I've been away. Quite possibly this fact has gone unnoticed by all, but nevertheless - I've been away!
While away I spoke on the phone to my friend C. W. Woo. He had news of a fellow I dated for a few years. This Fellow I Dated (who from now on shall be referred to as 'FID') and I were only young at the time, but we were quite serious for awhile there. FID and I were youthfully, naively certain we were in love. In truth I think we were mostly in love with the concept of having a steady girlfriend/boyfriend. In any case, that was a long time ago (17 years, to be precise). We grew apart, we broke up, and although I have some fond memories, I also have plenty of memories to remind me how unsuited FID and I were to each other.
FID is now a politician. He is a member of parliament in another state. He is, in fact, a Minister for Rhubarb and Codswallop (can't get too specific here, for fear he, or someone he knows, discovers this blog!). He is married, with children. I have spoken to him a handful of times since we split up - always on friendly terms, but never with much sense of connection. We have taken different pathways in life; we have differing priorities.
Not so long ago, FID telephoned me at work, wanting to meet for coffee. He was in my city for an important meeting. He sounded lonely and wistful. He wanted to meet that day, despite the fact that I was at work. He seemed strangely unable to grasp the fact that I couldn't simply drop everything and come to see him. "Don't you have have any spare appointment times?", he queried persistently. "I'm meeting Neil & Ruth for dinner, then I have to fly home tomorrow".
I politely explained that I was fully booked, and had appointments scheduled all day. I suggested that maybe next time he was going to be in town, he could let me know in advance!
"Oh, right", he sighed. He seemed to grasp about listlessly for conversation. "So, you're working as a GP then?".
"Yes. I work two days a week", I explained. "It's good. I really enjoy it".
"So...... are you going to specialise?", FID asked.
I felt a rising irritation. Why do so many people assume that GPs are failed specialists? It's insulting, especially to those of us who thought long and hard before choosing general practice as our life's vocation, and to those of us who have done the post-graduate degree in general practice.
I took a deep breath. "No, " I replied patiently. "I like working as a GP. I don't want to look at eyes all day, or hearts, or skin. I like seeing whole families; I like trying to figure out what is wrong with patients of all ages, from all walks of life." Inwardly, I wondered if the question he'd asked was entirely innocent. After all, I have been working as a GP for more than ten years. If I was planning on specialising, surely I would have done so by now. Perhaps FID felt I should have done something more spectacular with my life, like, say, become a renowned brain surgeon, or maybe a Nobel-prize-winning physicist, or ...... a Minister for Something Important?
"Oh, right", FID murmured, disinterested. We talked a few more minutes, and then I had to excuse myself to call my next patient.
That night I told my husband Fatty of the conversation. We marvelled at the social ineptitude of this 'politician', this 'man of the people'. Because although I believe FID to be a good man, with honourable intentions and strong principles, I don't think he is man who truly likes people in a general sense. I think he likes some select people, but I don't get a sense of him caring about we Australians, all us 'great unwashed'. It seems he respects high achievers more than people in general. And if his words to me that day were any indication, he doesn't always stop to consider how his comments may affect others.
I'm not sure where I'm going with this. I'm not really annoyed with FID anymore. The more I think about it the more I feel a bit sorry for him. Our mutual friend tells me FID has no friends to speak of. He hinted that all was not well in FID's marriage. And all FID talks about is his next step up the political ladder.
Once FID told me that the worst thing about being a polititian was having to listen to his constituents talk, whilst pretending to be interested in them. If only he knew how that remark made me cringe. I pictured all those men and women, earnestly expressing their hopes and fears, with FID nodding seriously, as he inwardly wondered whether to have a pie or a smoked salmon bagel for lunch.
My husband doesn't address auditoriums full of people, he doesn't wear snazzy suits, he barely manages to get a haircut 4 times a year. He does not grace the pages of the newspaper and he's uncomfortable at parties. Yet he's kind and respectful to all, and never hints that I am anything less than what he's always dreamed of. He is the kind of man I imagined loving. And, here he is, right now, in our kitchen, loading the dishwasher. I need to go kiss him this minute.....