Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Bitter Herbs

The annual "passover" has happened yet again at our house. Though this passover is not the the traditional Jewish rite of passage whereby the Jews remember their deliverance or Exodus from enslavement in Egypt, we have come to see it as steps toward our freedom from life in the Navy. Yes, my husband's annual May passover is the Captain's list. We will be departing Navy life at the end of next year- perhaps the Pacific Ocean will part to allow us quick passage.

The first year he had just returned from a long deployment in Iraq with the Army so I was mostly unaware of the upcoming event; my husband is not one for pining. Once aware, it seemed unfair, but as he often reminds me, "If only Captain Honey Bunny ruled the world."

The next year, we both had higher expectations- fit rep, check; letters of support, check; more admin work, check; etc.- only to have those same expectations dashed on the dastardly rocks of the annual passover list- his name was once again absent. This was a cause for soul searching not so much for me as I was mostly angry that his hard work and dedication to patient care were being overlooked by admin gurus who pitched slogans about health care being "patient centered" while rewarding health care providers who shunned patient care with advancement. Let's put it this way, seaman to admiral, if you are in need of consultation or services that my husband provides, you want him as your doc. Yes, I am married to the man which means I might be biased, but I also know his strengths and weaknesses well; I'd wager the Pepsi Challenge so to speak, but I digress.

He soul searched; I grumped- there were a lot of family sacrifices made along the way. His conclusion was that he was happy with his work and that if that wasn't good enough for the Navy then so be it; it was all he had. My response was, "Then say 'no' more often to some of this stuff and come home from work!" Yeah, you can read some hysteria into that along with a "fat chance" of him saying no to the Navy.

This year, I had no expectations as we had noticed that friends who had returned to the visibility of the States picked up advancement, and we were still overseas (at the Navy's behest may I add). Everyone tells you to do this and that to get promoted but the clearest trend is give up patient care and do administrative work. This is antithetical to my husband's view of being a doctor. Dual boarding in specialities, not enough; volume of patients over an eighteen year career (invariably always has one of the largest loads despite any and all other duties), not enough; respect of paitents and colleagues, not enough; take call for months at a time, not enough; overseas deployment, not enough; work an average of fifteen hours a day, not enough; it goes on- the Navy takes and takes.

I am beginning to think the requirements to advance are: sell your soul to the Devil, give up all family time, stay in the States, and/or do not under any circumstances see more than a week of patient care in a year (that is the Army's requirement for doctors in admin billets to maintain their specialty pay). It is a sad state of affairs when I think of being a patient too in that the docs are not rewarded for their work with me as a patient or in their clinical expertise as a providers. I do not mean to take away from those who were promoted, my hat is off- congratulations, but looking from the other side I am tasting of the bitter herbs- allow me to indulge.

I am not Jewish and have only celebrated the seder meal once in my own home, but I can't resist fleshing out the passover analogy using the seder plate. No offense is meant in utilizing the seder analogy to see the sacrifices and difficulties of Navy life.

Zeroah, the lamb of sacrifice, check, we have sacrificed family time from dinner to missing funerals to helping during times of family stress or illnesses. Baytsah, roasted egg represents an additional sacrifice, how about missing about every major holiday with extended family and a few holidays with immediate family. Karpas, a green herb that represents spring and new life, perhaps life beyond the Navy. Maror, the bitter herbs that represent the years in slavery, no comment. Charoset, the chopped sweet salad that represents the mortar used in buildings, perhaps the building blocks of our Navy life- the training and education and advancement that were received (the good stuff). Matzah, the unleavened bread that represents the haste with which the Jews fled Egypt might be seen in our countdown to retirement and moving along. There is also salt water to represent the tears and sweat of enslavement, uhh, check. And there are four wine cups for drinking toasts, one of which is to the promise of redemption. I'll be having a few swigs of wine or beer when this is all over too.