Book 1: Chapter 1:  MAELSTROM

“Oh my God,” I heard my self say. Here in our new home town of Pagosa Springs, Colorado, I am attending a meeting of the local Health Service District Board. Citizens in the audience are shouting angrily at the board members. The chairman is hurling back surly retorts. Board members at the fold-up tables up front sit motionless, puppet-like. A burly policeman is escorting one of the agitated audience toward the exit at the chairman’s behest. I muse that instead of a sedate town meeting I must be in the midst of a Saturday night bar room brawl.

Later I read the apt words of a reporter for the local newspaper describing these meetings as “… a circus without the benefit of cotton candy or elephants.”

Seeking a meaningful new life just six months before, I had thrust myself into the midst of this maelstrom not knowing what to anticipate but certainly not expecting the theatrics that were now swirling about me.

After 44 years of an urban life and medical practice, my wife Patti and I had retired and moved to this small mountain town in Colorado. We had always relished the outdoor life from afar and had skied and hiked when we could squeeze it into our busy work schedules. Now that it was at our doorstep, we had immediately immersed ourselves into this new environment, joining the local outdoor clubs and participating in their activities. Personally, I had been looking forward to this new lifestyle all my working life.

I had expected retirement from my years of practicing medicine to be an emotionally rewarding experience. I realized that there would no longer be the challenge or the gratification that comes from solving patient problems, but instead that I would finally have the time to do all those things that had been put off until retirement. I had always thought that the latter would outweigh the former. I would finally be able to relax after decades of work and enjoy the fruits of my labor. Alas, rather than an emotional high, retirement for me had turned out to be a letdown. I had enjoyed my work; it was enlivening. The rewards in retirement so far did not measure up to this level. Realization was setting in; I needed more purpose in my life, a feeling that had been lost in retirement. So I began seeking something that could replace the stimulation I had experienced in my medical practice, hence, my quiet appearance at this “circus without benefit of cotton candy or elephants.”

It was now the fall of 2002. I was becoming concerned by a health care controversy that was erupting in our community. From articles in the local newspaper, particularly in the letters-to-the-editor section, it was clear that considerable anger and animosity were building within the community toward the Health Service District. Perhaps, with my experience in health care, I might be able to help in solving this health care dilemma and simultaneously assuage my need for a more purposeful fulfillment in life.

And so, with little more thought, I entered into one of those unexpected lifetime experiences that occasionally come one’s way; daunting, challenging, perhaps even rewarding. I had no idea of the emotional swings I would experience or of the challenges my character and reputation were to face. …