When Timing is Everything: Knowing When A Story Should Be Told by Richard Sidlow

   Richard Sidlow is the Associate Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at Staten Island University Hospital and the Director of its Pediatric Hospitalist Group. His piece, " Christmas Day ," appears Spring 2015 Intima

Richard Sidlow is the Associate Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at Staten Island University Hospital and the Director of its Pediatric Hospitalist Group. His piece, "Christmas Day," appears Spring 2015 Intima

My essay "Christmas Day" was written almost twenty years after the incident it describes. Besides the common excuse of being too busy, one of the many reasons for the delay in writing it was the sadness that permeates it. I would periodically visit my notes describing that day and tears would well up in my eyes every time. I knew this story had to be told—the question was when would I be able to.

I felt a similar timing issue with Lisa Gruenberg's "Yom Kippur" (Intima, Spring 2014). In order to be able to convey the nuances of her father's behavior to, during, and after temple services, and contextualize them, it seems a bit of time had to pass. His sublimated pain, denial, confusion, and seemingly contradictory behavior (an atheist going to temple?) would not be understandable without a mature hand painting the picture of a complex soul dealing with complex issues as best they could. It would seem that the author needed time to understand herself, and in turn, was able to understand her father in more depth.

It was important to me to convey the facts of my story truthfully, in addition to keeping the irony and absurdity intact, without becoming cloying at the same time. This process took time—time spent maturing as a physician and as a human being. I hope this comes through.


Richard Sidlow is the Associate Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at Staten Island University Hospital and the Director of its Pediatric Hospitalist Group. His piece, "Christmas Day," appears Spring 2015 Intima.

©2015 Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine