Retiring is a bitter-sweet business.

This is going to be short.

Life has been hectic. Arranging all those papers, changing my various medical subscriptions as I am only going to possibly work as a locum (and maybe not at all), and of course, never running on time with my ten minutes per patient schedule because they all want to talk about my retirement, and their relationship with me, but of course still have their medical problems,

This month, my surgery is buzzing with small talk. Despite all my patients having read and chuckled over my parting letter.

And of course, there is still the dreaded weather. Which by the way has been rather horrible, wet and windy. Oh! Am I starting to be boring about the weather, too? Have I lived here for too long?


On Friday, I made a patient cry.

Last time that happened was when I had to tell somebody bad news. That time, I was practical, sympathetic and supportive, the tears dried soon, and I had a good feeling that I was helpful.

This time, it was different, and no I did not feel good about it. Yet, maybe I should.

A 85 year old patient, a nice, polite intelligent woman who was very healthy until recently, but had a bad year, a woman I know well and respect for her elegant understated appearance and behaviour.

There was nothing understated on Friday.

Frances recently had a serious spinal surgery, and when recovering, fell and broke her hip. A disaster, but by the time of my visit, she was on the mend, walking with a Zimmer frame, but promising to switch over to crutches soon. Frances is determined, and I am sure she will do well. I reviewed her medication, took her blood pressure, told her about exercise. All my patients would tell you that I have exercise on my brain. I do.

So I told Frances to get some light dumbbells or lift tins of beans. Old people need muscles even more than young ones.

We were joking and laughing, but then I had to tell you the news, that I am retiring at the end of the month.

It was horrible. She started sobbing, and couldn’t stop. Of course, she was not crying about me. She was crying about being old and frail, and about people- friends and family, and now her doctor disappearing. Her husband died five years ago, and her son visits, but he is a busy man. It happens to old people, they gradually loose friends and family along the way if they live long enough.

But she just could not stop. I embraced her, told her I was sorry, and after sobbing for a bit, she regained her composure and magnanimously told me how pleased she was that I will now have time to travel and enjoy other things than work.

Of course, neither Frances nor any other patient know that I have just written a rather “out there” book about casual sex, voyeurism and infidelity. I told her I will travel and write a bit.I told her I love someone who lives abroad and that I will see more of him.

I said with those exercises, you will soon be able to leave the apartment and go out. Frances lives in an apartment with two flights of stairs and no lift, unfortunately common in England. Tough on old frail people.

I told her she will be well looked after by another GP. I told her she is such a nice sensible patient, any doctor will be pleased to have her as a patient.

All true.

But that made her cry again, and I had to go back to the surgery to see patients. So she was sobbing again, and I did something I never do, I let her kiss me, and then I fled.

Downstairs, I met her son. I said hello, and intentionally put on an “I am in a hurry” look and walked to my car. British are polite people, he did not stop me to ask questions.

I wonder if he thought “What did the horrible doctor do to make my usually so stoical mother cry?!”

Retiring is a bittersweet business.


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