Memo From Mac



The Burlington Hawk-Eye
The Hawk Eye
Burlington, Iowa

Now, He is the Establishment 
May 15, 1978

When our No. 4 son Terence got his medical degree in the jock palace at the University of Iowa Saturday, and shuffled on across the stage for the presidential handshake, Sandy Boyd is alleged to have said to him: "Well, you have finally brought some respectability to the family."

This, as the courts would say, was fair comment on a tribe of bog cutters and kraut brewers, who had done no better yet than to produce a few ink-stained wretches and a sole member of the recently castigated bar.

But it does come with certain ill grace from a man who has persistently refused to give me a volume discount at his scholarly store, despite my years of tuition-induced poverty.

Furthermore, I'm not so sure he's right, considering that Jimmy Carter has lumped doctors in with lawyers (and Presidents) as those God's going to get if they don't do right by the rest of us.

Anyway, whether it brings respectability or not, a couple of local doctors have been predicting that, with this new conflict of interest, I will become more conservative in my approach to socialized medicine. I may at least until the loan is repaid.

All this is a poor effort to disguise the truth: That we were bursting with happiness and pride for Terence and his wife Lori and son John and for ourselves. It was a hell of a fine Mother's Day present.

Whatever the cost, it was a lot less than it might have been because, remarkably, he got this medical degree a few days less than six years after he got his Burlington High School diploma, having compressed his undergraduate studies into two years.

Whatever his other qualifications, if he can keep up this speed, his patients may spend less that the usual time in the waiting room.

It's all very sobering. As you watch a happy-go-lucky kid turning gradually into a somber wrestler with matters of life and death, you wonder how he will turn out.

Six years ago this summer, he and one of his brothers had hitchhiked to California to go door-to-door from George McGovern in the great crusade against the establishment. Now, he is the establishment.

But last weekend was an omen that reassures me. We had gone up on Friday evening for the Medical College convocation, but first for a family dinner, which was to have been on the lawn beside the house trailer out on Highway 6, where he and Lori have barely avoided the welfare rolls these six years.

He had billed it as a "$50-a-plate dinner," to get him through June and July until he goes on the payroll as a resident in the Iowa City hospitals.

His mother brought the beans and potato salad. Lori's folks brought the cakes and fruit and salad, and Lori made a rhubarb pie as my special reward. Terence charcoaled the burgers.

Just as he began, the cold, driving rain began, and the burgers were rainwater-juicy as 13 of us huddled inside the little trailer for our convocation banquet.

That night, while others went home or elsewhere, his mother and I stayed, taking the doctoral bed while the new physician and his wife bedded down on the floor in their sleeping bags, with young son and two wet dogs.

The rain swelled to deluge in the night and the wind roared at 60 miles an hour. The little trailer shook and swayed and rattled, as the limbs of a sycamore scraped on its roof. We had trembling visions of sailing off to Lone Tree.

At the convocation, the new doctors had recited the Geneva oath, which has replaced the Hippocratic Oath, but Terence showed us one he likes better by Moses Maimonides, a 12th Century Spanish rabbi:

"Inspire me with love for my art and for Thy creatures. Do not allow thirst for profit, ambition for renown and admiration, to interfere with my profession, for these are enemies of truth and of love for mankind and they can lead astray in the great task of attending to the welfare of Thy creatures for great and sacred are the thoughtful deliberations required to preserve the lives and health of Thy creatures."

I hope he will remember that. And that he will remember, when temptation to professional arrogance arises, the rainy hamburgers, and the howling wind, and the wet dogs, and the little old trailer shuddering in the gale.

For they symbolized well both the long struggle and the frailty of the struggler, in the glorious and angry and uncertain universe.

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