Thursday, 25 August 2011

Did I learn anything?


I was upset before I went to my last three monthly check-up, then had a horrid sense of anti-climax afterwards, so I didn't feel as happy as I should have, that it was all clear.

Walking up to Ealing in the rain yesterday I wondered if I had learned anything from all this. Too early to tell, but I think I have some historical insights. For instance there is a photo in the latest issue of The Spectator, taken in 1945, of a teenage boy in soldier’s uniform and great coat, crying in misery as he is forced to fight for Hitler, even though the war is really over.
It’s a heartbreaking picture. Poor lad, I wonder if he survived. Then I consider why no one rescued him, crept out of their rubble and beckoned him in to a place of greater safety. I remembered standing next to a woman after my last check-up, as we were both leaving the clinic, fixing a time for our next visit.
I’d escaped without any bad news but she was panicking, saying over and over, “the doctor has told me to come back in six months, but I usually come back only once a year. Why did he say that, why should I come back sooner?” She got no reply from the bored girl behind the desk.
I should have said to her, go back to the doctor now and ask him. Don’t go home with all that anxiety. But I didn’t. I didn't help her. I said nothing and stood there cold and numb.
In life and death situations, if you feel you have just survived something awful, the pressure of it seems to blow out all the extra air, all the space you had in your head for thoughts and manoeuvre, and altruism.

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