The Real Life Test

Chapter Nine
Return to Mississippi

June 1994


Chapter One: 1993
Chapter Two: November 30-December 16
Chapter Three: December 17-January 1
Chapter Four: January 1994
Chapter Five: February 1994
Chapter Six: March 1994
Chapter Seven: April 1994
Chapter Eight: May 1994
Chapter Nine: June 1994
Chapter Ten: July 1994
Chapter Eleven: August 1994
Chapter Twelve: September 1994
Chapter Thirteen: October 1994
Chapter Fourteen: November 1994

Wednesday, June 1

Now I get a chance to see what commuting into Atlanta in the mornings is like. I put on my blue silk shirt and taupe skirt and joined the traffic on Georgia 400. Finally I arrived downtown at Crawford Long Hospital. The cath lab was easy to find. I introduced myself; the staff was expecting me and brought a cup of coffee. Soon Dr. Neel arrived and showed me around. I found the ladies' lockers and changed into a scrub suit, so I could stay in the room with Dr. Neel and Dr. Anand as they did the procedures.

It was wonderful to be back in a cath lab environment. I studied the pictures on each case and made my recommendations. Dr. Anand is more aggressive in his approach to angioplasty than either Dr. Neel or I, but we easily agreed on most of the cases. The three of us do get along well together, and I sense no ill feelings on the part of the other physicians at Crawford Long. The compatibility of the various groups is important - and unusual.

At 4:00 I excused myself and prepared to go to my T'ai Chi class. Oops - I forgot to bring my shorts and T-shirt. I can't do the movements in a straight skirt! I had an easy drive over to Emory, but there were no department stores en route. I thought ahead and stopped at the Emory bookstore. Sure enough, they had logo T-shirts and shorts on sale for a very low price. I can always use a little extra workout wear. I changed in the restroom in the class building and had a pleasant class as always. Now we will take a three week break and resume T'ai Chi II at the end of June, right after I return from Jackson.

Thursday, June 2

For an unemployed person, I get a lot of business phone calls. Today I arranged a lunch meeting with someone from the Harris Kovacs Alderman firm about Statesboro, Georgia; we will meet next Tuesday at Chequers, one of my favorite restaurants. Next I confirmed arrangements for my flight to Waco and staying in the Waco Hilton for two nights Sunday and Monday. Then I heard from Dr. Anand's office, making a date for me to have supper with him and the hospital administrator next Wednesday at Chateau Elan. Finally Dr. Tom Barker here in Roswell returned my call and wanted me to drop by tomorrow afternoon.

Whew! I am kissing lots of frogs. There must be a prince in this pond somewhere.

Friday, June 3

Dr. Barker's office is convenient, just about three miles up Alpharetta Highway close to the North Fulton Medical Center. He has to drive long distances to do his cardiac cath procedures, however. He is a solo practicioner and seems busy enough, but I don't think he can compete with some of the large groups in terms of putting together an attractive offer. I kept an open mind about it, however, and left him my number.

Saturday, June 4

The Federal Express overnight mail brought my plane ticket for Texas. Six hundred dollars... these short-notice tickets are super expensive. Patrick Connors tells me I will be reimbursed for all of it.

I continued my shopping for the two weeks in Jackson. My summer wardrobe needed one or two more dresses for the office. I finally found the mock sarong dress by CCMC on sale for half price. The only one they had remaining was the size 10, and it fit me perfectly. It was meant to be mine! Now that I have my Rich's and Macy's charge cards, I can spread this expense out better and pay it when I get my money from the job in Jackson.

At group therapy I discussed my plans. Dr. Powell continues very satisfied with my progress. We mentioned Joyce and Theresa and their upcoming surgery, and he made a comment, "some others are well on the way," and smiled at me. How nice it would be if I could get my letter for surgery earlier than December. Perhaps after proving I can work successfully, it may happen.

Sunday, June 5

When I moved to Texas in 1971 to intern, there were nine of us from my med school class making the same move. We joked about leaving a sign saying "G.T.T." (Gone To Texas) on the Medical Center.

Now I was returning to Texas under different circumstances, but it could be another new beginning. I parked at Hartsfield Airport and boarded my Delta flight with time to spare. The flight was easy and I made conversation with the man in the next seat, who was going home to Corpus Christi.

Airline food has changed: our "snack" was a cold bran muffin, wrapped in plastic wrap, handed to us without napkin, butter, knife, or fork. One of the passengers actually complained to the stewardess, who smiled and said, "Welcome to the era of low air fares." So they are cutting costs at our expense.

Dallas-Fort Worth Airport was as convenient as I had remembered it before. I found the Avis rental company and picked up my Chevrolet Cavalier. The downtown streets were easy to negotiate on Sunday morning, and I quickly found myself on Interstate 35 going to Waco.

I arrived at the Waco Hilton and relaxed for a couple of hours before Jeanine, my realtor/welcoming party, called to pick me up. She and I toured residential districts in Waco and found numerous good possibilities. The town of 110,000 is an ideal size, and has many desirable neighborhoods, some on the beautiful Lake Waco.

