I stepped on one of my cat, Goos, tail, quite by accident, and then, despite my most sincere apologies, he hid from me for a few moments, not allowing me to to pet or hold him, as my voice, soft with sincerity and apologies, had attempted to coax him towards me, he looked at me as if to say, why did you do that?!? I didn’t like that!
And I thought dearly of our family Doctor, Dr. James Parker Jr., a very fine and tall man with rather large hands and a deep booming voice. He was so often our families salvation, forgetting to ask for office visit fees and handing out samples of medications so dearly needed from the pharmaceuitical reps, we paid him mostly in the fish and lobster our fishermans family currency allowed and then some, and a good deal of my mothers scrumptious jams and jellies as well!
One day, when I was about 6 or 7 years of age and not feeling well, as we were leaving, he very accidentally shut one of my pony tails in the office door, unleashing a torrent of tears, and much like Goo, I howled and sobbed and wrapped myself in my dearest cloak, my mother. He not only followed us to the door in a state of misery, butt all the way to our car, apologizing, completely heart broken for my wounded feelings. He felt so truly awful that for the only time, I was afraid of him, and would not look at him, despite his sincere pleas, and offers for ice cream floats at the soda fountain across the street from his office.
On our way home, my mother patiently continues to explain it was an accident, that Dr. Parker would simply never hurt anyone on purpose, and by the time we got home, I knew she was correct. Though I was mearly a child, I felt horribly guilty for having made him leave his office and his waiting patients in order to follow me outside to be certain that I was in fact okay. Even at such a tender age, I felt childish and so very foolish for having behaved so.
I am not certain that I ever actually apologized to him, and I truly wish I had., as he was a trusted and honored member of the community, and a dear friend to our entire family.He was a friend in such a magnificant way, his father even treated my grandparents, we were bonded in a very unique sense! We were one of the few white families he saw and treated, and yet, we never felt the slightest bit awkward. I hadn’t realized until much later in life that some found that odd, as we certainly hadn’t! Every time I hear Count basie, I think of this marvelous, colorful calendar he had in his office and the tales he told of this music, of how his office had this very specific and comforting medicinal smell that only his had.
Dr. James Parker Jr. passed away in my early 30’s, and as a community, we were all so very sad, it was the end of an era, the first time I had experianced this opulant, glorious, and tragic moment, it stays with me still, how so many were brought to broken tears over the passing of something that shall never be again. This was a Doctor who opened his doors at 6am, no sign in, it was always based on the honor system, and that was always honored, trusted. He had no nurse, he answered his own phone, and never made specific follow ups, he just said, let’s see how you feel next week. He was a true anomaly, he wasn’t there for riches, but for the goodness.
The town of Red Bank honored both him and his father in several ways, not only did they name a street after the both of them, but there is now also a clinic named in their honor, to attempt to replicate the goodness and kindness they gave to all who came to them, regardless of color or beliefs. Perhaps that was my first inspiration, to give and do, despite various differences, and that not only stuck with me, but blossemed, I am eternally in debt for such a thing. Words, and monetary value shall never truly encompass the impact on my soul. But perhaps, in saving a gaggle of feral kittens, earning their trust, and always showing patience and love when they fear I may have wronged them, perhaps in moments such s this, I may honor the memory of the man who first showed me at such a tender age what kindness, compassion, and love can do to repair the temporary tear of trust. Given time and effort, it can be rebuilt, of this, I am certain.