Friday, September 30, 2011


I have by laying in bed for the last 90 minutes trying to will myself to sleep. I need to sleep. But I have also been trying to avoid talking to my husband. Heavens, I don't even want to look at him. I am mad, angry, sad, hurt, confused, and bewildered.

This afternoon I found out that my grandfather had passed away. I don't even remember how old he was. Somewhere between 80 and  85. Last week he had knee replacement surgery and this morning he had, what we are guessing to be, a PE (pulmonary embolism). I should be crying and mourning this loss, but my heart is breaking for something entirely different.

Lest I be misunderstood, I loved my grandfather dearly. He is one of the most optimistic people I've known. He could make you smile without even trying and I can't hear the song "You Are My Sunshine" without immediately thinking of him. He would sing that song while playing the guitar AND the harmonica. We'll not all three at the same time. We thought he was amazing. Almost two years ago we had a huge 60th wedding anniversary party for the grand parents. I am so glad I went (again, only me and we couldn't really afford it then either). It was a big deal - they have a large family: 5 children, 23 grandchildren, and 30 something great-grandchildren. That last number increases a couple every year so it's hard to keep track. People came from all over the country, myself included. The purpose was two-fold: celebrate their anniversary and get the family, from all over the country, together for a happy event rather than a funeral. No one wants to talk about funerals, but we all knew eventually it would come to that.

When I heard the news I immediately thought: I can't go! I have four small children, we all can't afford to go. Tickets on such short notice will be expensive. I wrestled with this for a few hours and talked with my husband, who said we would make it work, and decided I needed to go. He actually said that I needed some time away anyway. I can't argue with that, but a funeral isn't what I had in mind.  At this point not knowing when the funeral would be held we made some tentative outlines of arrangements. My refrigerator savings account will have to start all over yet again.

My DrH called his parents to see if they might be able to pick me up from the airport and drive me to my parents house. They live in a metro area, and my parents live in a rural one and will most likely be busy with arrangements.  My in-laws don't own vehicles for transporting people, perhaps intentionally. One is a truck, 3 people max, but certainly no car seat. The other is a two seater convertible sports car. That won't work either. So they would have to borrow a car to pick me up. They are good people so of course they said yes. Depending on the flight arrival time I might have to stay the night, and then they would have to drive me 2 1/2 hours to my parents house in a car they would have to borrow. Doesn't really seem like a option to me. I may be renting a car.

My mother-in-law called me to tell me she was sorry, and in passing said maybe she could fly out and watch the kids. Well that turned out to be like saying to someone you just met "we should get together some time". It's a nice thing to say, but you don't think any one will really take you up on the offer. My husband tested the waters when he called them back, because that would be awesome and solve so many problems. It was what I thought.... something nice to say to sound helpful but no meaning to it. I am not upset with them, this isn't their responsibility. Living closer to our families would solve so many problems.

And this is once again why I often distance myself from our family. It hurts. It hurts to know that they will be there for you for some things, but not everything. It hurts to know that you can't be there for them. My mother and I just about had a falling out a few years ago. She said she would come out to visit me while my husband was working and living out of town during a 6-month period. I needed help. I was taking care of three children 24/7 with no breaks. But no one can "see" it when you aren't visible to them. The words that try to convey how tired, lonely, overwhelmed don't sound as urgent when no one can "see" you. I felt invisible and abandoned. She said she would come when my dad went out of town (so as not to inconvenience him by having to fix his own meals). Instead when he went out of town she decided to stay home so she could install some new shelving in the closet and get the house organized. I was heart-broken and our relationship was strained for at least a year.

Dying is never convenient. If the funeral could be on Monday or Tuesday we wouldn't be having this drama. But a couple hours later I find out that the funeral will be either Wednesday or Thursday. Now we have hit a road block. It turns out my husband needs to operate Wednesday and Friday, but thinks he could take Tuesday and Thursday off. So now I need to find someone to watch our kids (3 of them) Wednesday and Friday if I am going to go.

You can ask your wife to watch your offspring from 6 am until some unforeseen time later in the night, but asking a friend to do that is nearly beyond my capacity. Let me say the thought of asking even my closest friend to do this for me so my husband can go to work doesn't feel right to me. It makes me sick. I have a friend I could ask who would be up at that time. She already watches one little girl, she could use some extra money. It's too late to call, so it will have to wait. I am sure there are others that I could ask, too.

And then I break down. Do you know how ridiculous it is going to sound begging my friends to watch my children so my husband can continue with his life as normal! As if he didn't have any commitments to his family. If I were them, I would be thinking why doesn't he do it. Why am I considering having a babysitter for my children when their father isn't going? Would anyone really think less of him for taking time off to watch his children so his wife could attend a funeral thousands of miles away? Would this really impact any letter of recommendation he would get? Would this make him less of a surgeon? Would he lose the respect of his peers? Are the people he works for so heartless that they would make him feel bad for choosing this time to be there for his family? I've always assumed the hospital made the residents slaves. Now I am beginning to think the residents enslave themselves and in turn their families. And for what?

I am beyond mad. There aren't words for the depth of disappointment I feel. I thought we were a team, but apparently I've been playing ALL the positions. When I need DrH to step up to the plate and carry the load for a short time (4 days is all), I find out he is playing for a different team and can't let them down. His suggestion is to get one of my friends to watch our kids. OUR kids. The same ones that he helped create and had plenty of time to participate in the "creation" part he but can't be there to watch these kids when I need to be somewhere. And this somewhere else isn't an exotic vacation, or a weekend shopping spree. This is a funeral! To me this is putting work way ahead of family, something I never thought he would do. Never.

