The Real Life Test

Chapter Fourteen
The Completion

November 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

Tuesday, November 1

We've been here almost a month, and now it's time to pay the November rent. Margaux has been able to hold up her part of the finances, thanks to payments from her clients in Atlanta. She's getting a bit nervous, though, since those may not last much longer. She has started looking for temporary positions here until her free lance work is much more steady.

We drove to Southwest Phoenix to the Unisource warehouse, where she was able to get samples of many kinds of paper. This was most helpful for her as she gives specific recommendations to printers.

I did a drive-by on my office and hospital, to show her where I will be working, and to solidify the driving route in my mind. The trip home, in heavy traffic, took twelve minutes. I can live with that!

I bought a rump roast and put in in the slow cooker, after rubbing it in my usual spice mixture. I use Cavender's Greek Seasoning; lemon pepper; and a package of onion-mushroom dry soup mix. I also cut up a clove of garlic and stud the pieces throughout the roast. This one came out better than any previous one.

Wednesday, November 2

Every Wednesday is the day the Arizona Board takes phone calls related to the status of applications for medical licensure. I finally got through the busy signals and found a very friendly clerk.

Unfortunately, "friendly" did not mean "good news". At least Mississippi did comply with my urgent request; they have all the information they need from the Mississippi State Board of Medical Licensure. The problem is Georgia. They still have heard nothing from Georgia.

I asked, "Don't you have enough, knowing that I have a current license in another state?"

"No, I'm sorry," she replied, "but we need written confirmation from every state in which you are now licensed."

Oh well, maybe I'm not physically ready to return to work yet anyway.

I called the Georgia Board of Medical Examiners. Finally I found a live person to answer me. Her name was Jessica. She assured me, if I had sent a request, it had been received. "We just mailed out a stack of verifications," she volunteered. "I can't find out if yours was among them, but your board in Arizona should be receiving it in just a few days."

I had to trust her for now. It's so frustrating, knowing I could be back at work and reducing my financial burden. I hate having to deplete my I.R.A., but I have no choice.

Later this afternoon we drove to the northern part of the city, around some of the North Mountain preserve, at the Thunderbird Road area. There are so many things we haven't explored yet, even here in Maricopa County. I'll just use this time of enforced inactivity to do some of them.

Thursday, November 3

I made a pleasant discovery today. During the past couple of years, I had purchased three or four "bodysuits" consisting of a tight fitting shirt, fastening at the crotch, with a little Lycra to make it stretch over the curves. The only problem was, I never had any curves for them to fit over. Now I do. And the bodysuits look teriffic! Margaux agreed I had good new leisuretime outfits.

We unpacked more boxes and I finally found the box from the laundry room containing the tools. Now I could hang pictures and mirrors. I spent the mid-afternoon writing letters to Kristin in Milwaukee, and to my cousin Shirley in Oklahoma, whom I have not contacted since I started my transition. The time just never felt right until now. I hope she is receptive to my story.

At 5:30 I had my hour of electrolysis downtown. It's so refreshing to be able to get anywhere in such a short time. When I started electrolysis, I was driving three hours from Jackson to New Orleans. Then in Atlanta, the drive to Barbara's office took forty-five minutes. Now I can get to Gregory System Phoenix in fifteen.

Friday, November 4

I tried to hide my anxiety over the possibility of a call from the office telling me to report for work on Monday. Part of me is so ready to start; but my good sense tells me I need one more week to recuperate.

I wrote more letters today, to Sheryl's sister Kaye, and to their mother. I hope to stay in communication with the whole family if possible.

In mid-afternoon the phone started ringing. The first call was Angela, calling from Charlotte to tell me the good and bad news.

The good news: the condominium has sold already, so we don't have to worry about continuing those payments. The bad news: we were lucky to get an offer on it, and Angela felt it best to take the offer which would not give us much of our equity back. With the required repairs before we could close the sale, we were lucky to get away without paying extra ourselves. Oh well, at least it's over.

The second call was from Chris at the recruitment office. "Hi, Dr. Allison," cheery as always. "Let's just plan on your starting November 14. I feel your license will be ready by then, but it isn't yet."

So Georgia did not yet come through. I have to wait till next Wednesday to find out if they send their information. At least I do get that extra week of rest. I hung a few pictures, and my bathroom mirror, and rested this evening.

Saturday, November 5

Some days are better than others. I don't know what was wrong today, but I felt lousy. My head hurt, I had nausea and aching all over, and I just wanted to cry. I took a Darvocet for the first time since we moved.

My feelings weren't helped by the fact that Margaux's driver's license arrived and mine didn't. Oh, I was happy for her. But I couldn't escape the paranoid thought that they might be giving me a hard time over the "M" on my Georgia license, even though I explained it to the clerk and showed him my letter from Dr. Schrang.

Margaux knew how to make me feel better. "Come on, let's get out for a few hours. I want to go to Taliesin West."

We both wanted to go to Taliesin West, the winter home and office of the great architect, the late Frank Lloyd Wright. We had read so much about its design, how it blended into the desert landscape, how it contrasted with Taliesin in Wisconsin, his summer office.

Margaux drove the short distance over to Scottsdale, and we found Taliesin West without difficulty. The view from the foothills was breathtaking, looking over the entire East Valley. We strolled the grounds a little and then found ourselves in the gift shop.

Disappointment: the young man conducting the guided tour announced that this afternoon's tour was already filled, and there were no more tickets available. This was bad news, not only for us, but for several other visitors who were from far away.

On an impulse, we remained in the gift shop for about fifteen minutes, browsing. Margaux bought a sun visor and a refrigerator magnet. Then an elderly man entered the shop and announced, "I will lead an extra tour this afternoon."

And what a tour it was. The gentleman was over eighty, but quite fit and healthy. He led us on a tour of Frank Lloyd Wright's office, conference rooms, and theater. Apparently Mr. Wright's youngest daughter was a playwright, and he built the theater strictly to produce her plays.

