“May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay forever young.”
At first glance they seemed to be unlikely business partners. Different tones of personality; varying ways to approach life and relationships. Once I got to know them the commonalities were striking and clear. Smart; elegant; classy; hard workers who knew how to get things done. Under different circumstances, in another existence, they could have easily become corporate executives and leaders. They had chosen a life of service to their families, and they performed their jobs well.
Three women that had the skills and makeup to accomplish anything that they set their minds to. Their project became a small store in an even smaller downtown area. Antiques; decorations; plants. Wild Oats. A warm and welcoming home for people in search of ideas. None of the principals expected to derive wealth from this venture. They made it an extension of their homes, at the same time that it became a refuge from the family routine.
One of them came to my office with minor respiratory complaints. I was fresh off residency training. I had joined an older gentleman who had a busy practice. Many of my original patients were people that he could not see right away. What we call “overflow.”
Her problem was simple enough. Years ago, I asked her why she had decided to switch to my care. “You explained the medicine’s side effects to me. I was shocked that a doctor treated me like I had a brain.” A rather blunt statement, but typical of what I was later exposed to from these fascinating and determined women.
Soon the referrals trickled in. Number one’s husband; then a brother; then number two, and her husband, and children who were old enough, and number three with her spouse. Then came neighbors, and friends, and anyone who happened to mention a medical issue when they visited the store. A veritable flood of sick and not so sick people who wanted to be treated as if they had a brain.
I exaggerate, but you get the idea. I was thrilled. I get so busy at work that I tend to forget names and relationships. It took me a while to figure out who was a member of this widely cast net, but I finally got it right. If I told someone in this group that one of my children had been ill, for the next month a dozen patients would ask how my daughter was doing. These people became an extended family. They always had words of encouragement for the young pup who was just starting out.
It has been more than forty years. I am retired now. I get a sporadic update through social media. I am going through my old blogs these days. Editing; adding clarification; updating. I stopped to reflect on how a few minutes of explaining led me to these friendships.
How long could it have taken me to explain a side effect? Thirty seconds? Surely a very smart woman does not make a decision that affects her health and her family’s based on such a brief span.
What was it? What was the glue that began the process of cementing what became a strong bond? And why did I feel, from the beginning as much as I do now, that I had lucked into acquiring the kind of patients that doctors love to have?
I think that the key lies in the willingness to be yourself. In any relationship. We try too hard to take care of business. In the process we manage to hide some of our flaws, but we fail to make public the glitter that makes us unique, interesting, and desirable. We are people long before we become doctors, or housewives, or executives. Too often the title is what the world sees first.
The Wild Oats “sisters” have been one of the nicest things that ever happened to me. In their presence I was allowed to be a person first. I was treated as a friend. True: one that has valued knowledge and who gets paid (dearly) for his services. Yet I always felt that the friend part came first. Although there has been no official induction ceremony, I consider myself a member of the Wild Oats sisterhood.
The store is long gone. The memories remain.
These strong, bright, very capable women are a microcosm of just about the only thing that makes me optimistic about this country’s future. I get the feeling that finally, this time, we will spare no effort to make sure that all women born in America are given an equal chance; an equal education; equal praise and acknowledgement for all they do. From the much-publicized liberal legislators to those who prefer to remain in the background, there is a wave of talent and determination coming our way.
They will not be patronized. They will not tolerate abuse. They will demand better pay. They will teach their daughters not to fade when pushed. Pity the man who tries to stand in their path.
I thank the Wild Oats sisters for their faith in me, and for their continued interest in my success in life. May God bless and keep them always.