A week ago I was in my office when a parent came in to obtain some medical records concerning her child. He was graduating from college and it was time for him to leave my pediatric practice. I had cared for him since he was an infant. Through twenty years of forms, physicals and memories I watched him go to kindergarten, high school and then college.
As his pediatrician I had one of the best views and little of the work. I saw him in the nursery, arranged for his immunizations, listened to the tale of his first steps and helped care for him when he was ill. My glimpses were brief but full of change. I remembered completing his sixth grade and driver’s physicals. I heard about his love of sports and reading. I listened to his wish list of colleges and could see his face when he told me he was accepted at his dream college. We talked about adolescent issues concerning sex, drugs, alcohol and the importance of respectful relationships and learning how to listen to others. He grew older as did I and each year he returned for his annual physical and we talked.
He grew up and it was time for him to graduate and move on. We talked about this transition at his last visit and I gave him a list of several local physicians I trusted. He said he was moving to a new city. We talked about calling the medical society in his new location and getting a list of board certified physicians and arranging a visit. We talked about how to seek out recommendations from friends and family members in the new location. We discussed joining a congregation, a service organization and a running club to help find new friends and make new relationships. What we did not talk about was the ending of our relationship.
Now his mom was standing at the check-in window. She saw me and told me through the window she would miss our visits and wanted to thank me for twenty years of help and advice. I listened and walked out to the waiting room and gave her a hug. I told her watching a child grow up is my greatest joy and the reason I am inspired to come to work every day. I asked her to tell have her son to send me a card when he is settled in his new job.
As she turned to leave I realized I had not given her son a hug at his last visit. I called after her and asked her to give him one for me. As she left the office I promised myself never to miss a last hug again.