My grandfather lived in a very small town of 5,000 people in southern Ontario back in the 60’s. He had been the only doctor in the town for about 50 years, and knew everyone old, new and in between. He brought most of the town’s children into the world; saw them through their teens, twenties and onward,and brought their children into the world.
Granddad held office hours five days a week in his home/office and would visit the hospital day in and day out 20 miles away to see his patients. And he was no stranger to making house calls. “All a part of what doctors do dear,’ he’d say with a sweet smile. “When and where they need me , I will always go.”
When my grandmother passed away, he was very sad and lonely but wouldn’t show it. He would say he wasn’t lonely because he was needed and loved by so many. He was a good actor.
When he was turning 80, Granddad was still practicing medicine. There was one more doctor in town now, but Granddad carried on.
In the summer of 1968, he was out clipping his hedge and tripped on the electrical cord. We got a phone call from Granddad’s neighbour telling us, “Doctor has fallen! He seems okay but he refuses to go to the hospital. He says he is quite fine thank you very much and keeps ordering the medics to put him in his house.”
My dad and I jumped in the car and headed out. We lived about an hour away. Upon our arrival, Granddad was in his bed, telling everyone he was fine and didn’t need to be fussed over. My Dad, a doctor as well, examined Granddad “No broken bones Pop and your legs are responding well. But you’ve done some damage to your back and will be in bed for some time to come. We will have to arrange for a nurse to come in.
“Nonsense,” he grunted. I will be just fine.”
I looked over at him knowing how much he would hate a stranger in his house. “Granddad, I want to take care of you. School is out till September, so I can be your nurse for the whole summer.” The familiar twinkle in his eyes returned immediately. “That would be just grand dear.” And so I began one of the best times in my life for all my 19 years.
Day one was a bit challenging. He wanted to call all his patients to let them know he would be unable to see them for a while. I called the other town doctor, and over the next few days, every one of his patients. Mind you, in such a small town – news travels fast. It seemed everyone had heard the news and so the casseroles, pies, homemade soups and flowers flowed in through all three doors to the house.
Week four he was feeling so much better. He was able to walk but unable to manage the stairs. He rang his bell one morning around 11:00. I zipped up the stairs, “Coming Granddad.” “Mary Anne, I want you to bring all my patient files up here. As well, I have prepared a list of all the other items to be brought up here. But right now I want my address book. I have a lot of patients to call to let them know office hours start tomorrow. No time to waste.”
For the rest of that very special summer I spent with my Granddad, there was a doctor in the house.