There are a thousand little moments in life that connect us all like a thread pulled through the fabric of time. I know this because some of you have said so. It’s one of the pay offs for writing these stories. It may be just one line, or one picture in a story that is mine, but suddenly it becomes your story because there is a connection that you understand.
Norman Rockwell did it with paintings. You can’t see his image of a little boy pulling down his pants for a shot at the doctor’s office and not think about all the times you went to see the doc when you were a kid. He’s up standing in a chair with the look of panic on his face. The good doc is holding the needle about to apply his trade. We embrace that image because it is us.
Mama took us to Griffin to see Dr. Black. He wrapped my head like a mummy after my face got burned from grease on the stove. He burned a wart off my finger. He dug objects out of my ears that didn’t belong there. He pushed and poked and gave out nasty medicines. And he gave shots. But he always gave every kid a balloon and sucker.
“Sorry I almost tortured you to death. Here’s a balloon. Now, don’t stick that in your ear again, okay?”
Dr. Black was a hero one time. It was a Sunday afternoon. A buddy had come home from church with me to play for the afternoon. We tussled around in the yard. Shot BB guns. Built a fort in the hay bales down at the barn. Just a typical goof off kind of day.
When it came time to go back to church for evening services, I didn’t feel good. Mama wasn’t buying it. I moaned sincerely. She got stern.
“I just can’t believe it. You’ve been running around here all day and all of a sudden you’re sick? I know what you’re up to. You just want to stay home so you can watch the Wonderful World of Disney on TV. I tell you what, when I get home you had better still be sick. Now, get on that couch and don’t move.”
I did get on the couch. I did watch the Wonderful World of Disney. And I didn’t move.
When Mama got home, I was still there. She touched my forehead and got blisters on her hand. She apologized for not believing me, and she called Dr. Black. On a Sunday night. After dark. He sent us to the hospital. Sometime after midnight my appendix came out.
“It’s a good thing we got it when we did,” the doc said. “That appendix was about to bust.” What I heard was, “Any longer and we might have had to amputate below the waist.”
I always felt bad that Mama felt bad about fussing at me. We relived that story for years. I think I was 30 and she was still apologizing. But at the time it was kind of satisfying to think, “I told you I was sick.” Plus I got a really cool scar to show off.
There are not many doctors these days you could call after dark on a Sunday night. Dr. Mack and Dr. Martha are still that way here in Pine Mountain. It’s almost unbelievable. They are the best. But their kind is a vanishing breed. I’m guessing that corporate medicine has ruined the kind of things that good doctors love to do.
I think the last time I saw Dr. Black was right before I got married. It’s a little embarrassing to tell you that my Mama made me go. She wanted me to get a checkup before I went out into the world on my own. He checked my ears. All clear. I had learned my lesson. Infant to skinny adult. He was the doc who took care of us. I think he even offered me a balloon.