A Very Patient Man

23 Jul

I read in the paper my old dentist, Drexel Johnson, has died. He treated me from the time I went back into public school, until my first born was about two years old.

Bear in mind that we are talking about the period from 1957 to 1960, while I was still under my parent’s roof. Once a week my mother would give me $10 to walk to Dr. Johnson’s office so he could work on my teeth. Back then, even  I did’t think $10 was enough, but off I’d go, my money clutched in my hand, to see what the poor man could do for me. Her instructions were, “Have him do $10 worth of work, and then stop – and don’t waste good money on x-rays!”.

He once asked me what he was supposed to do if he was in the middle of something when I ran out of money? I told him he could finish up, and next time I came in, I’d be glad to give him rest of the money, and then go read a magazine until it was time to go home.  (It would not do to get home early. ) I’m probably the only kid in the world who carried a running tab at the dentist. The man had the patience of a saint.

I had an impacted wisdom tooth, and he honestly needed to “waste good money on X-rays.” Dr. Johnson asked me to discuss this with my mother. I was no fool; I suggested “Why don’t you call her and talk to her directly.” (And for God’s sake don’t get me in the middle of this!) He went into the office and I could hear her ranting at him over the phone. I couldn’t make out what she was saying, but I got the gist of it. He came back into the treatment room shaking his head.  “Is she always…” and stopped.

“Like that?” I finished. “Yes. sir.”

A real piece of work.

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