When Harry Potter entered Bellatrix Lestrange’s vault in search of a horcrux, he found the vault under a “gemino curse” that multiplied everything he and others touched.
I purposely walked back into an old vault recently. No gold, but a lot of memories that seemed to multiply just as quickly.
My “vault” was a doctor’s office to which I was referred eight years ago. This doctor specializes in autoimmune issues, among other things. Being that I have an autoimmune disease, I was tested then for things like inflammation levels, clotting functions and various antibodies.
Indulge me in sharing a few basics on autoimmune. The immune system is designed to protect against antigens, or harmful substances, like bacteria, viruses, parasites, cancer cells. When a healthy immune system detects these foreign substances, it produces antibodies to destroy them.
When you have an autoimmune disorder, your immune system doesn’t distinguish between healthy and unhealthy cells. Consequently, the immune system can attack and destroy healthy cells, tissues and/or organs by mistake, as if they are invaders. Among the “invaders” a compromised immune system may attempt to destroy is fetal tissue.
Thus, my initial visit to this doctor. It was the last time I was pregnant, and the longest I had carried any of the babies. I was around 9 weeks when I saw this doctor.
To the degree that I can momentarily block out the ultimate outcome of that pregnancy a few weeks later, my memories of the appointment with this doctor are wonderful. She literally exudes kindness. She has a way of making eye contact, of shaking a hand, of leaning in and listening, that would be completely engaging coming from anyone, much less a doctor. She had known me for mere moments but I can still hear her sincerity when congratulating me, still see the warmth in her eyes as she spoke.
After all it had taken to get to that point, I hadn’t enjoyed a lot of “normal” exchanges about my condition. While most women get to repeatedly beam “I’m pregnant!” and receive squeals of joy and “OMG, CONGRATULATIONS!”, I was in the necessary habit of “waiting until it’s safe” and being told to “maintain a healthy optimism.”
And sure, this doctor knew better than most the risks associated with my pregnancy. But she didn’t limit her response to potential dire outcomes or withhold her enthusiasm. I cannot tell you how rare an experience that was and what a profound effect it – and she – had on me, even years afterward.
So when the need arose to see a rheumatologist/immunologist, I prayed she was still in practice and requested a specific referral to her. And then.
Then I started to wonder what it would be like to return to her office. I’ve worked hard not to “borrow trouble” and expect the worst. (Matthew 6 much?)
Driving to the appointment, I was glad the building itself didn’t loom MEMORY, since I drive past it almost every day on my way to work. (Unhealthy or not, there are a couple of other buildings from those years that I avoid at all costs.) I went inside, got checked in, and was led back to a room. The nurse was lovely (must be a job requirement for this office), took vitals, asked about my current reason for visiting, and took time in writing detailed notes. She was going through the new- (it had been so long) patient paperwork I’d filled out. When she got toward the end, she said, “You know, I remember you.”
I felt anxious and said, “Oh really?” and I looked up at her to find her looking directly at me. I can’t deal with that when I’m trying to maintain, so I looked away. But she continued. Told me that she remembered bringing me back to a room, talking to me specifically. Internally I struggled mightily between wanting to ask How? What did we say? and wanting her not to take me back there. I wanted the former because I have precious few positive connections to that reality, and the latter because so many of them are wrapped in worry, concern, grief.
Then she said, “Yes, you were seeing Dr. Mo.” That’s when I knew that she wasn’t making it up, she really did remember. I mentally translated the name she’d used for one of the names I had once privately used after he’d been particularly callous. I found at least a tiny bit of amusement referring to him as Dr. NOMo in my mind and was almost wistful at realizing that I hadn’t thought about that in years. But feeling like I was thisclose to losing it, I told her how nice it was to be remembered and I thanked her. Mostly I was grateful that she moved on. More history, a few clarifications and then another question. I was looking at her while we spoke but recognized the slight lowering of voice and hesitation as she read my paperwork but I still wasn’t prepared when she asked, “Did you have all these D&Cs?”
Oooph. It was a perfectly fair question but it felt like all the oxygen had left the room. I knew my answer but didn’t trust myself to get it out so I just shook my head. But she sat, waiting, I guess wondering if I was going to answer. So I said, No. I didn’t want the D&Cs, I wanted – (but clearly that’s not the right word) – chose to wait until it happened (by this time I can barely speak more than a whisper) “naturally.”
I looked away, silently begged her to move on, and she did. She finished soon after, told me the doctor would be in soon, and left me alone in the room. Which is when I burst into tears. I mean I knew it was coming, but still. I built up mental and emotional walls just as quickly as I could stack the bricks and got myself under control by the time the doctor came in. She was as lovely as ever, and went over my treatment options, possible care plan and answered all my questions.
Near the end, she looked right at me, smiled, and said, “I remember you.” I froze, thinking I was going right back to another meltdown but I managed to smile and genuinely thank her, hoping I could convey the actual depth of my gratitude in those few words. Granted, she was sitting on a stool not a foot away from me but everything about her makes her appear so very present. Somehow it was only reassuring when she took my hand in both of hers, emitted that genuine intensity and said, “Yes. I remember you, and I’m so very glad to see you again.” She just sat like that, holding my hand, for what seemed like the longest time.
Putty, I tell you. There was no anxiety, I felt nothing but immense gratitude and comfort. I felt acknowledged and validated by simply being remembered.
Surprisingly, the “vault” ended up being a place of multiplying kindnesses rather than mournful memories. Yes, the sadness will always be there but that day, kindness kept it at bay and overwhelmed it with comfort and peace.
I gotta say, though, if things have to multiply, it might be nice to get a turn at a pile of multiplying gold pieces next.