Dr. George Robertson called when I returned and arranged for me to meet him and his wife at Steak and Ale. Steak and Ale? I wondered; but on Sunday night very few restaurants were open in Waco. Regardless, I loved my visit with them both. They have six children, all in private school. He must be making decent money.

We toured the hospital and his office area and he made me aware of the local politics. It seems that there is a larger group of five cardiologists who have been in Waco for many years, and are not happy to share their town with Dr. Robertson. This is a serious threat to what would otherwise be a wonderful opportunity. If I took the job without making them aware of my past, and were somehow discovered later, it could be very harmful to Dr. Robertson. This fact alone will probably be enough to keep me from taking the position.

Monday, June 6

I awoke early and dressed casually in my denim jumper, since I knew it would be a work day. I had enough confidence in my directional ability (plus a map of Waco) to set out for the hospital. I rode through the residential areas Jeanine had shown me yesterday, and came out right at Hillcrest Medical Center.

In the coffee shop I had a doughnut and a cup of hazelnut coffee while I waited on Dr. Robertson. He was busy in the stress lab but sent his nurse down for me. We had time to explore the cardiac area of the hospital, then I spent more time with his nurse as we discussed his routine for rounds and patient care. I could be very content with such a routine.

He had one case, just a repositioning of a temporary pacemaker. I observed from the control room of the cath lab and talked with the technicians. Then I had the opportunity to talk privately with the head nurse of the cath lab and the director of the hospital's cardiology program. It is obvious that Dr. Robertson is very busy and needs a partner.

But does he need me? There is another group of cardiologists in town who are not friendly toward the newcomer. They could really make trouble for him if I should turn out to be an item for gossip. Yes, I could come to Waco and no one might ever know. But if, in a few years, someone goes to a cardiology meeting and encounters someone from Mississippi who knew me before... Concealment is so difficult. It's unfair; why can't I just get back to work and be judged by the quality of my performance?

I told Dr. Roberston none of this as I left and drove back to the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, but I cried for most of the drive because yet another near-perfect situation probably will not work out.

I should be used to it by now.

Tuesday, June 7

Morning came too soon, and I groaned as I sat up in bed. Keith Colson of Harris Kovacs Alderman placement service was meeting me for lunch at Chequers Restaurant, so I needed to be up and moving by nine. Our meeting was intended to discuss a practice opportunity in Statesboro, Georgia; but between the time he contacted me and today, Statesboro decided it wasn't ready to pursue a cardiac cath program just yet. At least it was a pleasant meeting and a good lunch.

I returned in time to give Margaux another driving lesson. Today she drove on city streets all the way from her job on Buford Highway to the Domino's where Joe works. She is a fast learner, but she needs to remember that safety is more important than aesthetics and "looking good" when you drive. I really believe she will be a safer driver than someone who learns at an early age.

Wednesday, June 8

If only I knew what to do: I had a wonderful dinner tonight at Chateau Elán with Dr. Anand; the hospital administrator; and the hospital financial officer. They have proposed to set me up in a practice, not in Winder, but in Braselton. Braselton is the community on I-85 where Chateau Elán and its associated residential development are located. I would do my cath procedures in Atlanta at Crawford Long Hospital, and admit my patients locally in Winder. I would live in Braselton, which is much smaller than Winder.

This practice would be, at least in the beginning, mostly internal medicine. Dr. Anand showed me a grocery store which had closed, and would be remodeled for my office. I can't imagine being a storefront doctor.

This is not the type practice I had in mind, but they may make me a financial guarantee I can't refuse. I suppose I could be content in a rural setting. I just wish something comparable to what I had in Jackson would surface.

Thursday, June 9

Today was filled with preparations for travel: mine and Theresa's. Theresa is as nervous as can be. She returned early from work and called Joyce's number several times. Finally she made contact and arranged for Joyce to meet her here tonight.

Meanwhile, I was outfitting my car with clothes racks to allow me to transport everything I would need for two weeks in Mississippi. Part of me is excited about going, but another part is deeply anxious. I fear so much opposition. Two weeks could be a long time to spend under hostile circumstances. But I need the work desperately.

I skimmed through my mail and saw an advertisement in The New England Journal of Medicine for cardiology positions in Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona. "Why not?" I thought, and sent them a résumé.

Margaux is also nervous about our being gone. She doesn't know how she will get to and from her workplace. I hate for her to be riding public transit at night. I just wish she already had her driver's license.

I had intended to take Theresa to supper tonight, but Joyce was late in arriving. I understood Theresa's priority with Joyce, whom she was depending on so much as a seasoned traveler to help with the trip. I did give Theresa her present: a copy of James Burke's The Day the Universe Changed. Theresa loves scientific and historical reading, and this should keep her mind active during those days of bed rest.

I also gave her a card. "As you are recovering from your operation," the woman on the front was saying, "relax... put your feet up... let others wait on you. You know..." and on the inside it said, "Pretend you're a man."

Friday, June 10

What a milestone of a day.

It began with loading the car and driving to Barbara's for an hour of electrolysis, then getting on the interstate and heading for Columbus. I packed a couple of sandwiches so I wouldn't have to stop for lunch. Even so, it was close to 3:00 when I reached Dave's office.

