year.


supplesomething said...

"Kathy, I'm lost," I said, though I knew she was sleeping
I'm empty and aching and I don't know why
Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike
They've all gone to look for America

brimful said...

Indeed, indeed, supplesomething.