I hope this note finds you well.
Fifty-six years ago this week I went through my first two-a-day football practices in Augusta, Arkansas; it was the hardest thing I had done up to that point in my life. Coach Curtis King – a diminutive bald headed fifty-five year old man with a giant personality and a powerful voice – was a taskmaster in every sense of the word. He pushed that motley crew of red-necked country kids until our tongues hung out; and then, he pushed us some more. But, this little tale is not so much about my athletic career as it is about the process of how I got there.
This may not be politically correct but I was a loud-mouthed sissy. My loud mouth tended to get me into scrapes that my fighting skills couldn’t handle therefore I regularly came out on the losing end of most altercations. I hated getting hit in the nose.
My father had always told me that if I didn’t like the way things were, the only one who could change it was me. One night in the winter before that first round of summer practices I went into my father’s bedroom and sat down on the footstool at the side of the bed. He was propped up in his bed reading Stag magazine. For those of you who don’t know, Stag was a girly magazine popular in the 1950s. He looked over at me without saying a word and I began: “Dad, I hate being a sissy and I hate getting beat up all the time. I’m really worried about who I am and what I’m going to become.”
At this point I began to cry; all the Taggart men tend to cry easily. Dad lowered his magazine onto his lap and said in a soft voice. “Son, the deepest, darkest, most hateful secret you have, the one that scares you the most about yourself, is the one you share in common with the most people.”
When he finished that sentence, he went back to his magazine and the conversation was over. I sat there for what seemed like forever and then got up and walked out. He hadn’t asked what I was going to do different or how I was going to do it. He hadn’t suggested that I was strong and should go out and defend myself. He had simply planted an idea in my brain that would turn out to be the best lesson I have ever learned in my life.
I can honestly say that there has never been a day in my life that I have not thought of that moment. “Son, the deepest, darkest, most hateful secret you have is the one you share in common with the most people.”
This is especially true in the practice of medicine. Thirty to fifty times a day I’ve had encounters with other people whose emotions run the gamut from dire despair to joyful elation and through it all, I knew we shared those things in common.
By the way, I went out for football that summer to learn how to protect myself.
Have a nice journey.