I was unusually nervous. Dave, my dearest friend from college, had never seen me since I transitioned. He had a very difficult time relating to me as Becky, since I had so much history with him as Brian. But when I told him I would be passing through Columbus and would love to see him, he was very gracious and insistent in his invitation. Of all my friends in Amory, where we lived for ten years while I practiced internal medicine, Dave is the only one I had hopes for understanding and acceptance.

He did not let me down. We had a warm, friendly visit. I shared much with him, and also heard what was happening with his children. "I would never have recognized you if I had seen you on the street," he said.

He still had a little difficulty with the hug as we left.

I arrived in Greenwood around 6:00, checked into the Hampton Inn, and rested. The party at Melinda's house began at 7:30. I had mixed feelings about attending. Yes, I wanted so much to see my old friends, and especially I wanted them to see me; to see I am not a freak, I'm a real and happy person. But I feared rejection. What if some of the guys had had too much to drink and were in an insulting mood?

Besides, Sheryl's parents still lived in Greenwood. I knew word would get back to them of my attendance. They would be hurt and offended. Sheryl, in turn, would be angry with me. Did I want to risk all that?

Well, yes, I did. I have lived all my adult life in fear of what others would think of my actions. Now I am finally becoming free of that. Besides, it's not like I am committing a crime or behaving outrageously. I just want to go and be with my friends.

I finally talked myself into going. But as I drove past Melinda's house and saw the cars parked all along the street, I just couldn't go in. I panicked and drove back to the motel, where I telephoned Melinda and said, "I just can't do it."

"Please come," she urged. "You have so many friends here. We really want to see you, to get to know you. I will meet you outside and walk in with you."

I agreed and returned. It was just as she said. Melinda and Jane walked in with me and made sure I wasn't left alone as they introduced me around to my classmates. Everyone - everyone - was friendly. Some of the guys were a little hesitant, but overall they treated me better than before. Many of the boys in my class had nothing to do with me in high school, because I was bookish and not athletic. I suspect they were not totally surprised by my change.

The women were just as if we had been friends forever. I sat and visited with one after another. Finally, after thirty years, I belong in the right circle of friends. I didn't want it to end.

The party broke up a little after midnight and several of us went to Shoney's, next to our motel, to continue our visit. They finally ran us out at 2:00 A.M. to close the restaurant for the night. Brian would have been asleep for three hours, but I was still wide awake. I waited until I returned to the motel room to let the tears of joy flow.

Saturday, June 11

At a late breakfast I encountered my friend Duncan, who is a physician in south Mississippi. Duncan and I played together as preschoolers. He has had an interesting and varied life himself, not going to medical school until he was nearly forty. He's also single... no, don't even think about it. We talked until nearly noon.

I made my pilgrimage to the Greenwood Odd Fellows Cemetery (love that name), where my parents and grandmother are buried. As I knelt to clean up their headstones, I imagined them smiling on their daughter and granddaughter. The thought occurred to me: I have no place to be buried. I promised myself to investigate the Odd Fellows Cemetery remaining plots sometime soon.

After a light lunch I went back to the room and soon had a visitor. It was Kaye, my ex sister in law. She and I have maintained a correspondence since I moved to Atlanta, and have resolved to remain friends no matter what the rest of the family thinks. I sent her some games for her Mac computer, and she and her children have enjoyed them greatly.

"You look good, Becky," she said as she hugged me. "But you've lost so much weight. And look -- no more beard." We talked about my changes and future plans. She was interested in the details of the surgery. "You know my parents are unlikely to ever understand." Yes, and that hurts. I love them still.

When Kaye left, it was time to get ready for the evening. We were having cocktails at another classmate's home on Grand Boulevard, Greenwood's most fashionable street. I arrived at the same time as my childhood friend Alan, who lives in Jackson and had visited me as Becky before I moved away from Mississippi. Alan and I walked in together. The magnitude of the memories was almost overwhelming. Our hostess was an old friend from elementary school. She sat with me in a corner, and we talked for so long I was sure she was being missed by her other guests.

After the cocktail party we all went to the Greenwood Country Club for the dinner dance. Many photos were taken, and I was in small and large group pictures. I have never been so much a part of the group as I am now. No, I didn't get to dance as much as I would have liked. (Translation: I didn't dance.) But that was asking a little too much of my classmates the first time. Next reunion, I'll be ready. I did, however, stay very busy talking with people I missed seeing Friday night. The dance ended with a breakfast and again I got to the room around 2:00. I'll remember the past two nights as long as I live.

Sunday, June 12

I had intended to attend church in Greenwood today, but sleeping until after ten took care of that idea. I showered, made up, and dressed casually for the drive to Jackson.

On Highway 49 and state routes 12 and 17, between Greenwood and the interstate leading to Jackson, nothing has changed in over thirty years. I could imagine myself on many previous excursions on the same route. It's still my home territory.

So is Jackson. It, however, changes each time I return: new restaurants, new shopping centers. Jackson is a standard 1990's American metropolis; you could pluck it out of Mississippi and place it in any other state without noticing the change. In many ways, that's not bad. But I'm sure old Jacksonians miss the unique regionality it once had. I found my way through the highway construction and checked into the Comfort Inn.