We learned that our guide was a retired physician. He had had an internal medicine practice in Scottsdale, but his main role was to be Frank Lloyd Wright's personal physician. He lived at Taliesin with the rest of the architects and designers, and had become quite accomplished at computer design himself. In fact, we got to view a film featuring animation he had created.

Someone who is a doctor and a computer graphic designer. Both our professions in one person. This was too cool to be true.

It got more interesting. We found that the doctor's name was Roark. Why was that interesting? Here's why...

Margaux's middle name is Ayn, after Ayn Rand. The great author was a friend of Frank Lloyd Wright, and a character in some of her novels was modeled after Mr. Wright. The character's name was Harold Roark.

When we introduced ourselves after the tour, Margaux gave Dr. Roark one of her business cards. He looked at it and smiled. "Margaux Ann?" He was teasing her.

"No, Margaux AYN," she corrected. "As in Ayn Rand."

"Yes," he smiled. "Well, I'm Harold Roark's son." He knew that we knew what he meant.

We enjoyed talking with him for several more minutes, and told him we would love to hear from him again.

The route home was another breathtaking drive back into the Arizona sunset. We looked over saguaros and palm trees at the mountains to the west, seeing the pinks and yellow-blues deepen and become bronze. I forgot all about my headache.

Sunday, November 6

The clock read 7:30 when I awoke without an alarm. Plenty of time to get to church by 9:30, I thought. If I don't shower, that is. I was right: with dilatation and a light breakfast, I had time just to sponge off.

I wore my black Santa Fe shirtdress with an accent pin on the lapel. "You look great," Margaux said as she viewed me through one open eye. I set the alarm for 10:00 so she could watch David Brinkley.

I was a little nervous as I pulled into the parking lot of North Phoenix Baptist Church. I've heard of this church in the past; they are a strong Southern Baptist church, and that sometimes means ultra conservative. But I really wanted to examine the possibility of returning to my Baptist roots.

The building looks rather new. It's very large and built much like Roswell United Methodist, with the sanctuary a half-round space. There are balconies and it looks like it could seat about 2000. The choir is large, although not as large as First Baptist of Jackson.

When we began singing, I saw large video screens on each side of the pulpit which cast the words for everyone to see. There were several new choruses. One was taken from 1 Corinthians 10:13, and contained the refrain:

"God will make a way
where there seems to be no way.
He has ways I cannot see,
He will make a way for me."

I felt a lump in my throat. For years I had struggled with this verse. I prayed, "God, please give me a way out of this problem." I thought He would relieve me of the urge to crossdress or to become a woman. But He never did. Even after I accepted the fact that God had allowed this transsexualism in my life, for His own reasons, I had trouble with the fact that He never answered my prayer.

Recently, however, after returning from surgery, I had been praying, and without thinking of that verse, I prayed, "Lord, thank you for giving me this way out of my dilemma..." and then I just gasped when I realized what I had said. He DID answer my prayer. He answered it years later, by allowing me to complete my gender transition.

The issue is so complicated, with the effects of my transition on my loved ones and others. Pain and suffering is never God's will. But through it, He stays with us. He has sustained Sheryl and Mark in way different from His care for me. But all our prayers will be answered, sometimes in surprising ways.

This afternoon we went to several electronics stores, to get some ideas and prices on various pieces of equipment, such as cellular phones and boom boxes. I will soon want to get a CD changer for our component system, since Theresa kept hers when we moved. I also looked at CD storage towers, and found a good one for 240 discs at Best Buy.

Back home I prepared my stroganoff recipe. It's a favorite of us both, and we enjoyed the supper despite a collect call from Joe, back in Atlanta, which upset Margaux's otherwise very good day.

Monday, November 7

I was up early to let the repairman in. He replaced the faucet on Margaux's tub and fixed the rear burners on our stove. After he left, I was dilating when we heard a knock on the door.

Margaux went to answer it, and found the postal delivery woman. She had a certified letter for me.

At first I was excited: My Arizona license? But the excitement quickly vanished when I saw the return address: yet another law firm from Jackson.

It's another claim against me, from the family of an elderly man in whom I implanted a pacemaker. The man did just fine, as I remember. I have no idea what their complaint is.

I called Dale and faxed him a copy of the claim. He assured me he would forward in to Medical Assurance Company. He agreed with me that it is open season on me from any of my patients who see my well-known gender change as an excuse to get a little easy money.

After a while, you get so many black clouds over you, you don't even notice another one. I didn't become upset over this one. I just let Dale and the insurance company take it from here.

This afternoon we went to the State Capitol building for Margaux to register her trademark "Graphic Intelligence" so it would be protected here in Arizona. The procedure went smoothly and she was very pleased.

Tonight I prepared my fassolakia vegetable stew to complement my stroganoff and English pie. As I finished my supper, I realized I had really settled in to Phoenix. Even the waiting period has helped me learn the city, and recuperate much better.

Tuesday, November 8

Finally, the postalperson brings a little good news. My mail today included my Arizona driver's license, with the coveted "F" finally securely in place. This license is good until age 60, when I have to be re-examined. So my license expires in 2006, and Margaux's expires in 2019. I love this place. My photo looks quite good also, so I have the necessary photo I.D. to transact business.

The mail also brought my check from J. C. Bradford. I had asked Dave to withdraw enough from my I.R.A. to meet my expenses. At least I had money to send to Sheryl. Now I have enough to last through December, and I know by that time I'll be getting regular paychecks.

Today was election day, and we went to our polling place. We have only been here six weeks, but we already know more about Arizona politics than many long time residents. It helps our sense of belonging to the community.

Wednesday, November 9

As soon as the local offices opened for business, I was on the phone to the Arizona Board of Medical Examiners, or "BOMEX" as they are kwn locally. "Dr. Allison, we are still missing the verification of your licensure from Georgia." I was so disappointed. I was sure Georgia would have followed up after my phone conversation of last week.

I called again. The person I spoke to previously "no longer works with us," said the voice. I was put through to a Mrs. Austin.

