“If you tell her you got in, you are going to medical school,” DH said.
In my life is Mom’s life. A few months before she became visibly sick, she told me something that had everything to do with why I became a doctor. “I was so tired of being poor, I looked for a medical student to marry,” she said. “But medical students or doctors marry into other doctor families, so I knew I was never going to be able to marry one.” How galling for one with as much brains and ambitions as my mother, to know she could not become a doctor herself and to think she needed someone else to take her out of poverty. She married Dad (and as a school teacher made more money than he did as a young civil engineer, she pointed out), but never forgot the Doctor Dream.
Not son number one, not son number two. “My own daughter,” she would tell me at the end as I helped her eat, bathe, change, use the toilet. I am haunted by the thought that the faith she had in medicine was shattered in her last days. Mom used to ask me what it was like being a doctor, and I would tell her honestly that frequently we don’t do anything except delay death. We patch patients up, and hope that they are reasonably comfortable in the time they have left. She never believed me; the harsh realities of modern medicine did not exist in her world.
“Can’t they cut it out?”
“No medicine for it?”
And in the end, there was nothing.
She passed away 30 minutes before I got there, and I’ll never know if that was because she didn’t believe in me anymore, or that she was my Mommy, trying to spare me the pain.