I called Lee Frances and confirmed our plans for supper tonight. I would pick her up around 7:30. That would give me time for a special treat.

First Baptist Church holds evening services at 6:00 on Sunday. I went for the first time as Becky. Sitting there in the midst of people I knew well, I received no looks of recognition. Goodness, I thought, I really have changed. The service was as good as always. One thing I miss about the Baptist Church is the emphasis on music. We have much less music in the Methodist Church. First Baptist has one of the best music ministries anywhere.

At the end of the service the usher in my section spoke to me. He was somone I knew well, and had sung next to him in choir. "We are so glad to have you tonight, and hope you will come back. Is this your first time here?"

"Yes, it is," I smiled.

Lee and I went to Perkins family restaurant and just enjoyed being together again after so long a time. I can't spend too much time at her place; the cats have taken it over. But I stayed until she became sleepy and then went back to the Comfort Inn.

Monday, June 13

The Comfort Inn in Pearl, Mississippi, was Spartan but adequate. They did remember my wake-up call, and they did have complimentary coffee and cereal in the lobby.

I arrived at Dr. Shell's office promptly at 8:00. His office personnel were very helpful, and I had a list of patients to be seen in the hospital. I began by reading the EKG's and echocardiograms. My professional signature looks very much like my previous one, due to the similarity of the names. It was gratifying to see it on official documents again.

The cardiopulmonary department performs the stress tests at Rankin Medical Center. I checked with Sarah, with whom I had worked in years past. She smiled and said, "It's so good to see you again, Dr. Allison." We worked well together. I am more aggressive about ordering tests than Dr. Shell is, so we had more treadmills and stress nuclear exams to perform. The hours went quickly.

Many of the floor nurses, and especially the ICU nurses, remembered me and were unanimously friendly. I wondered if the administrator had warned them to be nice. Well, if he did, it worked and I appreciate it. More likely, I think these are just good people who realize I am trying to get on with my life the best I can.

Some, but not all, of the doctors are helpful. Several of the family practicioners are consulting me immediately on their patients. Others are conspicuous by their avoidance. Overall, my first day was very pleasant.

Back at the motel I had a call from a recruiting firm. Karen, the recruiter, wanted to make me aware of an opportunity at the Trover Clinic in Madisonville, Kentucky. "It's a small town, but a very large hospital and clinic," she said. "I'd like to send you some information and arrange an interview." I agreed; it's time to extend my search outside the Southeast.

Tuesday, June 14

I believe I will earn my pay these two weeks. There are more noninvasive tests to perform than I imagined. The radiologist, Dr. Nancy Burton, has been very helpful and we have had some long friendly talks.

It would be easy to assume, "I could come back here and do well." Perhaps so; but I would encounter much more difficulty in the Jackson area than if I stay in Georgia or go somewhere new. I have a tendency to consider the place where I am at the moment as the best place on earth. Jackson has major disadvantages, and I must remain aware of them.

Tonight I spent time with Carrie and her boys. They only know me as Miss Becky, one of Mama's friends. We had a wonderful visit, which I hope will be repeated several times these two weeks.

Wednesday, June 15

I'm seeing more and more of my former colleagues. There are those who nod a silent greeting and turn away. I understand them and don't force myself on them. There are others who are very friendly and positive. Several of the family practicioners and general internists have been most accepting. I am encouraged by that, since if I did decide to practice here, I would depend on them for consults.

All the nurses, even the ones I knew before, are very accepting. So are the EKG, X-ray, and ultrasound technicians. I dropped by ultrasound as they were performing an obstetric ultrasound. Neither the technician nor the patient minded my presence as I observed the perfectly formed fetus.

Every day I give thanks that I can live publicly as the woman I have always been inside.

This afternoon I had my dental appointment with Dr. Woods, whom I haven't seen since my transition. It was another very positive experience, with an old friend relating to me in a new way. Paul Woods was gracious and friendly as I had hoped he would be. As an added bonus, I had no cavities! Now they have a record on their patient, Becky Allison, and will send me a reminder notice in six months. It sounds so insignificant, but it's major for me.

Thursday, June 16

I enjoy the measured pace of the early mornings at the Comfort Inn. The continental breakfast in the lobby is enlivened by the reactions of other guests to the news on the "Today Show" or in USA Today. I find I don't even miss reading the local Jackson paper.

Driving to Rankin Medical Center takes less than ten minutes. The morning rounds and noninvasive procedures went smoothly. Several of my patients and families have been so complimentary. They want to come to see me in my office after they are discharged, and I have to tell them I don't have an office here.

I completed several treadmill tests and read EKG's and echocardiograms, and was caught up on all my work by early afternoon. Then, still confident from my positive experiences at Rankin Medical Center and at my dentist's office, I made my first unfortunate decision of the week.

It seemed appropriate to send copies of my court order for the name change to the Jackson VA Hospital and Mississippi Baptist Medical Center, so they could legally refer to me by my new name when answering inquiries from hospitals where I might apply. I wrote cover letters to accompany the documents, and put one in the mail to the VA. But not to Baptist; I decided to carry that one personally. Maybe I would have the opportunity to visit with some friends.

