The 5 Stages of Grief

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Chapter 2, Dr. Reichmann

“Where the hell is she?” Frantic, Dr. Reichmann paced his empty office as if his absentee secretary might magically appear.

“Booked back to back today and not even the decency of a phone call!” His first patient only moments away and he wasn’t close to ready yet, hadn’t even had his morning coffee usually delivered promptly with a lecture and a smile. Come to think of it, Miss Wilkinson had never missed a day, not that he could remember. He couldn’t recall the last time she’d been ten minutes late, not since the first day his wife had hired her.

He paused for a moment realizing the great extent to which he’d come to rely upon her and not just for making coffee either. She kept him organized, told him what to do so he didn’t have to think about the details, just focus on the patients. Sure, she might occasionally overstep her bounds but he could live with that, couldn’t he? She certainly kept him structured, which was good for him, or so his wife said. Except for today, he reminded himself.

“Where the hell is she?” The whole day looked to be turned upside-down and it hadn’t even started yet, not really. And to top it all, he couldn’t find the appointment book which meant he would be operating on memory power alone and his wasn’t the greatest.

I must have taken it home to update it. He shook his head, trying to remember who was booked today and when. The glimpse of a face surprised him, stopped him still, “Holly!” he said, with a fist-pump, a side of him no-one witnessed and whoever had he’d forgotten by now. Holly was the first patient of the day, he was sure of it. As for the rest, he would have to wing-it, sit back and see who shows up. “Damn I hate being disorganized.” He sat to clear his mind for Holly’s arrival.

“And Carl,” he blurted a few minutes later. Funny how things returned to you when you stopped thinking about them, the phenomena never ceased to amaze him even though he intimately understood how the process worked.

“Not sure what time, but I’m sure he’s coming in.” He laughed, catching himself talking to an empty room.

People considered Fred Reichmann a remarkably quiet man, an introvert, a thinker, a strong listener, extraordinarily polite and definitely not one to stir up trouble. As a doctor of psychiatry, he supposed it was precisely the kind of image most people expected, so it was precisely what he gave them. He looked the part too. At fifty-eight, he could easily pass for ten years older, which in his profession, was a good thing. The appearance of age was comforting to most patients.

What people didn’t know was what a chatterbox he was when no one was around. Talking as if he had his own doctor in the room and was letting it all out, someone to listen to his problems for a change instead of listening to others drone on and on with whatever their personal construal of “my Mommy does this, my Mommy does that” or whatever else it is they want to bitch and whine about on that particular, far too often, visit.

So he was exaggerating a little. After all, most of his clients were adults. Or at least looked like adults, he laughed, adding in a much deeper more adult-voice, “My Mother does this, my Mother does that,” tightening his brow and face for effect.

“Adults. There’s a novel idea,” he said, interrupting his private conversation, not unlike the immigrant who alternates between his native language and english – spanglish, franglish – whatever it is they’re speaking: “Yo quiero que te vayas al supermarket a recoger un poco, Coka Cola, leche, pan, mantequilla, y algunas baterías Duracell.” Dr. Fredrick Reichmann often did this with his thoughts. Some stayed in while others found their way out, spoken aloud, but only while he was alone. He had surprising restraint over them –indeed, it was something he prided himself on. Fred had always been in control of his emotions, that’s what everyone said.

“At least, it appears that way,” he reminded himself. “No one is in control all the time.” As a doctor, he knew that better than most. “Everyone has a breaking point,” he slammed his desk drawer, “and I’m about to reach mine. Where is my damn tie!”

Fred looked down as if for the first time, wrinkling his nose in distaste. “Damn I look like a mess.” His clothes rumpled, rank, having spent the best part of the weekend at the office. Except for my tie, he laughed, licking his fingers and running them through his hair in attempt to tame the ever-present cowlick he knew was there. A constant reminder that no one was ever really in control. And the ones who thought they were? They were the most dangerous. To themselves in the very least, he mused. They were in such a state of denial they typically believed their own lies.

How could someone believe for a second, that he held power over something as complicated as life? The sheer audacity of the thought sent Fred into a last pitched frenzy to find his AWOL tie. “Jesus, I’m barely in command of my own life and I’m a doctor for Christ’s sakes!” He willed himself to stand still, calm down and take deep breaths, allowing his head just enough movement for one last look, then, with slumped shoulders and head tilted to the heavens, he surrendered. “Fine! No tie – I get it. Who was I to think I could have this one little bit of influence over my life?” He shuffled to the wall mirror in a final attempt to straighten out the rest of him before his first patient arrived, which his internal clock told him should be any moment now.

He heard a bump or a clunking sound of some sort and stopped what he was doing, tilting his head for a better idea of which direction it might have come from. He stood, quiet, motionless, holding his breath. He waited.

There it is again, off to the left.

“That’s strange. How? Who?” He walked in the direction of the noise, then heard another, the more familiar sound of someone at the door and quickly altered his course toward the first patient of the day.

“Holly! Welcome dear.” He never used last names. He felt it made his relationship with the patient too impersonal, impeded his ability to recall their past by memory which he liked to believe was his edge in a way, his identity as a doctor. “Come in and make yourself comfortable. I would offer you coffee, however, my secretary is not in today and I wouldn’t know where to start.”

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