Saturday, December 11, 2010

Meeting the Good Doctor

This past weekend I attended a staff holiday party for one of my two workplaces. Generally this would not be blog-worthy, except perhaps as an excuse for not blogging because of the aftermath of the Pedgehog let loose at an open bar and then left to teeter home on shoes much higher than her usual pair. Said disaster was narrowly averted by the saintly actions of one of my lovely coworkers, CL, who drove me home - soberly - and waited until I was in the door; and who, despite her constant need to create muppet-themed nicknames for me based on what colour shirt I am wearing, is really a pretty awesome person whom I quite like.

But I digress (as always). The staff party was for the clinic, and it was the first time that I finally got to meet Dr. Henry Morgentaler, who is, after all, my boss. Well, retired. But anyway, it was the culmination of almost four years of dedication to the pro-choice cause on my part, and of alternately praising the man and defending him to anti-choicers who think he is the worst thing to happen to Canada since...well, ever. I don't know exactly what Dr. Morgentaler means to me: certainly I know he is only human (I read "A Difficult Hero", I know what's up), but also I completely admire him not only for what he accomplished but also for his careful balance of humility and self-assurance. And then on top of that, he is my boss (sort of) and the brother-in-law of a good friend. It's a very complicated relationship to have with someone you have not met.

So, I met him. Which, in itself, was not a big deal. A handshake, exchange of names, a brief conversation about how long I had worked at the clinic and about New Brunswick. One minute of face time, maybe.

What was special for me about the evening (besides the fact that by the time we sat down to eat I was on my fourth drink and pretty much everything was special at that point), was Dr. Morgentaler's graciousness and the light he shone on his successors. He gave a brief speech only at the prompting of our CEO, and in it he expressed admiration and gratitude for the work that we were all doing. It made me think about accomplishment, and about being a hero like that. It's one thing to forge ahead and break barriers and be feted and thanked and congratulated all the time; perhaps a greater achievement is to see so many people find your work valuable enough to continue. How gratifying for him, to look out at a restaurant full of people totally dedicated to his goal: making abortion an accessible and comfortable experience for women in Canada.

So while it was lovely to finally meet Morgentaler the man, what I had really idealized and admired was more the Morgentaler spirit, which I had certainly already met in my pro-choice colleagues and friends, and continue to meet every day. The man has created a great legacy in this country. And even after a rough day at work, or dealing with the most unreasonable of patients, I will happily raise a glass to that.


Anonymous said...

Oh wow that is really awesome. I'm jealous.

UneFemmePlusCourageuse said...

Agreed. Since I've been volunteering at/working for abortion clinics, I've met several providers who I admire greatly--but none have the profile of Dr. Morgentaler. That's amazing.