"I sent you a request in August, and it was not answered. Then in October the Arizona Board notified me you are the only hold-up in my obtaining an Arizona license. I sent you a request by FedEx. Why cannot we get this resolved?"

"Well.. if you sent a request, I'm sure we answered it." What a typical bureaucratic answer.

"But you DIDN"T. They never received it in Arizona. Can't you please help me?" I was almost in tears.

She promised to send another verification to Arizona "as soon as I can".

I was so depressed. Dianna called a few minutes later, after talking to BOMEX. She said, "Don't worry; if you have called Georgia, then you have done all you can do. Follow up with them in a few days."

By the time the mail ran, and there was nothing from Georgia about my automobile title, I was ready to blow the whole state up and just repeat Sherman's scorched earth all the way from the Chattahoochee to the Savannah.

A call to the Department of Motor Vehicles did settle me down a little. "Yes, ma'am," the clerk said. "We approved that title this week, and you should be receiving it within seven to ten days." I'll believe it when I see it.

I tried to hide my upset from Margaux, who is so nervous about her appointment with McTemps tomorrow. She wants very much to make a good impression.

I spent time by the pool, studying for the SPEX exam I must take in December to get my permanent license. I don't really expect any trouble with the exam, but I will try to prepare myself as well as possible. Then I went into the exercise room and had my first workout in nearly two years. Well, not really a workout. Three minutes each on the stair climber and Lifecycle. It was enough to get me panting. Goodness, I'm out of shape. But after a few weeks it will improve greatly.

For supper I had scrambled eggs with fresh mushrooms and Swiss cheese, accompanied by the ever present glass of cranberry juice.

Tonight I worked on an article for Lee's Grace and Lace Letter. This article will discuss "rest" and trusting in God to give us a way out of our difficulties. I think I have some very pertinent experience to share.

Thursday, November 10

In medical school we learned about "phantom limb" phenomenon, seen in persons who have lost an arm or leg. For no discernible reason, they suddenly feel a pain, or an itching sensation, in their "foot." But the foot isn't there. The nerves that begin in the spinal cord are still partially there, however, and they send some confusing signals to the brain.

I think you can guess the point of this discussion.

I'll be standing or walking, minding my own business, and abruptly feel a sharp, fleeting pain. For forty years that pain meant: my scrotum is getting pinched. Now I think, "Wow, I know where that used to be," and reach down to rub my... labia majora. "So that's where it is now."

I never said it was boring.

Margaux had an important appointment at the McTemps agency, and after I delivered her to the office, I shopped around Camelback Road. Victoria's Secret in Biltmore Fashion Park was having a two-for-one bra sale. I found the satin wireless bras in black and ivory. I'm now a perfect 36C in their bras.

I found the right cellular telephone at Choice Cellular. They have an agreement with my company which will give me a big price break on their monthly fees. As soon as I get my identification card, I will return for a purchase. I noticed the salesman's Sigma Chi ring.

"My son is a Sigma Chi," I remarked.

He really appreciated my noticing. "Which chapter?"

"Ole Miss." This impressed him greatly; I knew Mark's chapter has always been one of the best in the nation.

"John and I," pointing to the other salesman, "were in Sigma Chi at UA." He gave me his card and told me he would look forward to seeing me again.

After a few more errands, I rested at Coffee Plantation with a cappucino until Margaux paged me to pick her up. She was very pleased with her interview, and will return Monday for free training in some of the application like Quark in which she needs to update.

We made one more stop on the way home. In one of my less sensible moments, I had promised myself I would be recovered enough to participate in the New Times running and walking races to be held in downtown Phoenix this Sunday. I stopped at Runner's Den and registered for the 5K walk. This will be a great confidence builder, and I know I can do it.

Back at the apartments, I talked Margaux into going to the exercise room with me. I did a little more on the stairclimber and Lifecycle, and began to do a few of the exercises on the Universal gym. This worked up an appetite, and we made a quick Alfredo pasta from our Lipton's mix.

Tonight was not a movie night. I got to bed early in order to have an early morning to call the Georgia licensure board again tomorrow.

Friday, November 11

All for naught: I called Georgia at 10:00 Eastern time and got their "we're closed" message. At first I thought it was a mistake, but as I was getting ready to redial I remembered the date: November 11, Veterans' Day. A federal and state holiday. So it will be Monday before I can talk to Ms. Austin.

Rats. I guess I haven't completely learned my lesson on patience yet.

So, with no pressing demands on my time today, I relaxed. I tried to be a little more creative with dilatation, adding a little light clitoral stimulation. The feeling is definitely pleasant, but no fireworks yet. Maybe later.

I prepared my poppyseed chicken recipe and put it in the refrigerator for supper tonight. Then we drove over to Metrocenter for the three dollar matinee of "Stargate."

Saturday, November 12

My first memory of today was an unusual event for Phoenix: rain. It awakened me around 3:00 A.M. There was no thunder, just a moderate downpour, for about twenty minutes. I dropped back off to sleep, thinking it seemed like my Southeastern home.

When two people share an apartment, they eventually discuss every topic they know. Margaux shared with me her anxieties over finding enough work in Phoenix after her Atlanta jobs run out. I, in turn, talked about things I didn't even share with my therapists, such as anger. I have felt some anger during this transition, towards persons who persistently refuse to try to understand. Persons who knew me well enough to know I'm a decent, serious person, not doing this for fun. Persons who should have had more sympathy.

Persons like George Reston, my former partner. And, at least in earlier months, Sheryl Anderson, my former wife.

But I've gotten over the anger, I think. It's just therapeutic to be able to share that I even felt it.

One phone call and one letter brightened my mid-day. The phone call was from Gail in Atlanta. She and Elena are flying to Brussels tonight. She wanted me to get in touch with Cindy in Belgium, or as she put it, "that man who came over to the house," and ask Cindy to contact her at her hotel. I assured her I would. Then I described my surgery a little for her and listened to her squeal in envy. Miss Gail. Her time will come.