I arrived a few minutes before 5:00 P.M. and delivered the document to the administrator's office. Seeing no one to visit at the hospital, I walked across the driveway to my old office building. I wanted to see my former nurse and insurance secretary. My former partner, George Reston, still didn't want to see me, so I determined just to stay in the front office area.

No sooner had I walked in than JoLynn, the office manager, took my arm. "Come outside," she said. "I need to talk with you." JoLynn is a big woman, and I'm much smaller and weaker than I once was. I went outside.

As always, JoLynn refused to refer to me by my new name. "Dr. Anderson," she began, "you can't keep coming over here like this."

"What do you mean? I haven't been here in over three months."

"You are being inconsiderate of Dr. Reston. He has told you he doesn't want to see you. He is under so much stress, seeing the patients all by himself."

Yeah, I thought, I know about his stress. The Restons overdraw the bank account every month. He has to work all the time just to break even.

Again I wondered if I should have just stayed in my corporation and refused to leave. No, I still did the right thing. Returning after seven months has made me acceptable in places where I could not have transitioned directly. On the other hand, I hadn't worked in over six months until this week. It's not a pleasure being an unemployed doctor.

Certainly, George has the right to his privacy in his office. If he doesn't want to see me, I shouldn't force myself on him. No matter what I think about his personal problems, they are real to him. I was wrong. But I was very unhappy over my treatment by JoLynn. I left without making a scene, promising myself I wouldn't return.

I was glad to get back to the motel room and take my laundry over to Carrie's as we had planned. We got a burger and fries while our clothes were washing, and enjoyed flirting with one of the single guys in Carrie's apartment complex. I find myself more comfortable in the lower middle class environment than I ever was in fashionable northeast Jackson, or "FNEJ", as one of my friends refers to the social climbing environment from which we both escaped.

Tonight I said prayers for Theresa and for Dr. Seghers, who will be doing her surgery tomorrow. Joyce should already be recovering well; her operation was Wednesday. I wished I were with her, having my surgery also.

Friday, June 17

As I showered, I knew that on the other side of the world Theresa was on the operating table. I continued praying for her safety. When I arrived at the office, I checked my E-mail and found a note from my friend "Cindy" in Brussels, giving me the phone number for the hospital. I made a credit card call and was fortunate to reach a spokesperson at Clinique Lambert who could speak English.

"Miss Kinney is resting well," the lady said. "Her surgery was just fine. She can't receive calls, but I will give her your message."

So Theresa is complete now. How happy I am for her. In February she had despaired of getting her surgery any time soon, and now she has combined her job and her loans to make her dreams come true. She will be so happy when she returns to Atlanta.

When will I have my surgery? It could be December; but what if I don't start a practice until September? I can't ask an employer to let me take a month off so soon after beginning. It could be mid-1995 before I get time off.

On the other hand... what if I get work someplace where they know my history and are accepting? Suppose I did start with Gene Shell. Suppose Gene wanted to take off around Christmas and New Years. Suppose I could get Dr. Powell to write my surgery letter a month early... late October or early November. Then I could be recovered and back at work by Christmas.

Suppose I get to work and stop dwelling on this.

It was another nice, steady day. A treadmill stress test. Several EKG's and a consult. Six echoes. Two discharges and the paperwork they generate. Lunch in the doctors' lounge. Then I drove over to Jackson for an hour of electrolysis at the Gregory System office. My dear friend, Sandra, is moving from Jackson to Gulfport with her husband's job. She is going to open another Gregory System office there. For now she and her staff will keep a record on me here in Jackson and treat me when I am here. I loved visiting with Sandra and her technician, Valerie, who treated me for an hour. We made another appointment for next Wednesday.

Tonight I stayed in the motel room and made a sandwich. I'm being very frugal these days. Working on my journal kept me occupied for several hours. I had another E mail from Cindy in Belgium, saying she visited Theresa and Joyce and they were both doing well. Around the world, bound together by our common gender conflict, we all find comfort and companionship.

In many ways, Cindy has a more difficult life than I do. She is as gender conflicted as I am, but has been able to keep her marriage together thus far. Neither she, her spouse, or anyone else knows how long it will last. Perhaps it will last a lifetime, but I wouldn't wager on it.

Saturday, June 18

I didn't set the alarm today, and woke up at 8:30 feeling very refreshed. At the Waffle House across the road from the motel, I had my ususal coffee and pecan waffle, as I do in Atlanta. The morning rounds and EKG's at the hospital took only an hour and a half.

I visited with Carrie briefly. She made a major life decision yesterday: she is not remarrying at this time. I am so pleased. Her boyfriend is an unreformed alcoholic who wrecked his pickup last year and almost died. He was too drunk to remember it. She thought he would stay sober after the incident, but he was back drinking within weeks. In addition, he is insanely jealous of her even speaking to other men. Carrie can do so much better.

Her other major decision was to leave the cardiology office and get a much better job with another medical group in town. The cardiology situation had become unbearable since I left, with constant bickering from two of the other women making it miserable for everyone. So Carrie's life is changing for the better. I'm so proud of her.

I found myself with a free afternoon and evening. I spent it doing two things just for myself.

