Given the number of doctors in La Jolla, it’s probably not surprising that I would count among my friends a certain number of fellow ex-wives of physicians. Virtually all of us have remarried (as have our former spouses) and I’m happy to say that despite early rancor, we all have good relationships with them now.
At a recent lunch, we were reflecting on our lives when we first divorced. Overnight his status as a single doctor soared while ours as single mothers tanked to reptilian levels. But what irked us more than anything was what the exes could get away with that we couldn’t. We were up against some serious doctor worship.
After my physician husband and I divorced, I went back into the workplace in an entry-level job and with a custody schedule written in stone. My ex solved the problem of soccer practice on his custody day by charming the female soccer coach — whom he didn’t know from Adam — into taking our son home with her after practice and keeping him until the child could be picked up. She was glad to do it, she told me reverently. “He’s a busy doctor, you know.”
When the ex brought the kids to a birthday party in mismatched clothes, jam on their faces, rumpled hair, and bedroom slippers, the other moms all thought it was adorable. If I’d done that, there would have been anonymous calls to Social Services.
Even the school perennially suffered from what I could only refer to as felony physician fawning. Our divorce decree had stipulated that if the kids were sick on Monday, Thursday or Friday, it was my problem. Since Tuesday night was the ex’s weekday custody night, Tuesday and Wednesdays were his days to make arrangements.
Like that ever happened.
One long ago Monday in December, I called the ex and alerted him that the kids had been home with temperatures of 103º and obviously wouldn’t be able to go to school the next day. He says OK. The next morning he comes to get them. At 10 a.m., I get a call at work from the school’s office staff. They’re not happy.
“Your children are much too sick to be in school today.”
Inga (puzzled): “I know. That’s why I called them in absent this morning.”
“But they’re standing right here.”
“They can’t be.”
“They are. Do you want to talk to them?”
Inga: “No, but I’d love to talk to their father, whom you’re supposed to call on Tuesdays and Wednesdays per the instructions we gave.”
“We already did, but his office says he’s unavailable.” (Pause.) “He is a doctor, you know.”
Inga (drily): “Yes, I’ve seen the diploma. I’ll call you right back.”
Ex’s answering service: “I’m sorry, but Doctor is teaching this morning and left strict instructions not to be disturbed.”
Inga: (Did they think they were dealing with an amateur?) “Tell ‘Doctor’ to get on the phone right now or I’ll be over in five minutes to blow up his frigging office.”
Ex: “Hi Inga. My answering service said a distraught psychiatric patient was on the line and that I might need to evacuate the building. So I knew it had to be you.”
Inga: “You took the kids to school!”
Ex: “Well, once I got them in the car, they didn’t look that sick to me.”
Inga: “The perception of illness in a family member has never been within your visual or auditory capabilities. I pumped them full of Tylenol an hour before you came but they’re still really sick.”
Ex: “Gee, this is a problem. I’m teaching all day. If you could just help me out today, I promise I’ll never do this to you again.”
Inga: “Except that this is already the fourth time!”
Ex: “Oops, gotta go! You’re the best! Bye!”
(School again:) “Henri just threw up on the office floor. These children really need to go home. Oh, and they’re crying.”
As I picked them up from school a short time later, the secretary enthused, “It must be wonderful for the children to have a doctor for a father. Especially when they’re sick.”
“Yup,” I said, “I couldn’t be more grateful.”
Look for La Jolla resident Inga’s lighthearted looks at life every other week in La Jolla Light. Reach her by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org