Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Patricia Grayhall

Patricia Grayhall is a medical doctor and author of Making the Rounds: Defying Norms in Love and Medicine. After nearly forty years of medical practice, this is her debut, very personal, and frank memoir about coming out as a lesbian in the late 1960s and training to become a doctor when society disapproved of both for a woman. Grayhall chose to write using a pen name to protect the privacy of some of her characters as well as her own. She lives with the love of her life on an island in the Pacific Northwest where she enjoys other people’s dogs, the occasional Orca and black bear, hiking, and wine with friends.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Grayhall's reply:
Over the past three years while writing my memoir, I read other memoirs to gain inspiration. Notables included Melissa Febos’s Abandon Me and Adrienne Brodeur’s Wild Game.

Most recently, I have read Felice Cohen’s Half In: A Coming of Age Memoir of Forbidden Love. This is an unusual story of a 23-year-old college woman who falls in love with her boss, a 57-year-old woman and Director at University of Massachusetts, Amherst, who returns her love. Not only is the age-gap a barrier to Cohen revealing her love even to her closest friends and family, but her boss, Sarah, is already in a relationship and living with another woman. This story has been told in various forms in heteronormative relationships, and some of the same power dynamics apply, but with the added layer of secrecy because it occurred at a time when it was still not safe to be “out” as a lesbian.

What I particularly appreciated about Cohen’s presentation of her story, was the subtle layering of nuance as she talks about her fear of others’ judgment of the age-gap, her role as the “other woman” and her ambivalence about her sexuality. Shining through her shame is the intense tenderness, love, and passion they both shared despite the circumstances and the age gap. Sarah is not unsympathetic, even with her faults and the obvious inappropriateness of her behavior, and Cohen leads the reader to understand how Sarah found herself in love with a vulnerable, much younger woman. All judgment aside, this an incredibly touching love story, demonstrating the complicated web surrounding how human beings can love one another, and how despite all obstacles, it is better to have loved.

The other memoir I am reading is And a Dog Called Fig: Solitude, Connection, The Writing Life by Helen Humphreys an acclaimed Canadian author of several novels. She writes: “Into my writer’s isolation will come a dog, to sit beside my chair or to lie on the couch while I work, to force me outside for a walk, and suddenly, although still lonely, this writer will have a companion.” Her memoir is a braided narrative that weaves sweet and sometimes humorous commentary on her current puppy with recollections of her previous dogs, other writers and their relationships with their dogs, and snippets from her own life.

When I was writing my own memoir, my old dog Dudley lay by my side, totally attuned to my changes of mood as I delved into the past to answer questions and unearth meaning and universal truths. That is the thing about dogs that Humphreys captures so well. We love them unconditionally. No matter that Dudley chews through the shoulder harness, pukes on the floor, compels me to walk him in the pouring rain and lift him in and out of the car, poops in his bed and falls in it, costs me thousands of dollars in vet bills, and inconveniences me in countless ways—I love him fiercely. And that is perhaps, their most important role, to be an object of our love.
Visit Patricia Grayhall's website.

--Marshal Zeringue