First, again supposing I might find myself back in Jackson working at Rankin Medical Center, I knew where I would want to live. I had seen advertisements for "The Gardens at Country Place," a group of garden homes just one exit on the interstate from the hospital. I went to investigate and was given a tour by the realtor. The homes are just the right size and price for a single person, and I have quite a selection from which to choose.

Then I played small-town girl and went to the minor league baseball game between the Jackson Generals and the Arkansas Travelers. I've always enjoyed sitting in the bleachers with a hot dog or pizza slice and cheering the home team. Twelve years of watching Mark play baseball really made me a fan. I was right at home in my T-shirt and shorts.

Life can be so much less complicated than we insist on making it.

Lloyd Cole, my friend from Dallas, called tonight; he and Connie are visiting his mother in a small town near Jackson. We made plans to meet for supper tomorrow night at Amerigo.

Sunday, June 19

Today I wore my new ecru linen shirtdress to church at Galloway Memorial, the downtown Methodist church in Jackson. I loved the service; the minister preached on Jesus's calming the storm and the disciples' question, "Master, don't you care?" I saw quite a few familiar faces from my past life, but didn't try to make any contact. The two ladies on my pew were so kind to me. They asked me to go to dinner with them in the Fellowship Hall after church, so I had an even better experience than I anticipated. One of the ladies may be able to get me a ticket to the International Ballet Competition which begins this week at the Jackson Civic Auditorium. It's an event of great international prestige, held here every four years as one of four worldwide permanent sites. Jackson ranks with Paris and St Petersburg, Russia.

I finished work, freshened up, and met Lloyd and Connie at Amerigo, one of my favorite Italian restaurants. We had a wonderful visit and enjoyed our meal. Lloyd and I interned in Dallas together over twenty years ago, and he remained there to practice. He has been very ill with Crohn's disease and hasn't worked in months: just one more common ground for us. "This is obviously the right choice for you, Becky," he volunteered.

Afterward I drove over to Madison to visit my friend Donna, a nurse who is overseeing a home health service. Donna and I had much to talk about too; she was anxious to hear about my prospects for work. I wish I had a definite answer for her. I stayed till midnight before returning to the motel.

Monday, June 20

I discharged two of my three patients today, and was very pleased that they both were so complimentary of my care. They wanted to see me in my office. It was very hard to tell them I don't have an office, since I am only here for two weeks.

In that regard, I had a meeting with the administrator of Rankin Medical Center. He had received good reports about my work so far, and personally he would have not problem with my working there. But they have already begun negotiating with both large Jackson cardiology groups about opening a satellite office there. He urged me to talk to the primary care doctors and find out their feelings toward my rejoining the staff. I'll try to work up enough courage to do that.

At lunch I met with two more of my friends from high school; or at least they would have been true friends, had I been in my true gender. Even so, Hannah and Mary Frances were as natural in their friendship as if it had always been so. We had salads at Nick's, one of my favorite Jackson restaurants.

I picked up Lee and we went to Perkins for supper. I enjoyed staying at her place for about an hour afterwards; then I returned to the motel and went to bed early.

Tuesday, June 21

I entered the room where I saw several of my family members. My aunt Doris, Daddy's sister, was sitting on a sofa with her daughters, my cousins Julie and Jill. They were looking at boxes of old pictures.

I knelt by them at the end of the sofa and smiled as Doris was saying, "Look how pretty Julie was. And there's Fred..." The smiles vanished as they looked at me. Then, with injured, scornful looks, they turned back to their pictures and ignored me.

I was crushed. What could I do? The only thing I ever do to end a bad dream. I woke up. I was back in the Comfort Inn and it was 4:30 A.M.

Julie's husband, Fred, had been my patient in Jackson. His cardiac problems had been stable and well controlled, but a few months before I left, he developed stomach cancer. I prayed for him often, and longed to know how he was doing; but I didn't want to contact Julie and risk upsetting her at a difficult time.

I had talked to Doris, and seen Jill personally before I left, but neither of them had replied to my Christmas cards or personal notes since I moved to Atlanta. I felt that I was no longer part of their lives. My other Mississippi relatives had also failed to keep in touch.

I lay in bed and cried. Oh, how I miss my family. Soon my sobs changed into a soft plea for Sheryl and Mark. "Lord," I prayed, "I miss them so. And I miss you, Lord. Are you with me? Please let me feel your love."

From somewhere a Bible verse was instantly in my thoughts. I hadn't read or thought of it in some time. Hebrews 11:1 says, "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." Yes. Please strengthen my faith so I may be sure of what I hope for.

I had a wonderful hour at noon with my friend at First Baptist Church, Ron Mumbower. For a Baptist minister he is remarkably comfortable with me. Of course he is also a Ph.D. psychologist and professional counselor. He has made the adaptation to relating to me totally as Becky better than any of the other Baptist ministers I know. We discussed my plans for work and surgery.

The rest of the day was as pleasant as the first six work days have been. So many of the nurses and allied health personnel have told me they would love for me to work at Rankin full time. I have yet to hear it from many of the physicians, however. One good friend, and welcome confidante, is Nancy Burton, the radiologist. All the emergency physicians have been very accepting, even Jason Cooke, whom I have known since college. He laughed as he said, "It's difficult calling you Rebecca after all these years, but I'm making progress."

