Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Good Doctor

A couple of years ago Paul and I went to Deridder, Louisiana, my mother’s home town, to check it out. I’d been there before, but not in years. We stayed with Gretchen, Brother’s best friend. (Brother, who died in the late 90’s, was my mom’s uncle. She always called him Brother…and thus, so did I.)

Gretchen lives in the house in which she was born, on a Christmas day eighty-something (I’m guessing) years ago. It’s a pretty, three bedroom white house raised a bit, off the ground. Her parents put a bow on her and put her under the tree and “gave” her to her older brother as a present—an introduction that she says set the tone for their future relationship.

One morning we sat at her kitchen table, eating boudin, and she told us a bit about her family, including her father, who’d died when she was growing up. It seemed he’d had stomach problems for a long time. What they were she wasn’t clear on, except that he became something of an invalid.

At one point, they took him to the doctor in Lake Charles. Lake Charles is an hour away and right near the Texas border. For those in towns like DeRidder, it was big city—where you went shopping for school clothes, and went to see the doctor, if you had something serious the local guy couldn’t handle.

It was decided that Gretchen’s father needed surgery. And the man for it, the best guy in the state, rumor had it, was a young surgeon, a Lake Charles boy, who was lightning fast-- his speed on the table, it was rumored, resulted in fewer complications and infections.

The surgeon was Dr. Michael DeBakey, the famous heart surgeon, who died July 11th at the age of 99. I guess the Lake Charles boy was doing all kinds of operations way back when. Small world.

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