The letter was from Kaye, Sheryl's sister, and the one person from my family who has totally and without reservation accepted me. It was so good to catch up on her family news. If only everyone else felt as she does.

This evening I went to the pre-race Pasta Bash at the Arizona Center. This is a wonderful downtown shopping area, filled with small boutiques and restaurants. The pasta bash is a complimentary supper for participants in tomorrow's races. I met several women who were doing the 5K walk. After a plate of ziti, salad, and bread, I strolled the shops until about eight o'clock, then came back for an early bedtime.

Sunday, November 13

5:30?? That's too early. I stayed in bed until 6:00, since I wasn't showering first. I had a little coffee and juice, then spent a few minutes on my hair and face. It would be chilly this early. I pulled on some silk leggings under my jogging suit, and wore my New Times Phoenix 10K T-shirt.

I parked at Park Central Mall and caught the shuttle with dozens of other runners. We made it to the staging area in plenty of time. I walked to the starting line and did warmup exercises and a little T'ai Chi.

The first race was the one mile fun run, followed by the 5K run. Then it was our turn for the 5K walk. I stood in the middle of Third Avenue with hundreds of other walkers, ready for the gun.

When the walk began, my usual pace was good enough to keep me in the middle of the pack. Numerous walkers passed me during the first mile and a half, but I resisted the temptation to pick up the pace. The neighborhoods were beautiful, and people were out watching and encouraging us.

There was entertainment along the way. Clowns, jugglers, live bands, even a troupe of belly dancers as we turned onto Central Avenue at the two mile mark. I felt my second wind and slipped out of my jacket, tying it around my waist.

And there was the finish line. I had made it, walking 5K in under fifty minutes. Not bad for someone who had major surgery a month ago, and had not trained. I was pleased to reach a personal goal.

The after-race goodies from sponsors included coffee, Evian water, frozen fruit bars, hot dogs, chips and salsa, cookies, and Powerbar candy. I indulged for about thirty minutes, then made my way to the shuttle, my car, and home.

Margaux was up, watching "This Week with David Brinkley." I shared my goodies with her, and she listened to my account of the race. We had a good lunch with the leftover poppyseed chicken and salad.

She was impressed with my walking, and wanted us to go for a walk later in the afternoon. I was feeling fine. The soreness I expected had not struck - at least not yet. We drove to the intersection of Northern and Central, and parked there.

The one mile walk down Central to Glendale passed orange and olive trees in the front yards of beautiful homes. It was shady and a dirt path had been reserved for walkers and joggers. We returned down the same side of the street and felt very refreshed.

No one had to rock me to sleep tonight! I was gone when my head hit the pillow. Margaux had to stay up late, getting ready for Monday's training period at McTemps. .

Monday, November 14

Ouch. Ouch. Ouch!! Every muscle from my hips on down is sore. I believe I overdid the walking yesterday.

I couldn't tell myself not to be nervous as I dialed Atlanta. Finally Mrs. Austin was on the line. "Oh, hello, Dr. Allison. Yes, I had your verification sent out last Wednesday, right after we spoke. Let me verify that... (pause), yes, it was sent in Wednesday's mail."

What a relief. Now if it is received promptly, I should be back at work soon.

Sure enough, Dianna called before noon with the good news. "We just heard from BOMEX. Your verification arrived and they have assigned you temporary license number 2576, good through February 28. Now we can process your paperwork and have you working within a day or two."

Perhaps this frustration is nearly at an end. Now I need my car title from Georgia, so I can get my Arizona tag. It still hasn't arrived. I also need resolution on these two legal matters back in Mississippi. Dale wrote me and told me the name of another attorney who would be working on the second case with me. He will be calling me soon. I wish it would be today, so I could go ahead and talk with him before being tied up with work.

I picked up Margaux from McTemps and took her to supper at Garcia's to celebrate. I'm almost home free!

Tuesday, November 15

I must be feeling relief; I slept soundly until 7, then showered, dressed, and had breakfast by 8:30. Now I'll just move everything an hour earlier when I start work.

This was one of those days when several things I'd been waiting on all happened at once. BOMEX called to say my certificate is ready. Then the mail brought my Georgia car title. I planned my itinerary so I could pick up the license, then go to the offices, and finally get my car tag.

"The Grove" is the name the HMO workers give to their office in north Phoenix, surrounded by a grove of palm trees. It's a lovely place with great views. I found the offices on the fourth floor.

Dianna was about forty, but much younger than her years. She showed me her in line skates, which she uses to rollerblade on her lunch break. I signed lots of papers, had my photo taken for my ID card, and got a large book of benefit plans, one of which I will have to choose soon. My work officially starts at 8:00 this Thursday morning. After nearly a year...

The bureaucracy did not behave as expected at the license station. By that I mean everything went smoothly; I walked right in and got my tag and title with no hassle whatever. It's an "environmental" tag, multicolored, much prettier than the regular Arizona tag. I attached it and drove home proudly, having completed another major task.

Margaux was moody and depressed, very unusual for her. I talked to her as I boiled the cheese ravioli for supper. Someone had sent her a copy of Atlanta's newspaper, Creative Loafing, containing her ad, and it made her homesick. At supper I announced, "Let's spend my last day of idleness at Arcosanti."

She brightened immediately. "Yes, I've been wanting to do that." Arcosanti sits in the high Sonoran desert, sixty miles north of Phoenix. It is the creation of an Italian architect named Paolo Soleri who had visions of a community blended into the environment. Construction began in the late 1960's and will probably never be complete, but the revolutionary concept is intriguing to us both.

Wednesday, November 16

On an unseasonably cold day for Arizona, we headed north to an even colder region. We could feel the temperature drop as we climbed to the 4000 foot mark. When we reached the Arcosanti exit and stopped for a Coke, the north wind reminded us to stay bundled up; it was under 40 degrees!

We drove two and a half miles on a bumpy dirt road before reaching the parking lot. The complex sits in the middle of a desolate flatland, with a small river running on one side and buttes and low mountains in the near distance. "It looks like a post-apocalyptic scene," Margaux remarked.

