Many of the people I know (or knew) couldn't wait to retire. I never felt like that and it was with mixed feelings that I managed to convince myself at the age of seventy-eight that it was time to hang up my red cardiology stethoscope that I had grown so fond of. It was not that I heard any better than I did with the bottom-of -the-line old grey stethoscope, but it looked so much more robust and the strong red colour inspired a level of confidence that an insipid grey or black could never do. It could have been a traumatic experience, quitting after fifty-five years of practice, being a creature of habit that the strict routine of medical practice demanded. It wasn't.
I didn't miss the cloud that many physicians live under a lot of the time, concerned about the welfare of their patient, the adequacy of their management and indeed, the influence of the health care system itself. I didn't miss the pre-occupation with medicine that frequently results in physicians doing less than justice to their own families. And though I was never even threatened with a law suit, I didn't miss the growing tendency for the medico-legal lottery to attract frivolous legal suits and to adversely affect the practice of medicine.
I didn't miss the Political Correctness that thwarts free speech where anyone in medicine, or any other position of responsibility is threatened by job loss when are true to themselves (for example refusal to accept the risible new pronouns that some pseudo-scientific simpleton puts forward.) I didn't miss the self satisfied pronouncements of the administridiots, who thought they knew everything and actually knew little about health care and how it should be administered.
Frequently, friends or acquaintances who knew my previous life-style would ask me if I was bored. The answer is always no.
"Well, what do you do all day? Have you a hobby or something?"
"I go swimming several times a week and have developed a circle of friends and we lunch together fairly frequently I meet some very interesting folks from diverse backgrounds and become friends with a few."
"Do you have a hobby?" they often ask.
"Yes," I say, then " I collect fountain pens. I belong to a Pen club that meets weekly." I wait for the blank look on the face.
"What? What do you do when you meet every week?"
"We talk about pens. You know, pens that you write with."
If the person is old enough, "Oh yeah, I had one of those in school. I didn't think they make them anymore."
Then I throw out, "Oh yes, many are collectors items, these days. Some of them are worth quite a lot of money."
That usually wakes them up. "Like what?"
" Anywhere from a few dollars to thousands."
I wait for the next inevitable question. It comes.
"You know I think we have a couple at home, belonged to my dad, think they could be worth anything ?"
"What make are they?" I ask.
"Er, I think one may be a Parker," he pauses for a moment, "or maybe a Sheaffer?"
"You should look on Ebay."
Another common topic of conversation may go something like this:
" I have a son/daughter thinking of going into medicine. You used to be a professor, didn't you?"
"What's your specialty?"
They try not to show their disappointment and say," Maybe you would have a chat with him/her." Occasionally, they would add, "you may have a few tips on how to get accepted into medical school: you must know the ropes." The more subtle ones left that unsaid, trusting me to get the message.
My answer often caught them by surprise. It would go like this:
"Be delighted to talk to him/her. I enjoyed my lifetime of medical practice, though I must tell you my briefing will be painfully honest and I will spend as much time on the downside as on the upside."
A surprised look. "You would do it again,wouldn't you?"
"Extremely doubtful considering the decline in the health care system, notwithstanding the miraculous technical advances, some of which I owe my life to." I say.
Astonished "What decline are you talking about?"
Me, getting a bit bored with this whole conversation, "Listen, I have written three hundred and eighty one blogs many of them dealing with this very topic. Read 'em and I'll be delighted to discuss the topics with you. In the meanwhile, I'll be delighted to discuss choice of a medical career with your kid!" I try to say all that with as charming a smile as I can muster!
Needless to say, I never hear from father or offspring again!
PS. I did recently run into one such father. When I asked him what his son had decided he told me he was studying Law!