Strange how memories are triggered by sensory events that seem totally unrelated. As I was in the Jeep with my sleeping grandbaby this morning, waiting for my daughter and Little r to emerge from a big box store with a load of diapers, the scent of rain brought to mind an image of my father and I doing rounds of his patients at Johns Hopkins. Was it raining that day, too?
I must’ve been around 5 years old and my father would have been in his early thirties. I was wearing one of his white lab coats with the sleeves rolled up and the hem dragging on the floor behind me. The stethoscope around my neck banged against my thighs as we walked from room to room. Dad wore a similar coat, which must have had “Dr. Wm. E. Chase, Urology Department” embroidered above the pocket that also held one exquisite mother-of-pearl fountain pen. His stethoscope was identical to mine. Golden wire-rim glasses were perched on his nose and behind them his eyes were the same blue as mine.
We were accompanied by a flock of what I now know to be resident docs, in blue scrubs, carrying clipboards and calling me “Little Dr. Chase,” which made me feel happy. The sound of so many feet on the linoleum floor and the smell of iodine, blood and urine are still strong in my mind. I can see Dad washing his hands before and after each patient, and I can feel my own tiny hand encased in his, large and warm, as we move down the hall.
My dad introduced me to each patient, described in simple words the surgery he had performed, sometimes with drawings made using his fountain pen on whatever was available: a napkin, the back of a tissue box, even his hand. And after asking questions of the residents he would say to me, “Any questions, Princess?”
I always had questions unrelated to the patients. “Daddy, can I make the bed go up and down?” “Daddy, can I wash my hands, too?” “Daddy, can we have a treat now?” He’d smile, answer my questions and kiss me on the head. I can still feel his soft lips lingering there!
When we were finished with rounds, we’d head to the cafeteria for chocolate milk and an oatmeal cookie so delicious I’m drooling as I write this. I think it had raisins and pecans. And cinnamon. For sure cinnamon. And then my father would lift me up onto his shoulders and carry me out to the car for our drive home in the rain which, I’m pretty sure, smelled exactly like today’s rain. When we arrived my beautiful mama was probably waiting with my baby brother and our lunch, unaware that in just four years the love of her life, and mine, would pass on. That was over 60 years ago.
Happy Father”s Day, Daddy!
Johns Hopkinds Medical School Image: http://urbanhealth.jhu.edu/jhmi_eastbaltimore/
Fountain Pen Image: http://ulugtekin.com/a/pelikan/pelikan.101n.tortoise.html