"Like in Mad Max," I agreed.

We hurried into the main building, our backs to the strong wind. How glad I am that I don't wear a wig. Inside the building it was sheltered and much warmer.

The four story building housed a gift shop, a restaurant, and office and living space. Large atria allowed views from one story to the next, and a huge round cloth funnel with a fan at the top circulated warm air back to the lower stories.

The major funding for Arcosanti has come, not from grants or gifts, but from the sale of handmade craft items, primarily windbells. The story of the Soleri windbells was displayed for us. I had seen these for years, but never had the opportunity to examine them. Some are cast from clay and base metal; some are ceramic; and some are bronze. They are uniquely Southwestern without being kitschy. I decided to return to the gift shop after our tour.

The tour was a bit reminiscent of Taliesin West, but with significant differences. Arcosanti is much more Spartan. People who come there adopt a simple lifestyle, without dependence on automobiles or skyscrapers. The simplicity doesn't become boring, however; there are plenty of computers and televisions throughout the complex.

We toured the amphitheatre where summer concerts are frequently given, and the foundry where the bells are cast. We saw some of the living areas. To our disappointment, we did not see Soleri himself, still active in the area at age 75. Our tour ended in the restaurant area, and we had a snack from food organically grown on the grounds. Then back upstairs I found the windbell I was looking for, made from the clay and base metal. It will be perfect for our balcony.

The drive home was remarkable for the display presented by nature in the sunset. One of the highway exits is marked "Sunset Point scenic area." Of course we stopped. The clouds turned blood red, then purple. The mountains to the west were silhouetted in dark shades, and when we turned and looked behind us, the smaller peaks blazed in golden sunset. Minute by minute the vista changed, and we stayed and watched until dark.

Free entertainment, better than anything you get at the mall.

And we live here.

Thursday, November 17

I told myself last night to get to sleep early; 5:30 would come very soon. Goodness, was I right. This is the earliest I have been up in months. Before dawn I had dilated, showered, and had my cup of coffee.

My first day back at work full time was also my mother's birthday. She would have been 85 today if she were living. I thought about Mama in the moments before getting behind the wheel of the Maxima.

The drive to the office was ridiculously easy, as was finding a parking space. Not in Atlanta, not even in Jackson, could I have done it in so little time. I walked into the four story building and took the stairs to the second floor.

In the cardiology suite everyone was glad to meet me. "Welcome Dr. Allison" was posted in multiple locations. I began meeting everyone. "Please don't give me a quiz on names," I begged. I know I'll forget them several times until I finally get it right. Julie, our department secretary, made me feel so at home. "We work as a team," she explained the CIGNA concept. "Unlike private practice, here we work with you instead of working for you." It made good sense to me. I knew I could consider Julie a good friend.

At lunch we went to the doctors' dining room at the hospital. Again there were many names to try to remember. Everyone is very cordial, even the doctors in private practice. This seems a very good place to work. I toured the cath lab, and wished I were already on staff.

It was a busy day. I saw a few patients, but mostly got oriented to the area. There was one humorous surprise. When you work for a corporation, you get used to the many meetings and seminars scheduled for the staff. Today, my first day at work, there was a mandatory seminar in the conference room. The topic? Sexual harrassment in the workplace!

"I've looked at life from both sides now..." I was mostly silent and listened to the different responses men and women gave to the discussion questions. I wonder if I'll ever have to deal with any of these issues.

I finished at 5:00 and made it to my electrolysis appointment in plenty of time. The hour went quickly, with only a few dark hairs left. I'm down to one hour every two weeks.

Margaux was anxious to hear about my day as we talked at supper. The day had not been tiring, just long. We ran a few errands around Metrocenter after supper, and I got to bed early.

Friday, November 18

I began decorating my office. First to be wall-mounted were four of my certificates: the Fellowship certificates from the American College of Physicians and the American College of Cardiology; and my Board Certification from Internal Medicine and Cardiovascular Diseases. Now it looks like home.

Rest time is over! I was thrown right into the action, with a full day of seeing patients. This is what I've waited for all this time. I will be the best cardiologist I can possibly be for these people. My new patients are going to know their doctor cares and knows her business. Between patient visits, treadmills, EKG's and echocardiograms, I had enough to keep me busy all day.

Margaux agreed with me: we didn't need to go out tonight. I have studying to do for the upcoming SPEX exam on December 8. I spent hours with my study text I bought at the Emory bookstore in Atlanta.

Saturday, November 19

This afternoon it was still unusually cold, around fifty degrees. It would be in the thirties tonight. This increased our imperative to buy firewood, and we found a place a few blocks from home where we could get a wheelbarrow load and kindling, just right to fill the trunk. We stopped by Barnes & Noble bookstore, browsed, and had a cappucino before returning home.

Margaux was very successful in starting the fire, and we enjoyed the sight, sound, smell, and feel of warmth in the cold weather. Perhaps there won't be many opportunities for a fire here in the Valley of the Sun.

I went to my room to dilate, and it was then that a most strange thing happened.

As I bent over the toilet to cleanse after urinating, I noticed something at the opening of my vagina. At first I thought it was toilet tissue, but I saw it was coming from inside. My next thought was retained vaginal packing. But how could that be? Dr. Schrang inspected after he removed the packing in the hospital.

Now I was concerned. "Margaux, can you come here? I need to show you something."

Now she was concerned. "I've seen lots of post op vaginas, and I've never seen anything like that."

I took a tweezers and grasped it. "I'm going to try to remove it." Before she could caution me, I exerted gentle traction on the thing. I felt a little sharp twinge deep inside my vagina, and it came out.

We examined it: About 8 cm. long, 3 cm. across. Smooth edges. The place where it was attached was almost bloodless, as though it were about to separate spontaneously. It was a little round 3mm. attachment.

