Our Association with Andrew
It wasn't just our association with Andrew, there were other things in life (not necessary to detail here) that caused me early on to question the bromide that problems are really opportunities masquerading in other garb, and little of our time with Andrew ever even hinted at anything that challenged my skepticism. However, were you to ask me to frame our activity with Andrew last summer in as bright a light as possible, my impulse would be to relate how you and I were good for him.
I feel we were of the greatest help when we established limits, so to speak, on just how far he could go in pretending he was a community doctor here in Brigantine. Yeah, each day we let him carry his white beach umbrella with the large red cross on it out past the boardwalk, and we let him open it and stake it in the sand, and I even helped him lug down a solid table, chairs, and file cabinet, but I think it was you, dressed in starched whites as his attending nurse, who were the ultimate monitor of just how far Andrew could go in attempting to alleviate various ailments beachgoers brought to his attention. Your own compass of judgment was, of course, the ancient and primary physician's admonition "Above all, do no harm."
But I have to add that we weren't of the greatest help to Andrew when we allowed him to expand his medical counsel into, of all things, the realm of high fashion. It's easy to understand in retrospect how something like this could have sometimes happened, with you gently but persuasively nixing Andrew's occasional prescription to female patients for immediate surgery, and instead, having him substitute a stern command for the patient to go purchase, say, a new Bvlgari handbag "right now, to go with those fabulous shoulders of yours." However, the ensuing problems of style, selection, and price must certainly have been sizable, and I've come to agree with Andrew that the overall anger thus generated probably easily exceeded the amount of ire one might have expected from any negative repercussions stemming from rare, post-operative complications.
You and I weren't of the greatest help to Andrew when we failed to perceive how important ongoing education was to him in being able to stay abreast of the latest advances in diagnosis and treatment of summertime maladies and illnesses. At the time, we simply ignored (though it's not hard to see now) the depth of his rage at the Brigantine public library for not having any (much less, up-to-date) pharmaceutical announcements, public health bulletins, or medical textbooks. I toss out now the observation that I only hope a nasty August fire in the library's men's room was entirely incidental and separate from Andrew's service as a community physician.
You weren't of the greatest help to Andrew during those busy, early evening hours when you frequently slipped out of your nurse's whites, stripped down to a snappy bathing suit, and headed to the surf for a refreshing dip, while there were almost always patients seated waiting to see Andrew; and then when you did return to duty, you never changed back into uniform. Such a shortage of professionalism surely had an opposite effect on Andrew and his clientele from our stated objective to continuously be alert for ways to bolster Andrew's essence and personae as a genuine healer.
And I wasn't the greatest help to Andrew when I too-strictly adhered to the early pledge I made to directly witness enough of his practice and record enough of his thoughts-in-action as to be able to later document exactly what it was like to be Andrew, M.D. I was, I think, a decent, quiet, and fairly circumspect observer of Andrew's caregiving, but my insistent use of his ophthalmoscope to probe and peer into his eyes, ears, nostrils, and mouth—i.e., to try and get inside Andrew's head—was perhaps too disruptive and attention-getting. I know you thought then—and still think—it was a tad over-the-top.
William C. Blome is a writer of short fiction and poetry. He lives in-between Baltimore and Washington, DC, and he is a master's degree graduate of the Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars. His work has previously seen the light of day in such fine little mags as Amarillo Bay, Prism International, Laurel Review, The Oyez Review, Salted Feathers and The California Quarterly.