Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

Cape Cod

Archive for June, 2019

Sunday musings…6/30/19

Sunday musings (lots to catch up on)…

1) Fonder. Absent last week. Never got to the keyboard. Miss me?

2) Timmy. Our little manster Tiny Tim passed away last fall. He was a great dog. Attached as if by velcro to Beth. He visited me last night in my dreams so vividly that when I awakened it was if my arms and my lap were still warmed by his soft, fuzzy body. It was a happy awakening.

I really miss our little floofball.

3) Savage. Did you know that Fred Savage from The Wonder Years is 42 years old? Not a typo. 42! I’m not really sure why this is so striking; I didn’t really watch the show and all.

Still, Fred Savage is 42 years old. Whoa.

4) Washing machine. Fun little article on hanging clothes to dry outside in this weekend’s WSJ. I can’t remember the last time I actually saw that outside of the beach. The whole washing and drying of clothes is yet another part of “the world is way better than we admit” thing I’ve touched on in recent months. For the price of a little electricity households are freed from the chore of washing and drying their clothes by hand.

Admit it. Unless you’ve done much travel in 3rd world countries or the whole bohemian backpack thing, you haven’t washed anything by hand in years. Maybe your whole life.

This does bring into play a few 1st world problems. Our washer drum is putting rust spots on our whites. Beth just ordered a new one to be delivered and installed on the 4th (in the middle of our party!). Top or front load I asked. Answer: “Top. The whole front load thing is annoying.”

There you have it.

5) PT. I threw on a backpack and took a walk to our local liquor store yesterday afternoon. Crazy good place that store. Anyway, I loaded up the back pack with “provisions” weighing ~20 lbs and walked on home. Only 2.5 months out from my hip replacement the extra load was actually pretty noticeable. Now when people ask what I’m doing for PT I have a new, and utterly perfect answer:

I’m a rum runner!

6) Words. How we express ourselves in the words we choose can make a difference in what others hear if we do, in fact, have the ability to choose. Those hearing us should extend  goodwill in that the vast majority of people speak with honorable intent. Still, when it is obvious that a choice has been made to alter a common speech pattern or phrasing it is heartwarming; the effort should be called out and those who made the effort applauded. A very important example, one that I have mentioned often, is to describe a suicide as “death by suicide” or killed by suicide”, opting to drop “committed” and all it carries.

So here’s to MLB and its tiny but meaningful gesture of changing the name of the list of players unable to play from the “disabled list” to the “injured list”, removing a possible cause of discomfort from affecting a vulnerable population. Bravo.

7) Equality. As I approach 60 I am frequently drawn back to times, places and people from the past. White privilege is a theme that is quite in the news of late. Other than being white it’s been rather hard to see how I’ve been otherwise privileged. Certainly I have never felt the sting of real discrimination based on the color of my skin; if privilege is simply the absence of discrimination then I have been thus privileged. But as I’ve written in the past my Dad grew up quite poor, and our very lower middle-class life in the earliest days of our family was remarkably similar in almost all ways to that of a super-majority of the families in the town where I was born.

Why was that? Southbridge was notably short of not only the truly rich, but even the upper-middle class. As far as I can remember there was only really one rich family (the Wells family owned American Optical, the big employer) who literally no one ever saw, and precisely one neighborhood that stood out. And that only because the lots were a little bigger. My memory is that the houses themselves were pretty much just like those in the rest of the town. Nobody took fancy vacations or traveled to exotic locations. Little League shut down when AO closed for 2 weeks in July, and everyone went to the local lakes. In my memory almost every family in town who wanted to belonged to the little 9 hole country club if Dad played golf.

What was really extraordinary was how it felt to be a kid in school. I have no memory of anyone standing out based on any type of affluence or wealth. The kids who had cars had them because they were car-centric families. Those of us who did not (my siblings and I were not allowed to own our own cars in high school and college) didn’t because our families just didn’t have cars for the kids. There are no memories of stratification based on the clothes we wore in school. In fact my only memory about clothes was how I felt because of our own family’s very strict dress code for school. No bellbottoms or blue jeans in school, and we could only wear sneakers on Friday. My hair never touched my ears or came within hailing distance of my collar. Remember, we’re talking the 60′s and 70′s here.

Although there was a regional Catholic high school in town almost no one went there despite the fact that at least 90% of us were Catholic. We all took French in school, even the children from Puerto Rican families for whom Spanish was the language spoken at home. Kids were “tracked” academically in those times; I spent each school day with pretty much the same 25 or so kids. In the hallways between classes you couldn’t distinguish which track a kid might be in, though. I was just as likely to be hanging out with a neighborhood buddy or a teammate with whom I never shared a classroom as I was to be walking with someone from math class. As I look back it seems remarkable.

For the boys at least, we all seemed to share our rites of passage on similar timelines. Sign up for Little League at 8. Basketball leagues started at the Y at age 10. We all played Pop Warner football in 7th and 8th grades. It surely seems like everyone I knew did all of that at the same time (girls sports were different in those pre-Title 9 days so my memories are skewed male, for sure). It seems like we all had our first beers and our first kisses within 12 months of each other, max. Despite obvious genetic differences in academic or athletic prowess we all seemed so much alike. There seemed to be so little that separated any of us from one another. I’ve often noted that the difference between the “good kids” and the “bad kids” may have been simply that the “good kids” didn’t get caught.