What could it be? Gently I felt with my finger. By this time, I had no intention of inserting a dilator tonight. I could still insert my finger all the way and not reach the wall. I hadn't lost any vaginal depth. And I was not having any pain. If anything, I felt even better, as though some toxic thing had been removed.

I left a message on Dr. Schrang's home answering maching. Probably gone for the weekend, I thought. At least it doesn't appear emergent.

With all the excitement, I didn't get as much studying done as I would have liked. Still we were able to get to sleep so we could get to church tomorow.

Sunday, November 20

It was a gorgeous day, still a little cool for Phoenix this time of the year. We decided to go for a ride after church. Margaux wanted to drive, and she wanted to go over to the Tempe/Arizona State area. It was an easy drive on the interstate and the Superstition Freeway.

The area of ASU features some beautiful architecture, particularly the Gammage Auditorium, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. We rode around campus as much as possible, but the crowds were gathering to attend an Arizona Cardinals professional football game. We drove north, back into Phoenix, and had our first look at the Papago Park area. I want to return to the Desert Botanical Gardens during Christmas season, when the saguaros are lighted! Finally we drove home through Paradise Valley.

Most of the afternoon I spent studying for the SPEX exam. Just to be safe, I gave myself a Betadine douche. I felt fine and knew nothing bad was happening. Finally Dr. Schrang returned my call, apologetic for having been out of town.

I described my experience to him, and he was immediately reassuring. "You have had a slough of the superficial layer of skin," he told me. "Not everyone experiences this, but it is not rare. He assured me I would not lose depth from the experience, and I could resume dilating tonight. His description made good sense, and I found his predictions were correct.

Monday, November 21

Mondays are early days at the office. We have intake rounds at 7:15 in the conference room of our office building. I sat at the foot of the table and listened as the doctors who had been on call summarized their admissions and other inpatients. There were more people to meet, more names to remember. It will be weeks before I know them all. But I will.

I hung my medical school diploma and the accompanying plaque about "Ole Miss" on the side wall of my office, where they were visible from the hall. Several of the staff commented on the appropriateness of the essay on the plaque. The day went very well. I don't know how it will be in the cath lab, but my year's experiences have made me even a better office physician than before. My patients are very appreciative of my "bedside manner". I know I'm already building a patient load.

At home I found a letter from the Medical Assurance Company of Mississippi. What can this one be, I thought as I opened it. I seem to get two or three a week. The contents surprised me: My former patient, who had begun by asking $300,000, and had said if he went to court he would ask $640,000, had agreed to settle for $95,000. This amount is well within my policy limits. My financial worry was over in this case.

I felt at once relieved and angered. Relieved, for the obvious reasons: no lawsuit and no money out of my pocket. Angered, because I don't think he deserved anywhere near that amount. He has just made a tidy profit from our tort system, because my insurance company didn't want to roll the dice on a trial. Of course, he can still sue Baptist Medical Center also. Oh well, it's done. Now I can worry about the pacemaker case.

After supper I decided to call Sheryl and let her know I was back at work. She didn't sound very well, and in fact she said she was receiving more intensive counseling at this time. "It gets worse instead of better," was one of her comments. I tried to be as positive as I could, and she was gracious to appreciate my call. I asked her to give Mark my love when she saw him for the Thanksgiving holiday.

When I hung up the phone, I realized how we had changed. In the past I would have quizzed her on what was wrong, and what I could do to help. I would have worried and been solicitious to the point of bothering her. Now I know what is wrong. Since I have had my surgery, she knows I will never revert to a male role. It's just too much for her to handle.

It's ironic. When we first separated, I suspected the stress would be hard on her. I had suggested she find someone to counsel her at the time. Her response, almost shouted over the phone, was: "I am not the one with the problem!" Now I am at a point where my issues are clear and I do not feel the need for therapy, and she is just starting.

Tuesday, November 22

Every day I become more comfortable with my work environment. The patients are here. Dr. Reiman, the previous cardiologist who left our group, had a sizable patient load, and nearly all are coming to see me. I worked until noon, and had business in town rather than eating at the hospital.

I carried my temporary license to the offices of Central Credentialing and gave it to Ms. Wood to make copies. She informed me that they had received the needed documents from Dr. Lehan in Mississippi. Now all that's needed is a formal letter from BOMEX, confirming that I'm licensed. This makes no sense, I thought, as I looked at the license in her hand. But rules are rules. Once again, I am so close!

I went through a drive-thru at Rolberto's, a local taco stand, and had a fish taco and a Pepsi. It's much better than it sounds. It's like a fried fish sandwich, but inside a tortilla instead of on a bun.

At home I had a message to call Mr. Johnson, the attorney in Jackson who would work with me on the pacemaker case. I told him I was still waiting on the chart from Dr. Reston's office, but I didn't think there was any failure on my part. We may end up fighting this one.

Margaux had a gift for me: the short novel Anthem by Ayn Rand. "You will really have a powerful experience when you read it," she promised. She told me of her good news. She has an interview next Tuesday with a designer who sounds very similar to her in style, and is quite successful. It sounds like they could really work together. I'm excited for her. Maybe soon we will both be back at work full time.

Wednesday, November 23

Here's the type of patient encounter I enjoy: One of our old patients came in without an appointment. Of course I agreed to see him. If he feels it's an emergency, that's good enough for me.

"Doctor, I have been having a sensation of my heart 'pounding' for several months now," was his complaint. I found that he had a history of palpitations, but had been in a normal rhythm for his last few office visits. Even when he complained of his symptoms, EKG's showed a regular rhythm at a rate of 50. That slow rate was the clue.

"How long have you been on your atenolol?" I asked.

"I started atenolol just before I began having these feelings. Do you suppose they might be related?"

I explained to him about stroke volume, and how the heart reacts to slowing its rate. It pumps more forcefully to increase the amount of blood pumped with each heartbeat. This increased volume of each beat is felt as a "hard" beat or as pounding.

He was so appreciative. "I have seen so many doctors about this, and none of them have explained it like you have." I gave him instructions on tapering his medication, and promised his symptoms would lessen soon. As he left he remarked to the nurses how helpful I had been.

