Several years ago, my friend Elizabeth Burke and I rowed twice a week through the Seattle winter. We ventured out without fail as dawn was breaking - rowing two single shells or a double. We'd row from the Fremont Bridge to the Chittenden Locks and back, or maybe across Lake Union and on to Lake Washington. Sometimes we'd come back to our home at the Lake Washington Rowing Club and wipe the ice off our boats. But we always came back with an irrefutable sense of moral superiority! We'd done it again!

Rowing - particularly Rowing Through the Winter - provides a richness of metaphors...instructive in my life as a Family Physician and the Home Dialysis CarePartner for my profoundly ill husband, Steve Williams. Now that Steve is gone, rowing reminds me of consistency and focus - so critical during grieving. Rowing requires balance, as does my life.

Row with me this winter. Linda Gromko, MD

Monday, February 7, 2011

You Can't Always Get What You Want

With a new rowing schedule listed, I was immediately drawn to the possibility of joining the Senior Women's Sweep Team - or at least trying out for it. The 5 a.m. MWF schedule sounded okay, at least in theory - even though my friend Elizabeth says she stays away from "anything with a five in it!"

Then, a little reality crept in. I'd be getting up at 4 a.m. That would mean starting my husband's overnight kidney dialysis at 6 p.m. - and there's no way I could arrange that. Furthermore, I can't leave him without a caregiver. Our regular caregivers arrive at 6-7 a.m. - I couldn't get out in time and have Steve "covered."

I'm currently rowing three days a week: Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. On Saturdays, I generally row by myself - taking a single up to the Ballard Locks and back.

Tuesdays and Thursdays are my favorite days, because Elizabeth, Sue, Catherine, and Kim row, too. We take singles, doubles, maybe a triple or a quad.

Sometimes Catherine and I - in a double - try to do our whole row in Spanish. She's fluent - I'm definitely not!

And a triple with a police detective, a doctor, and a psychologist? What great conversations we have! No subject is out of bounds.

So even though I would love to do the 5 a.m. sweep rowing, it may be that this isn't the month for it.

For now, I'll just keep working on my rowing, my "social skills" (as Elizabeth would say) - and keeping Steve's dialysis going.

So, like the Stones sang so many years ago, "you can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you just might find you get what you need."

Take care.
Linda Gromko, MD

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