The White family moved on, moved to another state and another school system, and another way of life as my father became more and more successful. It was obvious that we now had more of at least some stuff, not least of which was house. There was a vast range of housing in our new town. Consequently there was a greater awareness of neighborhoods among everyone, including the kids. High school in the 70′s largely broke down this awareness and never let it be a barrier, but looking back that new town and new school were different. And I am left to wonder not why the new school was different (because I see now that it was actually more realistic and probably normal), but why my first school was really the one that stood apart.

In the end I believe that Southbridge in the 60′s and 70′s was different because of all the things that were the same. Everyone went to public schools. Most Moms stayed home. The only difference between Dads seemed to be whether they took their daily shower in the morning before work or at night after. Pretty much every household had the same philosophy on child raising, and consequently you were kinda parented by every parent in town. School was safe. We had only to behave there as we behaved at home and we were free to learn. Mostly we all had the same amount of nothing extra. Nothing that set us apart from one another. It seems that we only kept score in class and on the playing fields and had nothing to measure and to compete for otherwise.

Is this simply the rose-colored memory of a kid who was mostly successful in school? Maybe, but as my old school friend Jan pointed out yesterday I wasn’t really as successful socially as I was in the classroom and on the field. One wonders if anyone else who was there at the time has a similar memory. My sense from our conversation is that Jan might. Still, as someone who has since traveled  way up and way down the economic and social ladders, there was something there that I’ve not found anywhere else. It’s not obvious to me why that was.

My hope is that, having lived there and having experienced what I remember as an equality that was so natural and unexplored that it seems extraordinary and rare, that the greatest lesson I learned there is that it is always what we have in common that matters. And that we almost always have much more in common than not. Our default setting should always be set on “equal”.

I’ll see you next week…

The Lifelong Bond Between Caddies. Sunday musings…6/9/19

1) 27. Happy 27th Birthday to my doppelgänger Randy. Never fails to make me laugh when he laughs (or sneezes, or talks) and someone expects to see me.

2) Mom. Boy, my Mom and I made a spectacle of ourselves this weekend! I really wonder what folks thought about the wacky, age mismatched couple laughing uproariously at the bar on Friday night. The only one who “got” us was Cecelia, a ridiculously precocious 4 1/2 yo, a bat savant, who chatted up Mom at The Ice Cream Machine.

You had to be there.

3) Hip. Couple of milestones this weekend as I continue to recover from my total hip. I just finished my longest walk, 30 minutes, and I feel great. The lack of “athleticism” is weird, though. You know, that ability to just move on demand. Yeah, not there yet. The other milestone was setting off my first airport metal detector. Funny, it didn’t happen on the way out. Of course I left everything in my pockets (TSA pre-checked) and ending up getting the full, up close and personal experience when I went through the particle detector with my wallet in tow.

Air travel is not for sissies.

4) Sasha. What a gem our new little Aussie Shepherd is turning out to be. Our border collie Abby loves her, and Sasha is equally in love with her new big sister. You can’t help but feel great about coming home when your dog wags her (sorta) tail so hard her feet come off the ground.

Rescue your next dog so that it can rescue you.

5) Caddy. My caddy partner for the day was having a rough go of it. A bit older than the high school and college kids who filled the benches in the caddy shack, he was there to make a little extra cash while hanging out with his people, other caddies. His golfer was a handful. He’d been having a tough round and was not handling it very well. By the time we got to the 14th tee he’d thrown his club a dozen times. Of course, he duck hooks his tee shot out of bounds to the left and sends his club helicoptering 50 yards and into the gorse. The caddy looked at the gorse; he looked at the golfer. “I think you’re going to have to throw a provisional club Sir. I don’t think I’m going to be able to find that first one.”

Pretty sure that was his last loop, maybe ever.

Were you ever a caddy? In one of my older essays about my requirement that young physicians should spend time in their training working in an intensely personal customer service job I suggested that being a caddy would be an excellent assignment for interns before you let them take care of patients on their own. As a caddy you may be a better golfer than your boss, and you may very well know much more about the golf course than they do, but the only thing that matters is that you contribute to the enjoyment of the game for your boss that day, the golfer for whom you tote the bag.

Training for the ultimate consumer service job: doctor.

There is a very special bond between caddies who have worked together. Yesterday I had the pleasure and honor to connect with three men with whom I plied the links as kids, Christopher, Chris, and Michael. The brothers Bohac (Christopher and Michael) were two of three Bo’s who caddied when my brother and I were caddying, and Chris one half of a twin set who took their seats in the caddy shack alongside us. C Bo is now the director of course operations and assistant pro at the club we all worked for. The White brothers and the Bohac brothers were also junior members of the club as well. Chris, Christopher, and Michael were joined by a buddy for 18 and I rode a cart with them for a few holes of visiting.