I love my work. It's even better now that I am free to be myself.

After work I went to the exercise room at the apartments and worked on the stair climber for five minutes. I'm building up very slowly. At my age, I don't have a choice but to build up slowly. Then I ruined it by sharing a pizza with Margaux before retiring to the bedroom to study for the SPEX exam.

Thursday, November 24

"Happy Thanksgiving, Margaux." This from me, bright eyed and early.

"Mmph." This from her.

I had coffee and cereal and relaxed with the morning paper. Around ten I drove up to Bell Road, to Fry's Supermarket, where I had ordered a turkey dinner. It consisted of a whole roast turkey, along with bread stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, rolls, and apple pie. We will get four or five meals apiece from this, so the $24.95 is a bargain.

Margaux, up by now, made salads which were as attractive to the eye as they were to the taste. Soon everything was heated and ready. We each gave our thanks in turn, for the meal and for our new lives and all they involve.

I am thankful for life and health, blessings so precious in a way I never knew before. I am thankful for my successful surgery, and for recovery. I am thankful for my new medical practice, my new church, and my new home in Phoenix, Arizona. I am thankful for my best friend, Margaux Ayn Schaffer, and all my other friends who really do care for me.

I am thankful I don't have to sit with the guys and watch football this afternoon.

Friday, November 25

A few patients scheduled appointments for today, the only day they could take off from their jobs. I saw several before noon, enjoying being able to spend more time with each one.

After a light lunch (the cafeteria was closed), I settled in with the nurses to watch a movie on tape. The consensus choice among our available tapes was "Imitation of Life," with Lana Turner, John Galvin, and Sandra Dee. Even though it is outdated in some parts, the story of two mothers and their daughters moved us all. I sniffled and wiped away a tear at the end.

The Postal Service was working today, and I received the copies of the medical record on case number two. I read over the details of his pacemaker implantation. The indication for the procedure was clear and well documented. I determined to write back and say we should fight this one.

Over leftover turkey, I formulated my response to the allegations. There is no case: no fault on my part, no bad outcome. I wrote a long letter to the Medical Assurance Company and asked Margaux to fax it over.

Saturday, November 26

Once I'm on a regular work schedule, it's nearly impossible for me to change my sleep patterns one or two days a week. So today I was wide awake at seven. The newspapers this past week had carried ads for post-Thanksgiving sales, and I needed a special look at two items. I wish I felt free to shop the fashion sales. I haven't bought any clothing since moving here, except for a couple of bras for my new figure. Alas, I just can't spend that sort of money until I begin getting regular paychecks.

The first item was a cellular telephone. I already knew I wanted a Motorola Flip phone from Choice Cellular, where I could get the corporate discount rate. Their sale had it reduced from $90.00 to $40.00, and the activation fee was waived. It was time to buy. Anyway, this is a deductible business expense. The Sigma Chi salesman who helped me last time was off today, but his associate promised me he would get credit for the sale.

After getting an activated phone with a fully charged battery, I drove to Scottsdale for the second item on sale. The little electric broom I bought in March of 1993, when I first set up housekeeping on my own, had finally sucked up its last dirt and debris. Service Merchandise had very low prices on their Hoover and Eureka vacuums. I found a great bargain on a Hoover, filled out my card, and waited for the staff to bring in my merchandise.

On the way home, I couldn't resist using my toy. Margaux answered promptly. "Guess where I'm calling from?" I teased.

"I don't know. Where?" She played along with the gag.

"From my CAR, of course." I plan to enjoy my new grownups' toy.

Sunday, November 27

You can do it if you try: we were both up and ready in plenty of time for church. Margaux was dressed appropriately in her pink suit, and I wore my three piece jacket dress with the blue and rose print. The sermon, one of the last from the book of James, was again special for me. It dealt with the verse that discusses prayer and healing of the sick. The pastor has the same view I do: healing may sometimes be physical, and it involves the use of accepted medical practices. Prayer for healing is always appropriate. But more often, healing of the believer may be spiritual healing, rather than physical.

We had yet one more meal off the turkey before turning it over to Margaux to make a "turkey carcass" soup. The afternoon was relaxed and quiet. I studied for the SPEX exam.

During the evening I mentioned my continuing concern for my relationship with Mark. Margaux was very helpful, and she again made me see that I need to balance my sensitivity for his feelings with my own need to have a life and an identity. I can't really be "Daddy" to him anymore. If he will not accept me as Becky, that is his prerogative; but I cannot pose as anyone else.

As we talked, the telephone rang; it was Pamela calling from Florida. What a coincidence (or was it?). "Pam," I asked, "How are your children dealing with you now?" I knew she had three grown children.

"My oldest daughter is completely understanding," she said. "My younger daughter is beginning to come around. My son still has problems, but he and I have never been very close." She offered to contact her oldest daughter and ask her if she would write Mark sometime.

I still believe God will work on us both so that Mark and I can eventually have a relationship again. Events like Pamela's phone call, perfectly timed as it was, make me feel He is still actively working for it.

Monday, November 28

I was nearly through applying my makeup at 7:15 when the awareness struck.

Monday! OmigoshI'msupposedtoBETHERErightnow.

I threw my blouse and skirt on and dashed out the door. When I arrived, panting, at the fourth floor conference room, the rounds were just ending. I apologized to Steve and told him the truth, I just haven't established my routine yet. "I understand," he laughed.

It won't happen again.

After lunch I went up to the cath lab. One of the cardiologists in private practice who works part time for us was doing a cath on one of my patients. I enjoyed meeting the cath lab personnel and learning my way around. I couldn't stay for the cath, since I had to get back to my afternoon office patients; but it was just enough to whet my appetite for more procedures.

At home we had the last meal off the late lamented turkey. Margaux's soup was delicious. Afterwards we went to Kinko's for her to do some color copying of her work for the presentation portfolio.

