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An overwhelming, yet important schedule

Meet Maxwell. Maxwell was referred for therapy by his PCP. Welcome, Sir. I welcomed a handsome casually dressed gentleman who I guessed to be near retirement age.

His graying hair and short cropped beard were contrasted by an otherwise sagging countenance. His gait was slow and deliberate as he eased into a chair. He refused a bottle of water.

Are you all right, Sir? He looked drained. He looked up at me.

“I don’t really want to be here, no offense. I’m here because my boss insisted.” Who is your boss and what do you understand to be your boss’ reason for this referral? “I’m thirsty. I’ll take you up on that offer for water please, Sir.” He cracked open the bottle and took a long swig.

“I had a patient complain that I fell asleep in the exam room. He left my room in a huff and made a scene. He demanded to see the physician. You see, I’m a P.A. He left the building and later contacted my boss, who incidentally is my friend. He and 1 go back 20-years. We’ve seen a lot of pain, suffering, and anguish throughout the years. We are walking and pool player buddies. A couple of drinks after closing time on Fridays and a complementing game or two of pool offers some stress relief. Sometimes we walk at lunch time and get some exercise and a visit to review some tough client cases. He’s a good friend and he supports me. We’ve kept our friendship despite rough times, both personally and professionally. May I call you, Marshall?”

Certainly. May 1 call you Maxwell? “No, please call me Max. 1 feel more at ease. Maxwell sounds too formal; like I’m in trouble. Maxwell? Maxwell … come here. You’ve been out too long. Come eat your dinner.” Max laughs at his own mini theatrics.

So Max, has that experience ever occurred before? “To be honest, yes. My work days are long. I see patients all day long; one after the other.” Are you having any trouble maintaining the pace and demands your job presents? “Lately … yes.”

Describe a day in the life of you, Max. “I get up at 5. Work generally starts at 8 a.m. and lasts until 5 p.m. I work a rotating schedule at the hospital E.R. otherwise. I’m free on weekends to be with my family.” Who comprises your family, Max? “Well, my wife and one college aged son. I have two other sons who live independently with their wives and children.”

So, Max, you’re a grandfather. “Yes, I’ve got five; two and three. One lives nearby. The others live five hours away by car. Weekends are filled with home chores. Visits with family include my father-in-law, who’s in a nursing home facility.”

Do your weekends allow for alone time? “Not much, Marshall. We have laying chickens, two milking cows, and two steers. The animals require daily attention.” Does your wife help? “Yes and no. I gather the eggs and milk the cows. She puts up the eggs and processes the milk for yogurt or cheese. We like to eat healthy and natural as much as possible.”

How long have you performed chores prior to work, Max? “About 10-years. The function brings us satisfaction. You should see the smile of delight on the grandkids as they help gather eggs on the weekend or summer visits. The eggs taste real fine. The milk is rich and creamy.

“The grandkids love Daisy and Lucy. They’ve shown interest in helping us milk.” Can you describe your workday, Max? “Well, I get up to do chores. It takes me an hour and a half. I leave the eggs, and milk, shower, eat breakfast, and drive to work. Patients line up for their appointments. I usually have all three exam rooms filled. My nurse is a seasoned veteran of 25-years. We work well together: She’s open to conferring her patient concerns with me. As you may imagine, I have some tough cases. She does an outstanding job of preparing the patient for our visit.”

Does your nurse know you’re here today? “Well, not really. Had my friend and supervisor not put his boot to my butt … well, honestly, I wouldn’t have considered counseling.”

Max, how do you feel right now sharing some information with me, a total stranger? “I’m here because Bert, my boss, told me it might be useful for me.” Early on here, can you imagine this forum to be useful, Max? “Well, maybe it could be helpful.”

Max, have you ever talked to someone before? “No, not really. Well, thinking back, I once had a talk, kind of a deep conversation with my pastor. We were once running partners. We were young and he was attending seminary. Guess he needed the practice to delve into people’s lives. Reluctantly, I did it twice. One came after I slipped and fell on a wet patch of ground. I remember my leg was banged up and my hip was in pain. He lifted me up and we walked ever-so slowly to the car. We went to the E.R., got some medical help and he drove me home. I just started talking. Just talked and talked for two hours. I lived alone. I wasn’t married. The second go-round, I was in P.A. school and ran into a patch of struggle with school. I had second thoughts about continuing. I had contracted pneumonia and was sick and worn-out. He came by and we visited over a couple of beers. He got good on listening. Or maybe I was a Guinea pig for his listening practicum. Hey, I didn’t even talk about why I came.”

Actually, Max, you did. Would you like to come back? “Sure, Marshall.”

We set an appointment. Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.

Marshall Greenstein holds a master’s degree in marriage and family counseling and is a licensed marriage and family counselor and a licensed mental health counselor in New York state. He has regular office hours at Hutton and Greenstein Counseling Services, 501 E. Third St., Suite 2B, Jamestown, 484-7756. For more information or to suggest topics, email editorial@observertoday.com.

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