Tonight after work I met Arnie Richards for drinks at Mik and Mot's, a pub at the site of the old Jackson Bar and Grill. Arnie is another long time friend from college. He plays trumpet in a local band that does 1960's retro rock for old fogies like me, and had seen me at the Greenwood Country Club. I sat in the lounge in my red flowered sundress, observing several persons I had known before. If they only knew.

Wednesday, June 22

Today's interesting event begged to be shared with someone, but I kept it to myself. I was seeing a new patient in consultation. The man was being evaluated for chest pain, and he had had coronary bypass surgery a year and a half ago. I thought he looked vaguely familiar.

"Who did your surgery?" I asked as part of my routine history. "Dr. McMullan," his wife replied. "And the doctor who did his heart catheterization... it wasn't Dr. Reston. It was the doctor who used to be his partner... you know... the one that.. that... CHANGED SEX!"

I didn't miss a penstroke as I continued taking notes. Not a smile or a choked back laugh, just a murmured "Imagine that" as I kept writing. But I won't forget the moment. Obviously she made no connection between me and that person she had so much trouble mentioning. Life has its amusing moments.

I had another electrolysis at Gregory System Jackson this afternoon. All my support network would be in place if I really decided to move back.

Tonight I saw Carrie for the last time before I leave. She has already made the change from the cardiology office to GI Associates and is so happy with her new work environment. I'm delighted for her.

One of my recruiters called the motel with news of a great practice opportunity in Nacogdoches, Texas. I don't know if I can practice in a place I can't pronounce, but I agreed to let her arrange an interview and contact me after my return to Atlanta.

Thursday, June 23

I busied myself with hospital duties all day, staying in for lunch and watching the continuing drama of the O.J. Simpson case on the doctor's lounge television. It's nice to have a common topic of discussion with everyone else which doesn't involve me personally.

Tonight I had dinner at the Clinton home of Alan and Kay Vance. Alan, my best friend from high school, has always understood me better than most. He visited with me before I ever left Jackson last fall, and was absolutely convinced of the rightness of my course. We remembered our friend Tommy. The three of us spent much time together in early high school years. Tommy had gone with me on double dates and had been the drum major in our band.

At our fifteen year high school reunion I saw Tommy for the first time since we went to separate colleges. I attended with Sheryl and Mark, who was six at the time. Tommy attended with Bob, his "significant other". At the time his appearance caused tongues to wag. Everyone was laughing about Tommy being the "most changed" of our class. I remained silent. My feeling was, "what courage". I had no such courage to reveal my deepest thoughts.

And now that I do have that courage, now that all my classmates see me as I really am, Tommy is not here to share the moment. He died of AIDS in 1989. I never told him of my understanding and acceptance. How I wish I could have.

After a long and delightful evening's visit, Alan walked me out to my car and gave me a long hug as we said goodbye. How wonderful it is to have lifelong friends.

Friday, June 24

I packed and checked out of the Comfort Inn after my last "continental breakfast" of coffee and Raisin Bran. At work I was able to wrap up the consultations on most of my patients, leaving just three for Gene to see over the weekend. I had to call George Reston about one patient, and our conversation on the phone was businesslike and pleasant.

Several of the doctors who avoided speaking to me at first were more friendly. Perhaps they knew I would be out of their lives soon! At any rate, they wished me well and hoped my two weeks had been pleasant.

I said my goodbyes to Gene's office staff, whom I believe really enjoyed working with me. I left Gene a typed note and told him about his patients. I repeated my feeling that I could work with him, and left the decision to pursue the possibility up to him. Then I returned to Interstate 20, my home for the next six hours. I arrived in Atlanta around 12:30 A.M. and crawled into bed without waking Margaux or Gail.

Saturday, June 25

No alarms this morning; I awoke at 10:00 feeling much better. While unpacking and having breakfast, I listened to the news of the past two weeks. Both Margaux and Gail were in a state of job change, with some of the pressures of work outweighing the relatively low pay. Margaux is making some progress on updating her computer equipment so she can resume her design projects.

Theresa and Joyce are returning from Belgium on Monday night. I will be arriving from Kentucky about an hour before their flight lands, so I will remain at the airport and meet Margaux there at the international gate to welcome them back.

I started Tai Chi II this afternoon and was pleased to see I remembered my routine from the introductory course. Perhaps these eight weeks will give me a full 24 movement form. Afterward I drove to Windy Hill for group therapy. It was pleasant to see everyone after an absence of several weeks. I entertained them with my stories of work and play in Jackson.

Afterwards Dr. Powell wanted to see me. We discussed my disability claim, and he was very helpful with his words to the insurance company. More importantly, he agreed with me that my work experience was great proof of my ability to live and work in the female role for the rest of my life. He is going to agree to write my letter for surgery earlier than December, and he is sure his partner Dr. Mauger will be willing to confirm a second opinion.

When I returned home I sat at the word processor and composed a letter to Dr. Schrang, telling him I am ready to set a date for my surgery in late October or early November. I requested augmentation mammoplasty in addition to the male to female sex reassignment surgery.