If you think golfers are bad about telling the same stories over and over, hang out with a bunch of ex-caddies some time. Laugh? I don’t know how any of the guys got a ball airborne we were laughing so much for those 3 holes. You see, we caddied in a different time. A more innocent time, and frankly a less pretentious time, at least at our Dads’ club. We were famous for “caddy pranks”, stuff that the poor kids nowadays would never dream of trying. You always needed to keep a close eye on the caddies in the groups in front of and behind you lest a key club in your golfer’s bag go missing. I wish we had cell phone cameras back in the day just so we could have recorded a fellow caddy doing a front flip when his crossed straps caught him in the knees as he picked up his bags! Or a picture of Christopher’s bags hanging about 8 feet up in a fir tree when he was a junior caddy and made the mistake of leaving them right where his brother and I would be forecaddying on the next hole.

Poor “Chrissy” was only about 4’10 at the time.

So many caddies went on to become golfers. For sure the White and  Bohac brothers did. Both Chris and his bother Pat play. I like to think that all ex-caddies are as good to their caddies as my three buddies are. The fiercest ribbing came when a team hit their drives on the opposite sides of a fairway, a set-up that would make a caddy carrying double work extra hard. Indeed, what we learned on the golf course as caddies was not only how to provide service to a very particular individual, we also learned very valuable lessons about what kind of adult men we wished to be (note: there were no female caddies at our club; women golfers only rarely used caddies). Golf tends to accentuate essential characteristics of the golfer. Honor, or lack thereof. Courtesy and respect, or not. The difference between confidence and arrogance. Men for whom respect came naturally and men who tried to buy it. We saw it all. Being a caddy prepared me for pretty much all manner of adult male behavior as I moved through the stages of my education and career.

Many thanks to my old caddy buddies Christopher, Michael, and Chris for the warm welcome, the memories, and the laughs yesterday. For better or for best, I am who I am at least in part because my brother and I were caddies with you once upon a more (or less) innocent time.

I’ll see you next week…

Sunday musings…6/2/19

1) Nature. It’s messy. The Avon Lake eagles dined on duck this morning. Hoping it’s not one of the mallards who routinely dine at Casa Blanco.

2) Equus. I continue to marvel that the horse, in all of its various forms, has survived its introduction to humans. Indeed, one of the equestrians I accompanied to a show this weekend shares my amazement.

“We’re talking about a 1200 pound prey animal with a tongue bigger than its brain. How are they still here?”

3) Mookie. Bill Buckner, unfairly cast as one of the greatest goats (as opposed to GOATS) of all time for his error in game 6 of the 1986 World Series, passed away this week at the age of 69. He accepted his fault in the game changing error that allowed the Mets’ Mookie Wilson to reach first base and thereby drive in the winning run. Buckner handled the situation with grace and humor, at least publicly, for the rest of his life.

Mookie for his part held from the beginning and never wavered from his position that he would have beaten out the grounder even if Buckner had cleanly fielded the ball. Buckner you see was injured. “Of course I would have been safe; I had two good legs and he only had one.” I wonder, was Wilson offering Buckner an out? Allowing him space to shed the burden of prolonging the Red Sox Series jinx? Baseball is known not only for its characters but also for being the home for men of great character. Think Hank Aaron or Jim Rice in the latter category. Could it be that Mookie Wilson was an example of both?

That’s gonna be my take from now on. That Mookie Wilson offered a lifeline to a worthy competitor, one who was too proud to take it when he was alive. I hope Mr. Wilson never changes his story.

4) Loyalty. On Wednesday this week my long-time practice partner hung up his spurs. Scott and I worked hand-in-glove as eye doctors for 20 years. Ours was an amazing team. When I zigged so did he; when he zagged, so did I. No one had to tell me what he said to a patient we were sharing, and he knew without a shred of doubt exactly what I was going to say when it was my turn to address someone who’d come to see us. It took about 2 days to figure out that our partnership would work, and neither one of us gave a moment’s thought to the possibility that it wouldn’t for 20 years.

Everyone should have someone who works with them in whom they can bestow unquestioning trust. Scott was 100% loyal to the success of our enterprise. He treated me and each of our co-workers as if we were friends he’d had since grade school. If you laid the “extra miles” he went end to end you’d circle the globe a few dozen times. In world where business search, often in vain, for some sort of secret sauce to motivate their workers at all levels, the only time I ever gave any thought to motivation Scott was when I tried (in vain) to figure out some way to convince him that it wasn’t time to retire. No one ever worked harder with me or for me.

So it’s off to a well-deserved retirement for my friend Scott and his wife Bonnie, one likely filled with extended trips to visit their basketful of grandchildren and following their beloved Buckeyes. Years ago I dubbed him “the nicest man since Ghandi.” He stayed that way every day for 20 years. You never let yourself think what your day-to-day work life will be without someone like that bouncing through the door each day. Monday starts a new chapter for all of us at our little business.

A little bit of each of our hearts have been retired as well, wrapped around the heart  of the man who was the soul of SkyVision in a lasting, loving embrace.

I’ll see you next week…

 

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