(Break - he discovered I wasn't in bed and figured he had done something wrong. We talked, I still don't feel any better)

I've pretty much decided not to go. When my mom called to tell me the news I told her as much. She didn't expect I would be able to anyway. She knows what our life is like. She understands short notice and expensive flights. I know she wouldn't judge me for staying home. But now I not only feel like I should go, I feel like my husband should start playing for this team and tell the hospital he has a commitment to his family. If he can't do it, then I can't go. I still think we are a team, even if it feels like I am doing all the work. If he won't make the sacrifice I will. It's what I do, it's what I've always done.

I told him that I hate his job. Those were my exact words. It was true before, but now my hatred has something to attach itself to. It's like knowing the hospital is your husbands mistress (which you've been denying for years) only to find out the hospital is actually his first wife and she doesn't even know you exist, let alone that you have children together. I asked him what would have happened if it had been a member of his family that had passed away? Would he still need to operate on Wednesday and Friday? NO answer. I don't see how this is any different. OUR family has a funeral. Does it make a difference that only one of us can go? It shouldn't.

He went to bed thinking that he could probably get someone to cover Wednesday but he still would need to be there on Friday. I still don't get it. Actually I do because I have a theory for everything. I remember when I was a working thinking that I was the only one that could do my job. If I didn't do it, it wouldn't get done. Was "IT" so important that "IT" couldn't wait a few days? The thought of taking time off was cause for anxiety. What if something happened while I was gone? What if I missed an important meeting? What if, what if, what if? And then I got pregnant and had to come to grips with the simple truth that we are all replaceable. We have to be. The only job that I had that couldn't be done equally as well by someone else was that of mother to my child(ren). Everything else, someone else could do just as well or maybe better. I think my husband really believes he is that important. I don't doubt that he is important. And I suppose that it could be argued that if he isn't at work those 4 days someone could die. It is a weak argument, because there are other doctors there.... no one is going to let his patients die because he isn't there. Working as much as they do, as long as they do, with so little time off I can see how he could come to believe that if he isn't there the world will fall apart. How can I convince him (and maybe them) that it won't?


  1. So this post almost has me in tears.

    I am SO sorry about your loss... and to add to it, now it's a huge battle for you to even go to the funeral of a loved one.

    I'm upset because I didn't see this sooner and couldn't give you the encouragement in the moment, and that you are dealing with what you are dealing with.

    I can't even count the number of times that I have said I HATE MEDICINE!
    And I do.... I have this gross hate that sometimes fills me right up and I don't even recognize myself!!

    Everything you said makes 100% sense.

    You have every right in the world to go to your grandpa's funeral, and you are every more right when you say that your husband participated in the making of the babies, he can step up when there is a really tough time and help take care of those kids.

    These doctor friends of ours get this idea nailed into their head by the mistress that without them - the world is going to fall apart. They start this right when residency starts... they convince them that their life is the hospital. There are real @ssholes (pardon my french) out there that I GUARANTEE have said to your husband those exact words.

    I remember the mister calling me from Portland when he was doing an externship there. The head of the program told him that he might as well break up with his girlfriend NOW because there's no way that he could do medicine AND have me in his life.

    It took everything in me to not get on a plane and go down there and beat the $hit out this guy. It's that ignorant mentality that tears medical families apart.

    Anyway, I am not sure that I am helping at all but I wanted you to know that you're not alone. I am so sure that there are countless doctors wives out there that are harboring huge amounts of resentment to the entire profession and in turn start to resent our significant others.

    Sending you big hugs... big big hugs!! And seriously - if you ever want to chat feel free to email me - :) xo

  2. And oh my god... I wrote a crap load!! hahaha... sorry for talking your ear off!!

  3. Ugh. I am SO so so so sorry :( I totally know what you mean about family not understanding any of it and just saying things to sound nice, but not meaning any of it. In our 2 years of medical school, we've had zero visitors, zero help lent. I am so sorry about your husband. You're right, the hospital should have some sort of policy about bereavement and family death. The whole thing is just bad. It's true that the doctors in our lives think that without them, the whole residency program will go to pot and nothing will get done without them. Ugh! Again, I'm so sorry and hope that things improve soon.

  4. I just stumbled across your blog. I wanted to say I am so sorry about your grandfather. And (((HUGS))). I was in your exact shoes this past March. My grandfather passed away suddenly. We have 3 kids. My husband is an ortho resident. I didn't know if I was going to make it to the memorial until the very last minute that. Prior to that conclusion, I had disappointedly come to grips with the fact that I was going to miss the memorial, like I have missed everything since we moved 1800 miles away from family 8 years ago. Family members pulled together and I was able to buy ticket with gifted SW gift cards and flight credits. I left on Sunday arriving to my destination at 11pm so that my husband could finish his weekend call. He was able to get Monday off to take care of the kids [two are school age, one full day, one half] and on Tuesday, a friend and her husband [who at the time I didn't know very well] watched two of my kids for 8 hours while my husband went to work. My neighbor picked me up from the airport at 10pm Tuesday night. It was an extremely short trip, but it all worked out. I am so glad that I got to be there. I hope that it works out for you.


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