Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Priorities

During the almost four decades of my medical practice, I had numerous patient appointments, scheduled surgery, and a myriad of professional duties which I carried out. In addition, especially toward the end of my practice, I had a heavy schedule of teaching and participation in professional meetings. And I kept those appointments until September of 1999. At that time I was due to participate in the annual meeting of two professional societies, but I didn't. Instead, I was at the bedside of my wife, who was in what proved to be a terminal coma following a stroke. And everyone understood why I canceled.

Since my retirement, I've had professional obligations of a different kind. Now, although I still occasionally teach in a medical setting, more often I'm asked to speak to writer's groups. I do this gladly, because not only do I believe it's important to share what we've learned, but it's my way of paying back those good people who shared their knowledge of the craft of writing with me. But recently I had to reschedule one of those appearances. And again, although it wasn't really a life-and-death situation, the cause was a family one.

I'd accepted an invitation to meet with and speak to a group of writers elsewhere in the state. I even set up a couple of book signings while I was in the area.  Kay and I were looking forward to the trip, but then she realized something neither of us had noticed until then. The schedule, as it stood, would take us out of town and make us miss a grandchild's birthday. I agonized over the dilemma, but eventually made the only decision I could. I contacted the organizers and told them the truth. The story has a happy ending, since we were able to reschedule everything.

The older I get, the less important professional things seem and the more important family is to me. As the Pennsylvania Dutch proverb goes, "We get too soon old and too late smart." If you haven't learned to put family first yet, I hope you'll do it now. You'll be glad you did.

Note: Kathy Harris posted a very nice interview with me today at her site, Divine Detour. Hope you'll check it out.

4 comments:

Anne Mateer said...

You are a good man, Doc. And it's a good reminder to me that even after my kids are grown, the important things in their lives should still take priority over my work.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful thoughts. I'm glad you got to go to your grandchild's party and that everyone understood why you had to cancel. Family should definitely come first.

I'll have to check out Kathy's interview with you. I met her at a marketing fiction seminar last year and got to see her come up with the idea behind "divine detours". :)

Rosslyn Elliott said...

I went to the funeral of my friend's father today. Afterwards, I took her three adorable girls for an outing, to give them a break from the tense atmosphere of a funeral.

Sometimes, I think it's the days when we "don't get anything done" that we will never regret.

lauradroege said...

Wonderful thoughts. I'm glad you got to go to your grandchild's party and that everyone understood why you had to cancel. Family should definitely come first.

I'll have to check out Kathy's interview with you. I met her at a marketing fiction seminar last year and got to see her come up with the idea behind "divine detours". :)