my first patient

Contributor
School of Medicine

“what do you want to be when you grow up?”

an age old question

who ever knows?

apparently i did ever since i was 4 (according to mami)

a doctor, i say

 

flash forward » 26 years

almost to the imaginary [finish] starting line

                             of the dots interweaved between the m . d .

i guess i knew all along

the end informs the beginning

my first patient

knew well before me

 

tired, kind eyes

a face full of knowing

leathery brown skin from a life spent under a mexican-american sun

salt and pepper hair cutting through wind

            leaving seeds

           everywhere he went

my father, el jardinero

           and

my first patient

 

trembling to learn

the terms of his disease

i was a newly born teenager

his body had endured its time

words like

    diagnosis

        treatment

              cerebellum

                         ataxia

     balance

     life

     death

had to be translated, mulled over into something

unrecognizable

 

my first patient was scared

voice unfound

body shackled

hurling towards the uncertain

undeniably brave

this

is an immigrant story

 

how was he my patient, you ask?

i was simply…

 

                              there.

                                                      with him.

present.

in the in between.

in the during.

i held his hand.

we cried

we laughed.

i held his hand

in the tragically beautiful

                                                   last breath.

we were

throughout time.

 

i was his first patient

he, witnessing

                                                     my first breath

he, counting all my fingers and toes

he, listening to my heart beat

he, giving me life,

                       watching me grow,

                                                     letting me go

he. healed me. heals me now. even in the after.

 

my father was my first patient.

but not
                           “a patient”

a lesson inscribed deep in my bones

my father [was] is cherished. celebrated. deeply loved.

          whole.

my patients after him, are cherished. celebrated. deeply loved.

          whole.

and may they always be.

  • para mi papi

jessica valdez, january 23rd, 2022