Our lives are really a tapestry of our experiences; our stories, all woven together. Lives are often referred to as an open book. This book, of course, has many chapters and many pages, but not all people put those stories down on paper, so to speak. As we age, some people get dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. I like to think of this time as pages being randomly torn from their life book as they struggle desperately to make sense of what is left. My mother is in this place now.
Native Americans were great storytellers. Like their magnificent blankets, they would weave fascinating stories about hunting or folklore, much to the delight and entertainment of those who chose to listen. The elders were the televisions and Internet of their times. Those stories, repeated over and over around warming fires, were handed down through the generations and generations. These were the oral traditions that made us who we are. They were blogs.
People used to write beautiful letters; so beautiful, in fact, that people saved them. Today, grandchildren can read letters written by serviceman getting ready to be deployed; or rare letters from a WW II POW in Burma to his wife who thought he was dead. People wrote diaries with their most intimate thoughts, not realizing that someone would eventually read them – if not a nosy brother, it would be a tearful grandchild fifty years later. Those letters and diaries were their blogs.
I had my grandparents, and my aunts and uncles to tell those stories. Some were truthful; some were clearly embellished, and others, merely lies. Nonetheless, those stories helped frame my personality and direct my imagination. Without televisions and computers to talk for you, people conversed freely. Good conversation was literally an art form. As kids, we would hang out at the barbershop just to hear the stories. I discovered that if you kept a low-enough profile, the stories became even more interesting. Long before there was formal sex education, there were barbers and their clients. I shall be ever so grateful to Nolan the barber and his “art collection”
In college, I loved the bullt sessions (as we called them). My former life was as a child in a small town with few secrets, but these were peers from all over the world with new stories and different experiences. Those stories defined the hidden souls of my friends. My friend Jim told about his year of living in Amsterdam. Several years ago, Jim suddenly developed metastatic colon cancer. I traveled across the country to spend an afternoon with him. It didn’t take long before those college stories started to emerge. We laughed our asses off for several hours. He had two young daughters, one being a teenager. During our rowdy uprising, I suddenly realized that we were being secretly tape recorded. His daughters, knowing that they may never hear these stories again, were recording them for posterity. We both pretended not to notice. A few months later, my friend passed away.
As young medical students, we had our patient stories. Long before confidentiality rules, we just told it all. “You are not going to believe what came in to the ER tonight.” A crowd would gather. To this day, medical clinicians still talk about you. We do not use your name, but you can be certain that your case will be openly discussed in some manner, either for educational purposes or tasteless amusement. This year at the state medical conference, I will be talking about how to deal with these bizarre patient encounters – the medical equivalent of Dave Letterman’s Stupid Human Tricks.
As of today, I have written over 300 posts on the All Ears blog. If I never get around to writing a book about my life, a legacy for my children and grandchildren, I will just refer them to my blog. My brother is an avid reader of my Blog, mostly to make sure I am not telling secrets about him. He basically confirms what my friends often confirm: If you want to know what is going on in Rod Moser’s life, don’t call him, just read his blog.
Personally, I don’t think my life is all that interesting, so this is why I often weave stories about others. I blog about my family, my kids, my grandkids, my wife, my friends, my co-workers, and yes, even some of my patients. I seriously upset my medical assistant a few weeks ago when I blogged about incompetence, using one of her (very rare) errors as an example. She read it on a day I was not working, stewed about it all weekend, and jumped my case on Monday, crying and yelling about it. I apologized, of course, learning once again, that you do not diss a woman and get away it. I never intended to hurt her feelings, but she did make me aware that not all people share my views and opinions. I dearly love my medical assistant and can’t imagine my clinical life without her. I hope she reads this.
One of my best friends is facing the challenges of a terminal illness. He has a brain cancer and will soon be starting an aggressive treatment regime of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation treatments, and experimental drug trials. As a cultural anthropologist, his entire life has been about the study of people and their traditions. He has traveled the world and experienced things that I will likely never see or experience myself. I need to spend time with him to hear his stories. I don’t know if he will have time now to write them for his children and grandchildren, so I need to listen to them, just in case I have to tell them someday. Just like Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays with Morrie, I need to plan Wednesdays with George. I can be his blog if he needs me.