My operation is coming, sooner than I thought. I am overwhelmed with joy and excitement. Life is working out!

Sunday, June 26

Today would be a travel day. I attended church and Sunday School, then returned for lunch with Margaux and Gail before packing my bag and driving to the airport. We made plans to meet at the airport late Monday night to greet Theresa and Joyce as they arrived from Belgium.

The Trover Clinic had supplied me with airline tickets and an itinerary for my visit in Madisonville. The flight from Atlanta to Evansville, Indiana, on a turboprop airplane was not as bumpy as I feared. In Evansville I rented an automobile and drove across the Ohio River and down the Pennyrile Parkway to Madisonville. (I still don't know what Pennyrile means.)

The Days' Inn was comfortable if not luxurious. There was a complimentary fruit basket for me, as well as an envelope with instructions for my meetings on Monday. I had dinner in the hotel restaurant and relaxed until bedtime.

Monday, June 27

A representative from Trover Clinic arrived promptly at 8:00 and took me to breakfast at Shoney's before we began our day of interviews. I met with both the staff cardiologists and toured the cardiac facilities at Regional Medical Center. Interviews followed with the hospital administrator, the CEO, the Medical Director, and the Director of Recruitment.

I was also able to tour the community and see many of the residential areas. As expected, a facility with so many health professionals produces many fine residences. I was sure I could find something to my liking.

The facility is very impressive. It is unheard of for a town of 20,000 to have such a medical center with a 400 bed hospital and over 100 physicians on staff. There are no physicians in town who are not affiliated with the Clinic.

At the end of the interview process, the woman who is Director of Recruitment talked with me at length. She told me everyone was most impressed with me and would most likely consider me their first choice for an offer.

I assured her I was very strongly considering their offer, and I felt I could work well with the doctors. I told her I had an interview in Nacogdoches before I could make up my mind, and was not quite ready yet to decide.

I then felt motivated to share with her what I had not discussed with anyone else. "May I know you will hold this in confidence?" I asked. She agreed. I began by saying, "I am aware I have good credentials. You may think they are even more remarkable when I tell you I have achieved this record under a tremendous handicap. I lived most of my life with the burden of knowing the gender of my upbringing... the male gender... was wrong for me."

I briefly described my struggle and saw her sympathetic response. "I want to assure you," she replied, "this has no effect on our consideration of you as a physician. I agree with you that it is not relevant to your present status as a good and desirable physician. And I can assure you it will remain in our confidence."

As I drove back to Evansville for the flight home, I felt that finally I had one workable situation. Madisonville would be very rural for someone used to Atlanta, but I have lived in smaller places. I would pour myself into my work and be very happy.

I arrived at the Atlanta airport and made my way to the gate where Theresa's flight would soon land. Margaux and Gail soon appeared, as did Sam, Joyce's boyfriend. Finally the plane taxied to the gate and we stood, nervously giggling and waiting.

And here they were! Joyce gave hugs to us three before landing in Sam's arms. Theresa moved more slowly; she had a catheter concealed under her clothes. She looked marvelous nevertheless, and had a tremendous smile. Gail was as excited as a child on Christmas morning. Margaux and I were a little more restrained but our hugs were no less heartfelt.

Back home it was "show and tell" time. Even at that early date I could tell Theresa had an excellent surgical result. The catheter was left in because Theresa coughed her packing loose and had to be repacked. ("See? I told you to stop smoking," I chided.) I would remove it in a few days and remove her sutures in about a week. It was my contribution to her recovery.

It was very late indeed before we all finally slept.

Tuesday, June 28

Fortunately, my electrolysis appointment was at 1:00 P.M. rather than earlier. I couldn't wait to fill Barbara in on all the details of my trip. It's a wonder we got any electrolysis done. She was proud of my appearance at the reunion, and intrigued by my visit to Kentucky. Like me, she wonders about my being happy in such a small town. Of course, I have to go where the opportunities are. There may not be another one. And Nacogdoches (I looked it up) is as small as Madisonville.

Wednesday, June 29

I had a call from Bob Egan, an internist here in Roswell. He isn't really looking for a permanent associate, but he knew I was doing some locum tenens and wanted to know if I would be interested in helping him out when his partner goes on vacation later. We had a very friendly visit, interrupted by a tornado warning that sent us all down to the basement of his office building. The weather in Georgia is getting really bad. But the storm passed us by and the rest of the day was cooler and pleasant.

Thursday, June 30

Dr. Schrang's office is quite prompt. I received a letter from his office manager, confirming that they have scheduled my surgery for Thursday, November 3. I will plan to arrive in Neenah on Tuesday and rest before my appointment in his office early Wednesday afternoon, then check into the hospital.

My date is set. Oh, this is such a milestone. Margaux, Theresa, and Gail were thrilled with me and we made a "countdown calendar" for the refrigerator door.

Not even the call from the recruiter who sent me to Waco could dampen my enthusiasm. He told me Dr. Robertson wanted to continue interviewing other candidates. The truth is, I didn't intend to go to Waco anyway, because the competitive situation between groups was too unpleasant. And now I have a good alternative in Kentucky. The best may still be yet to come.

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