Of Partners and Memories

My partner died a few weeks ago. Let me clarify, he was a former professional partner, not a personal one. Dave and I spent almost 20 years working side-by-side, or at least office-by-office, part of a threesome in the Pathology Department of HFMC. He welcomed me in when I first started as a very green, eager but naive first-time pathologist. He showed me the ropes, warned me of the pitfalls, and boosted my confidence.

Dave was an Assyrian, of Iranian descent, with the somewhat cosmopolitan air of someone who had spent part of his life in Paris. His position at HFMC was engineered by his cousin, a busy surgeon at the hospital. The place wasn’t the biggest Med Center in the neighborhood and didn’t have the reputation of being the best, but had a loyal core of supportive physicians and satisfied patients. Dave fit into that culture well, and by the time I joined the staff, he was friends with everyone, quick to share a personal joke, a friendly slap on the back, or an obscure memory.

Dave and I frequently strolled the hospital halls together, heading to lunch, or the surgical suite for intra-operative consultations. Every afternoon found time for case review at our multi-headed microscope. With all that togetherness, the medical staff lumped the two of us into one, and we garnered the nickname of The Tweens–someone’s mispronunciation of the word twins.

Dave’s connection with Dr. S, our department chairman, was a less collegial one. Dave never felt the professional relationship with S matched what had lured him to HFMC, and never really fully trusted S. It was only following S’s sudden death that Dave and I both became financial partners in what became our 2 man group. That small group was quickly swallowed up by a large university practice following a hospital coup-d’etat. We were welcomed in as partners, though Dave, ever more cynical than I, whispered to me that our termination was always right around the corner. Ten years later, three years after his own retirement, Dave was proven correct.

Dave was diagnosed with prostate cancer 10 years ago. He gave me the honor of reviewing his pathology slides to confirm the diagnoses, which I sadly did. Dave and Dawn, the love of his life, relocated to Florida, where we visited them twice over the next few years. A few months ago he emailed to tell me he was beginning hospice care, and that he was entering a final phase. Just last week, right after we had sent our annual holiday card to Dave and Dawn, we discovered the obituary.

One of my favorite movie quotes is from The Maltese Falcon–hard-boiled detective Sam Spade discussing the killing of his partner “When a man’s partner is killed, he’s supposed to do something about it.” Dave, you were my partner, but all I can do I can do is write and remember. Your tween will miss you.

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Filed under: life style, pathology

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