Tuesday, November 29

Margaux had an interview today with one of Phoenix's top design agencies. She drove me to work at 8:00. Today my new labcoats were delivered, and I picked up my pager. More trappings of a real live doctor.

I wore my teal knit dress, with a rather short skirt, but perfect for a sunny Arizona fall day. The temperature when I walked to the hospital for lunch was 70 degrees. Another boring day in paradise.

I had finished seeing my afternoon patients when Steve Price called my office. "Can you come up to the department office sometime this afternoon?" Thoughts raced through my mind. I had a pretty good idea what the meeting would be about, and I was right.

Steve began, "How is everything going for you? Are there any problems?" He assured me everyone, patients and staff, were very glad to have me. He had gotten some good feedback from my patients already.

Then he continued, still relaxed and smiling. "I just want you to know that, as chief of medicine, it's my job to thoroughly investigate every staff member. I do know all about your past; and I don't have any problem at all."

"Then you also know that I'm a very good physician," I replied, smiling back, not quite at ease.

"Exactly. And that's all that matters." He told me that the only other people who knew were Wanda, the head recruiter, and Dr. Williams, the medical director for the entire program.

"Dr. Williams asked me,"he explained, "'Is she qualified?' I told him, 'Impeccably.' 'Then that's all that matters,' he said."

YES! I was so relieved. Now I don't have to worry anymore, what if they don't know, and find out later? They do know, the ones that count, and they don't care.

Margaux had good news. The interview went very well, and they may have some contract work for her after the holidays. For now she got several other good leads, and an invitation to an exclusive party tomorrow night.

A year ago tonight I was loading my car, in freezing Jackson weather, with all my male clothes, to be taken to the mission center the next day. Had I known where I would be in one year, it might have made the subsequent months easier to bear.

Wednesday, November 30

How pleasant it is to already be settling into a routine. The early morning will be devoted to hospital rounds, once I get my privileges. I start seeing patients at 9:00 and work until about 12:30, then I go to lunch, usually at the hospital. I start back at 2:00 and have more patients until 4:00, then catch up on paperwork and EKG's until time to leave at 5:00.

It may sound boring, but it's my life. Now I'm able to fully appreciate the simple joys of dealing with persons in distress, one at a time, giving each one my undivided attention. Every patient has needs, some physical, some emotional. I can meet many of those needs. No longer am I too preoccupied with my own needs and unhappiness to concentrate on my patients.

So this is how it was supposed to be all along. I just thought I liked being a doctor before. Now I love it.

Today I didn't have lunch at the hospital. A representative for one of the hospice services brought lunch for the cardiology doctors and staff. I sat with my new friends and ate pizza and wings as I listened to them talk about their lives in Phoenix. I belong here, I told myself: I have a life too.

The call after lunch was from Ms. Wood from Central Credentialing. "Hi, Dr. Allison. I wanted to tell you I'll be sending your completed application to Good Samaritan tomorrow. Everything is in order and you should be getting your privileges very soon."

Now I can really get back into cardiology. Steve Price asked me to observe a cath on one of his patients tomorrow, so I can start learning my way around the cath lab. Soon I will be doing everything I've ever done as a cardiologist.

Margaux was waiting at 5:00, and I dropped her off at her party at one of the finer restaurants on Central. I returned home and had supper, then studied until my pager sounded the message to pick her up. She was very excited about the results of the meeting. She continues to build her Phoenix support network. Soon it will really pay off.

It has now been one full year since I began living full time as Rebecca Anne Allison. How fitting it is that I should have finally found the perfect work situation, and be ready to start my new life. I could not have imagined the turns my life would take in this year.

I thought of so many major events. Quitting my job in Jackson, not knowing when I would work again. Loading the U-Haul with Angela and driving to Atlanta. Moving into the condo; and so soon afterwards, Angela moving back to North Carolina. Michelle being such a true friend and lifesaver.

Theresa, and then Margaux, moving in and sharing my life. The divorce. The legal change of my name. The A.C.C. meeting, my first professional activity in my new life. Our road trip to St. Simons Island.

The early disappointments in my job search: Vicksburg, Gadsden, Pascagoula, Waco, and everything in Atlanta. Winder, the one that almost worked.

Friends: Barbara McClure. Gina and Charles. Dr. Powell. Jerry and Lynn Montgomery. Robert and Jeanne. Gail. Michelle. Rick. Joyce. My Sunday School class at Roswell United Methodist Church. Jim and T'ai Chi.

My class reunion, one of the highlights of the year. The two weeks working for Gene Shell. Carrie and her kids. The Trover Clinic and Madisonville. Finally, almost as an afterthought, the trip to Phoenix.

Then everything changed. The contract; the acceptance. Asking Margaux to accompany me in September, and her similar feelings about Arizona. Finding the apartment. The terrible scene with Theresa upon our return.

The working vacation in Savannah. Teaching Margaux to drive. Southern Comfort; saying goodbye to friends. The difficulty of putting up with the movers.

Then the cross country drive. A last visit with Sheryl. Finally arriving in Phoenix and waiting on the furniture, then frantically unpacking.

The flight to Milwaukee. Kristin. Driving to Neenah. Dr. Schrang and Theda Clark Regional Medical Center. Then everything changed again, never to return to its unhappy former state.

Finally, the license and the references. Beginning at work, learning names and routines. The relief at knowing that those who need to know about me do know. And now, the imminent return to the cath lab.

Lord willing, I may spend the next thirty or more years as a happy, productive, fulfilled woman. I don't know what direction my life will take with regard to future romance or marriage. I don't know to what extent I will experience healing with old friends and family. I don't even know for certain if I will remain in my present work situation until I retire. None of these future events are worrisome now. I'm finally living as the real person I always knew myself to be, and that is what matters.

It really did come full circle. I finally know what it is to be alive, and to be right. It's been unbelievable, unbearable, unforgettable. As the year ends, I can't imagine it happening any other way.

I think I passed the Real Life Test; now I get to live it.


© 1996 Rebecca Anne Allison

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