While back in Northlandia we take road trips. Some are fun, some are surprising, some are just relaxing. They are always time well spent. They are like pizzas, some are better than others but they are always worth it.
While in Monmouth we wanted to see where an old friend lived. It wasn't where we thought it was after a Google check. I thought they lived on another street, bigger houses, nicer homes, but there it said: Maplewood. We found it and cruised along and there was the house number and over to the side a wooden marker that had his name on it. In one of my bolder moments, I told the Wombie I wanted to stop, and he was more reticent.
"Are you sure?", he said.
"Yeah, I'm sure. I want to do it."
He pulled in the driveway and I got out and knocked on the door. I pause at this time in the essay to repeat one of my favorite sayings, one that helps this old introvert when deciding whether to do something or not. Sometimes success is simply showing up.
In the back room I could see feet hoisted in a recliner. As soon as I knocked the feet came down and thus began an hour of a most incredible visit.
When the Wombie and I were about 6 or 7 we were at the Seaton baseball diamond watching the big kids get ready to play. Ballgames were a big deal back then in our little town and on game days we'd be up there checking out the players and see them play catch before playing. We were just standing around when an errant throw hit the Wombie in the face. I still remember the ride to some guy in Monmouth who was going to work on his bloody mouth. It seemed like it took forever - my bro in the back seat with Marj comforting him. I was in the front with Herb. It was horrible.
You see, the old friend was our retired dentist and he wasn't just any guy we found in the Yellow Pages. Dr. Philip Sexton was the guy who rescued one of our family members one summer night many, many, years ago.
The good doctor was the only guy around - Monmouth or Galesburg - who would come to the office for an emergency on a Saturday night. He had just graduated from dental school, had a small practice and, no doubt, happy to have the business. The Wombie might not have been his first patient, but very near.
And thus, a long term relationship began between him and my family that lasted to his retirement about 8 years ago. Now 84, he walked to the front door and as he opened the door I began to say, "You probably don't remember me, but..." and he immediately said, "Mike!"
His wife came out, the Wombie's came up from the car and we stood on his front porch talking old times and then were ushered inside for another 45 minutes. We talked of my parents, his family and his command of memory and particular dates was amazing.
Christmas cards were exchanged between his office and our family for years. He remembered she made her own. He performed my first tooth extraction. At one point with the Wombie, he sat back on that little dentist stool and said, "Well, Mark, we've done about everything we can do to your teeth." Everyone in the family went to him and as we married and had kids, they, too, became patients.
We talked about many things. We talked of my parents and he talked of his family and their annual get-togethers in Wisconsin. We talked of office visits and his retirement activities. We talked of his personal phone calls to a select number of customers to say goodbye when he retired (we were on that list). And as the time passed it was then time to go. Once back on the front porch it was painfully obvious he didn't want to let go. But once the goodbyes and handshakes were given we piled back in the car, amazed by the time well spent with an old link from the past.
When I think about the people who populate my life I tend to see how they fit into my particular life and why I love them. There's the buddy who is my opposite: imminently and endlessly thoughtful, gift of gab, funny, fellow bike rider, epitome of "friend", smart in ways I'm not. The other buddy who is wicked intellectual one moment, yet can reach low depths of depraved humor the next (I love that), always available for help, always at my side whether in Northlandia or the South, and again, true friend. And yet another who would do anything for me. not out of duty but because there wouldn't be any thought not to, who is a calm summer breeze to my soul. And then there's the Wombie who is every bit like those two comets who dance around each other as they fly the galaxy. I'm a lucky guy.
And our family was lucky to have someone who came to our rescue many years ago on a warm summer Saturday night. He was a part of our family and my family's health. Dr. Sexton is, without reservation, the nicest, most gentle person I have ever met. Yeah, I'm a lucky guy.