This morning, on the way to school, my daughter asked, “How do I spot an unmarked police car?”
This happens to be at least on the periphery of my expertise, so I promptly launched into a treatise on the most likely makes and models; the regalia an unmarked car would be likely to contain; and the places one would be most likely legitimately to find such vehicles.
(In keeping with my heritage of catastrophic worry, I then repeated my admonition that, once she has a driver’s license, she never pull over for an unmarked car with flashing lights–because any felon can order those–but instead either call 911 to confirm the constabulary’s provenance or else carefully proceed to the nearest police station. My day job is not without inclination to paranoia.)
A normal parent probably would have paused to consider why her on-the-cusp-of-driving daughter would want this particular information.
Of course, a normal parent probably wouldn’t have a cluster of neurons devoted to maintaining a menu of unmarked police cars’ characteristics.
Given my life in crime–or, more specifically, prosecuting crime–it’s in my wheelhouse.
A wheelhouse, of course, has come to be known as an area within one’s expertise.
In baseball terms, a wheelhouse is “the part of an individual’s swinging range in which as a hitter [he or she] can make the best contact with the ball.” It’s the sweet spot: the point at which one has mastery.
Similarly, on a ship, the pilothouse or wheelhouse is an above-deck enclosure, situated where presumably the captain can see all the obstacles and take in all he needs to know, and navigate and issue commands accordingly.
(When Jim came home, the “special doctor’s stool” was our version of a hub for Captain Bob.)
Lately, my wheelhouse has been reeling.
I still have some areas of mastery. But I feel I can only pretend to muster competence to do most of the things that my husband would be doing, with enormous competence, were he still here: paying the bills, filling out the financial aid forms, keeping the domestic front from descending into a hovel. Many tasks which he meticulously would have done, like entering household data into spreadsheets and planning for a retirement he will not have, are inconceivable to me now.
On the other hand, my wheelhouse unquestionably has expanded since I have been left alone in charge of our family.
Jim most certainly would have predicted exactly how, stylistically, I would take care of business with whomever (or whatever corporate entity) managed to cross me or my family or friends: the full-bore response to injustice always has been within my wheelhouse. (As Jim aptly said, my profession as a prosecutor suited me ideally because I’m “so judgmental.”)
To continue with the seafaring (more particularly, pirate) metaphor, he knew no prisoners would be taken among those who made things more difficult for our children or anyone else I love.
He had a very good idea how I would follow up with the few tasks he assigned me.
But he would not have predicted that I would be delivering Schwartz Rounds at hospitals, tackling issues of compassionate (and not-compassionate) care from a patient’s family’s perspective, and attending grand rounds and reading about health care systems issues. He would not have imagined my reading his medical journals and magazines.
He knew I would write, but I doubt he would have seen a blog in my future.
He knew I would write about crime, but I don’t think he envisioned me writing about the human side of patients’ experience in the health care system.
He knew I wouldn’t take care of myself well enough, and he knew he was leaving unparalleled friends and family to help take care of me.
He knew, because I told him, that I would miss him every second, but I don’t think either one of us could have imagined the vastness of the lacuna.
I know he would have approved the things which help get me through the day, even if he didn’t forsee them. He knew I’d do my best.
(c) 2012 Stephanie M. Glennon