Michael Murphy isn’t merely a baby boomer himself; he has just written a novel about a baby boomer called “Goodbye Emily,” and if you’re a boomer, you might relate, because what Michael writes about pretty much happened to him: he lost his job and grieved the loss. Which prompted Michael to write a book, which helped him heal. This is an excerpt in which a college professor loses his wife, then two years later, he also loses his job and confronts broken heart syndrome. It sends him, with two friends, on a nostalgic return to Woodstock, 1969. One last road trip; one last chance to say Goodbye, Emily.
“You want to tell him the rest, Dad, or should I?”
“I thought we had attorney-client privilege.” I cursed myself for running out of bourbon.
Cloe continued as I knew she would. She was concerned for me, so I cut her some slack. “Ten months after Mom died, Milton College forced Dad into retirement. He never sees his two best friends from high school anymore.”
Doctor Malone’s brow furrowed with concern. “You recently turned sixty.”
“What’s your point?” He made turning sixty sound like the biggest tragedy of all. The doctor’s initial charm had worn off.
“The things your daughter mentioned, we call them life stressors. One thing I suggest to my patients is to write down each item and keep the list where you’ll look at your problems every day so you can begin to confront them. You may not get your friends, or your job back, but as you come to terms with each one, your condition should improve. Will you do that, Mr. Ellington?”
“If I say yes, can I leave?”
He made a quick entry into the chart. “We’ll get you admitted and run a few tests to be safe. We have to be sure of the extent of your concussion and see whether there’s been damage to your heart. You seem like an educated man.”
“Dad’s a college professor.”
“We can schedule a battery of tests for first thing in the morning.” The doctor checked the chart and smiled. “Your blood work shows when you came in you were legally intoxicated. If the tests check out, we’ll have you out of here tomorrow in time for happy hour.”
I didn’t like his use of the word battery, but Dr. Malone possessed a sense of humor and charm, traits that might bode well for Cloe.
“I won’t stay.”
“Yes, you will, Dad.”
Behind the curtain, the patient in the next bed sounded like he just hawked up a lung. I was healthy before they brought me in but wouldn’t be by the time I left.
“Lady’s alone.” I pictured my dog pacing the house and whining.
Cloe patted my hand. “I’ll stop by and make sure she’s alright.”
The doctor snapped the chart closed. “I think we have a plan. Any questions?” Without letting me respond, he gave a passable Jim Carrey imitation. “Alrighty then.” He winked at Cloe, pulled aside the curtain and went in search of another victim.
I’ll never get out of this hospital. With decent insurance, doctors could justify a never-ending series of tests, most painful and/or humiliating. At my age, I’d never leave with all the body parts I possessed when I arrived. Broken heart syndrome indeed.