Off North Road : Funny stories for MVT
I sat at my second floor window after lunch and an interrupted nap. I looked out on fully greened shrubs and trees, some blossomed with white, pink or deep pink, or faded yellow. My mood was reflective and my brain drowsy. A picture of my old friend Wilkie looked at me across my desk and I was back for a moment at Wesleyan, Cornell Medical, and New York Hospital. Cottony clouds on blue floated overhead. An apparition of a twisted death head came and went. All of my friends are rounding 80 and looking cautiously to the future. One week recently we celebrated 30 80th birthdays.
Two of our children, Debby and Steve, had spent the weekend with us helping with our move back to Menemsha next week. After supper, Debby said, "Dad, why don't you write about some of the funniest things that happened in our family growing up?" That's a twist, I thought, probably a good idea. The rest of my afternoon took up the challenge. "How about the time Mom blew up the kitchen," she added.
I was in the office through a short hallway and two doors into my examining rooms. I remember the patient was waiting for her annual PAP smear. Mom was in the kitchen holding three-year-old Rusty. Widget, the cat, sat in her usual place on the stove to the left of the gas burners on the cold grille. Suddenly the stove blew up while Mom was trying to light the oven for the second time. The oven door blew off and all the cupboard doors. The ceiling cracked but luckily held in place.
I think Mom ended up on the floor still holding the baby unharmed. Widget jumped or was blown into the heavy iron spider holding our favorite zucchini dish, gained her feet and dashed out of the kitchen. It's an understatement to say that Dad reported finishing his office procedure post haste, pale, and rushed into the kitchen. Everyone seemed accounted for, but where was Widget? Two hours later, we found her in a bed on the third floor. She suffered no untoward trauma except for the fright, nor did the rest of us.
Folks on Main Street a block away talked about the big bang for a month. We have never had a gas range since. That night young Rusty started supper, then paused. "Why is there hair in the zucchini?" Everyone laughed.
Once in my young practice I was bent on saving money and decided to sterilize my "rubber gloves" in our oven, the same oven. The gloves in those days had to be washed and dried by hand, tested by blowing them up and sterilizing before use again. Dry heat would have to be the method. Of course, the gloves stuck to their paper envelopes and were ruined. I became the anti-hero for weeks. I bought a mini-steam sterilizer, which worked at 20 controlled pounds pressure.
The red phone in the kitchen always rang between 6 and 6:30 when Mother insisted we all eat together around the table with no exceptions, especially the doctor. Everyone hated answering that red devil. Deb would say her father hadn't returned from the office and she would blush with shame as she returned to the table. But Pam, the little vixen who teased the cat incessantly, answered the red phone without hesitation, evenly she would say, "Dad is eating supper right now. Can he call you back when he is finished?" Of course, it was a perfect play but Rusty had the last word: "Pam can answer the red phone but Debby lies."
Pam was the middle child. Mom thought that position augured poorly for a middle child. We ignored the remark but she did get into things she shouldn't have. The children all knew when patients were in the next rooms and were careful except for Pam. One afternoon I greeted a woman who came to see me for the first time. She looked into my small examination room and stood looking into the room, rubbing her forehead and making small gasping noises, not for lack of breath, I thought, but increasing anxiety. "I must tell you, Doctor," she stammered, "I have extreme claustrophobia and I want you to be sure never to leave me alone in this room and close the door." The very moment I reassured my patient, I heard footsteps in the hall between kitchen and office and heard the key inserted into the lock. In horror I saw the bolt slide across the space between door and jam. How would my patient react with both of us locked together in this strange room? As calmly as I could, I said without knowing for certain who was on the other side, "Pam! Unlock this door this minute." And she did. And we were OK. I'm not sure my patient recognized the drama, it all happened so quickly.