Eight years ago, my family and I returned to live in the small village in which I was raised. It was, and still is, a spectacular place to live as an adult or a child. Growing up, our family home was not particularly large or impressive, and when all five kids were home it could get crowded. Prime bathtub time was scarce. Something that was not scarce is a bunch of great memories.
I carry a vivid memory of walking around the block one evening under towering cottonwoods to the home of my sister’s best friend to watch color television. The Barnums were an equally large family that lived in a house not unlike ours. We crowded into their den, and I found a spot on the floor in front of a plaid couch. The memorable event that evening was the television showing of “The Wizard of Oz” for the first time in color.
In the mid 1960s, of course, there was no videotape, and the stations did not replay old movies endlessly. If you wanted to see “The Wizard of Oz,” you had one chance a year. I would anticipate this movie for weeks and was nearly wetting my pants the day of the showing. I can still recall how scared I would get when the witch’s guards walked in step, chanting loudly in deep ominous voices.
I still love that movie because of the music, the imagery, and the message. I recalled one of the final scenes recently after an unusual patient encounter.
About 3 years ago, I cared for a fellow villager who nearly died. While I played a key role, I certainly did not singlehandedly save his life. His large family, however, will forever credit me with his survival. Because you and I get blamed for all sorts of things that are not our fault, I don’t feel bad about taking credit for something that was not completely my doing.
So, when I cared for this man’s aunt last week, she was reminded by family members that I was the one who saved her nephew. The instant rapport I had with this family made my job much easier and enjoyable that day.
I thought about how it must be nice for the primary care doctors, who see people grow up and grow old, to have this kind of interaction with people on a regular basis. And then I thought about that scene in “The Wizard of Oz” and wondered, What do they have that I don’t have?