LESSONS FROM A RHEUMATOLOGIST
I don’t really want to retire
I just want to get out of the fire
He said, “To be free
You can do it like me,
You can still work, just don’t perspire.”
In the morning blackness I visited the newborn nursery, spoke with the happy couple, and cracked a couple of jokes in Spanish. On my way out, in the doctor’s lounge, I ran into one of the Family Practice residents. Like me, he speaks English and Spanish well, and has smatterings of Hebrew and Navajo.
I also ran into one of the gastroenterologists. We have been friends for decades, and I told him my plans. There is no slowing down in his specialty.
Bethany and I drove up to Sioux Falls for my rheumatology appointment at the Veterans’ Hospital. They drew my blood with lightning speed about noon and we went out to lunch at a very good Ethiopian eatery. It was a lot more fun than the way I frequently bolt my sandwich.
Back at the hospital I had my yearly visit for my ankylosing spondylitis. (It’s like rheumatoid arthritis of the spine; it kept me out of Viet Nam but not out of the Public Health Service. The Veterans’ Administration picks up the tab for the fabulously expensive miracle drug.)
The rheumatologist is very good and knows how to listen. I tell him I’m moving towards semi retirement and he asks me if I’ve considered applying to the VA, which I have. He works two afternoons a week and he keeps exactly as busy as he wants to. He is occasionally called in to the hospital for a consultation, so he has to carry a beeper if he’s in town. Still, when he leaves town he leaves and doesn’t think twice about it.
I really had no idea he was semi retired. He gave me some good sound advice. We looked at my flexibility, which has improved in the last year. So has my CRP (C reactive protein, a marker for inflammation) and my creatinine (a measure of kidney function, now better than it has been in many years).
I got four emails for positions in Massachusetts and two for positions in Kansas. I wrote back saying I wanted locum tenens work in the rural Mid West and Mountain West but I didn’t want to relocate.
One of the recruiting agencies emailed me back to, politely, why I was changing positions. I told her the truth, starting with my age, my non compete clause, and wanting to slow down.
And that’s the problem with being in an ownership position in a high over head operation: there is no slowing down.