I was thinking this morning about Atticus Finch and how a normal person gets thrust into a situation where he becomes a giant. A giant in an inestimable sense but the glue hand that holds the matter together and without whom it all falls apart. A reluctant and humble and inobvious hero, he seems to blend into the woodwork. Flawed or ordinary men called to measure up have provoked admiration in novels many times and I also think of Wilber Larch in that same category. An example again of the ordinary as extraordinary. It gives me the message over and over again that, "the medium is the message" and what we have fallen into, often inadvertently, is where we belong. IE, we are placed. May be that's too crazy for some people to accept but some of us anyway see an intentional plan that is not part of our determination. Atticus Finch and Wilber Larch just fell into it and measured up.
When I moved to Lotus City to practice Orthopedics in 1965 there were two men still in practice in their 90's. The place was a sociable environment and the most sociable place of all was the surgeon's lounge at the St. Joseph's Hospital. Dr. JM and Dr TWAG, known colloquially as Twag, occupied the area most mornings. We all smoked and drank coffee in those days so there was a convivial if somewhat dense air. Twag always occupied a corner chair, a large red leather old bishop's chair with a worn round bottom he seemed to fit exactly like an egg in a egg cup and JM eschewed seeking anything resembling that rite. They probably saw their one or two patients in hospital in the morning and then enjoyed the action in the lounge till the afternoon office. Twag liked to recount the adventures of his family when his father served in the British Army with Gordon of Khartoum in the Sudan and he was a boy after Gordon lost his head to the Muslim horde. JM liked to recall he was the first physician hired to do pathology at the Vancouver General Hospital in 1904. They served up stories ad infinitum and if Twag took too long JM would say , "Gray, you live in the past." Even if we were busy we stayed a while to listen. Something to do with respecting your elders. JM was also an astronomer, graduating to a telescope from a microscope in 1904. When smoking was forbidden and coffee waived in latter years, no one bothered to sit in the surgical lounge and connect with the less relevant conversations that meant so much.
Someone on Sunday asked me if I knew Fouad. Of course I did since he was a brilliant neurosurgeon in Lotus City and we occasionally worked together if his patients needed a spinal fusion. I am at the age and stage when I now itemize in my mind the list of stupid things I have done in the past and they keep me occupied. Since I don't do much any more fewer stupid things arise. There is a curious phenomenon that if you are good at one thing you must be good at a lot of things as well. Such as someone who is good at laminectomy and fusion is good at boat salvage. Fouad phoned me up one morning and said that his two sons were marooned on Little Darcy Island and his fast Bayliner was on the rocks. Could I pull it off and get them back. "Sure", I said. He and I went on my boat, a wooden hull slow boat with pulling power, to Little Darcy over 2 hours and there they were. Two 19 year olds, sitting on rocks and the Bayliner at high tide still edged between rocks, though rolling a bit in the swell. We threw a line that they attached and dragged the boat off, accompanied by awful noises . The boat floated. It didn't sink. How stupid to jeopardize those boys !We towed it back to the Oak Bay Marina. What did we know about rescue, salvage ,boat inspection? Nothing at all! Let alone the danger of two boys in a boat that had been hulled on rocks, or had no ability to make way independently. Fouad had lots of money to pay a salvager but he assumed since we were competent at back surgery we could do anything else. Knowing where to stop would have stopped me from doing so many stupid things!
For Jim's past posts, check out his old blog here: