Dad was simply “Doc” to many people in our community. He was “Doc” 24/7 literally. He did not have days or nights off except for 2-3 weeks in the summer when another doctor took his care of his patients and then dad took care of his patients in return so each could take a well-earned rest or the odd long-weekend to go visit family.
Dads day (generally) started with breakfast with the family and sometimes we were able to get through the meal without a phone call or two from a patient. After breakfast dad would grab his doctors bag and head off to the hospital for morning rounds and some mornings he would visit both hospitals or stop by a nursing home as well, seldom did he not have at least one patient to visit. After the hospital, hospitals, and/or nursing home he would return in time to be in the office by 9 or 9:30 am and the steady stream of patients (and performing the lab tests as well) he would see that day (some scheduled / some not) and his day (in the office) ended when the last patient had been seen and we thought 6 pm was an early day for dad. Dad would climb the stairs, wash up and we would then have our second meal of the day together as a family, each describing their day, what they did, what they learned, and that included dads day (minus identifying info of course). Dinner together was mandatory but it was also shared with dads patients, and if we got through a meal maybe only 3 or 4 phone calls from patients it was amazing.
After dinner dad would watch the news and read the paper for maybe a half hour and then if he did not have any home calls to go on and it was summer time, he was out tending the yard, flower beds, or his precious vegetable garden until it was too dark to see what he was doing. Dad produced the majority of the food we consumed which mom preserved for the long winter months. But dad loved gardening and provided him with his only real chance to get excercise and reduce his stress and to refresh his soul from a world filled with sorrow and sickness. Too often though that world intruded and the phone would ring, mom would call for him out the window and he would come up from the garden to take the call. Sometimes those calls were just calls for advice but other times it turned into someone arriving to be seen after hours in the office or dad grabbing his bag hurrying out on an emergency home call.
Some nights dad got to go to bed and sleep till morning, other nights he would get a phone call and would either get up and in head off to the office to patch up whoever had been in an accident, head out to the patients home usually to deliver a baby or head into the hospital to deliver a baby. Dad did not practice medicine 8 hours a day, he practiced medicine 24 hours a day – and that included weekends – people don’t get sick or have babies on a schedule. It was normal for dad to be seen sleeping in church, especially if he had delivered a baby the night before. Dad was his patients “Doc” and people relied on him to be there for them when they needed him, regardless if they could pay their bills, paid with cash or what they had to trade.
Todays Doctors (heaven help you if you use Doc instead of Doctor) just don’t seem to measure up to dad, a shallow comparison at best.
Dad also managed to always be there for us kids and if we needed to talk to him during the day he took the time between seeing his patients. On weekends I would go with him on his hospital rounds, depending on who the patient was and why they were in hospital I would either go with him into the room or waited for him in the waiting room but those trips to the hospital was ‘our time’. Nursing home visits were also part of our routine if he had not managed to squeeze them in his rounds during the week. Once his doctoring duties were taken care of we returned home and I could usually be found playing near where dad would be digging, planting, weeding, tilling, mowing, trimming, harvesting, pruning and at the same time teaching me, being my dad, schooling me in the wisdom of just being the best human being you possibly can and that included helping people when they needed help – not just when it was convenient…
Doctors and Dads of today could learn a lot just by trying to follow in the footsteps of this man I knew only as Dad…
I miss you dad.