Maggie, our silver tabby Maine Coon, is fascinated by ice. Ice speaks to her on some deep, internal feline level. Q-tips from the glass jar on my bathroom counter run a close second, but the availability of ice is more predictable and, thus, a more achievable treat.
The refrigerator in our kitchen, our third and final fridge after a series of expensive lemons, has an automatic icemaker. To fill a cup with ice, I touch of a small raised square on the space-age keypad to left of the door handle. This elicits a grinding rumble from inside the door, and if I’ve pressed the cubed ice button, I get a noisy expulsion of perfectly formed ice cubes into my cup. If I have mistakenly pressed the button for crushed ice, a shotgun explosion of ice chips and shards is the result.
More often than not, when trying to fill a cup with ice, a stray piece shoots across the hardwood floor. A streak of grey fur, a blur of fluffy feet and tail, inevitably follows that piece of wayward ice, as Maggie attempts to corral the skittering ice. When she catches the ice, she bats it across the floor again, or she picks it up in her teeth and carries it to a special spot. Watching her do this makes my own teeth hurt, imagining the cold that must be radiating down her sharp canines.
After a productive but exhausting two weeks, I wrapped things up by making dinner for my team of medical students, internal medicine residents, and hematology-oncology fellows. Most of them are continuing on for the remainder of the month, before switching to another rotation in the hospital. That’s one of the quirks – and necessities – of an academic (i.e., teaching) hospital – no one is on the same hospital floor, on the same service, for more than a month or so.
We did good work during those two weeks that I served as the attending. We held hands with our patients. We listened to their stories. We did all we could to relieve our patients’ pain, their suffering. We gave people cancer diagnoses, and we treated their cancer. We helped people die comfortably, in peace and with dignity.
My team did all of this, while I mostly just had to supervise.
I thanked them with dinner.
When I was an internal medicine intern, my very first rotation in the hospital was on the gastroenterology service. I worked much longer hours back then, hours that make me cringe when I think about them now. That first month flew by, mostly in a sleep-deprived and adrenaline-fueled blur, but I came away from it with a couple of vivid memories.
My mornings start early, rising before anyone else in the house is awake. If I’m lucky, and feeling motivated, I start the day with a pre-dawn run. I call it running, but it’s really more of a lurching jog. Whatever. It gets the calories burned, and it’s good for my soul.
On the way to the school in the mornings, the kids and I watch the sun rise. As I drive, the sun – glowing orange, but not yet so bright that we have to look away – slowly emerges into the rosy sky guiding its path. The kids guess which direction we’re headed based on where sun sits on the horizon.
We listen to the latest pop songs on the radio, and my daughter sings along. Maddie belts out the words to “Call Me Maybe” as if she is on stage, microphone in hand, and Oliver mumbles his own version of the song. Sometimes they even sing in sync with each other. I smile to myself as I drive, not wanting to interrupt for fear they will stop if they know I am listening.