Historians are left forever chasing shadows, painfully aware of their inability to ever reconstruct a dead world in its completeness.
“Tell me about your prior cancer treatment,” I say. “When did you have the surgery and radiation?”
“It wasn’t a surgery,” He tells me emphatically. “It was a biopsy.”
“But the doctor SAID it was a surgery!” chimes in his wife.
“Yes, Dad. You have a long scar on your neck,” adds his son.
“No! They called it a biopsy, NOT a surgery! And it was two years ago.”
“No, dear, it was five years ago.”
“Five? Are you certain? That long ago? And I had radiation before the biopsy.”
“No, Dad, you had the surgery before the radiation treatments, remember? You were still recovering from the radiation when the twins were born. And they are four already.”
"Are you certain?"
“Anyway, Doctor, he’s been losing weight.”
“No, I haven’t!”
“Harold, your clothes are hanging off of you!”
He scowls. Things get worse.
The historian sorts and organizes the past, identifying the important and meaningful events from the trivial, and then interprets the story in order to explain the circumstances of the present. That, I agree, is my task. It is my job to make sense of the events told by the patient and his family. It is my job to create a record of his prior health so that our team move forward and safely develop a plan to help him.