Life is a journey and this is mine
I was born in Fern Hill. My folks didn’t have the 50 bucks up front
they needed for a hospital admission but Drs were still making house
calls. Actually, the doc showed up drunk and he tripped over the
threshold and fell on his face. My mother’s labor stopped and I was
born a week later with a different Dr. I came into this world a week
late and I have never caught up. Incidentally, at the hospital you
can pick out a baby from the nursery display case but if your have
your kids at home, you don’t get a choice.
I started school at Fernhill in a two room school house but we moved
to Portland when I was still in the first grade. My dad played
country-western music and we went to dances every weekend. My sister
stood on a chair when she sang, my mother worked behind the counter
selling coffee and hotdogs and I mostly just wandered around looking
We moved to Idaho when I was in the third grade and my folks had a
little country store. I worked the cash register and pumped gas and I
ended up with one of the best gas cap collections in the state. While
we were there, I went to a summer Bible School with the Mormons and we
retraced the Mormon Trail.
We moved back to Rainier when I was ten and that was the year that
West Rainier flooded out. The following year, we had a big earthquake
and the grade school probably came within a shake or two of collapsing
on us. I went to Sunday School and Church here and we used to fill
the church on Christmas and Easter. When I was in high school, we had
an hour right after lunch on Fridays to walk down the hill to the
church for a religious service. We also car pooled to Portland for
the Youth for Christ Revival meetings.
I went to the University of Oregon for half a year after high school
and then I joined the Navy. I went to Hospital Corps School
after bootcamp and then they assigned me to a polio ward in
Portsmouth, Va. After that, the Navy sent me to Radio Isotope Therapy
School in San Diego. Nuclear Medicine was in its infancy in 1957 and
there have been lots of changes since then and I had a front row seat
for most of them.
I worked at Good Sam in Portland, St Mary’s in San Francisco and
BessKaiser in Portland. I found the technology fascinating but the
biggest challenge for me was my interaction with the patients. They
came in with a lot on their minds and the first thing I had to do was
inject them with radioactive materials. My goal was to engage
patients as human beings while I did their studies.
My daughter went to work with me one day when she was 15 and she told
me that they must pay me for me for what I knew because they certainly
didn’t pay me for what I did. She said all I did was sit on my little
blue chair and talk to people. That worked for me and I chatted to my
patients about birds, flowers, books, movies, the sex life of the lace
wing flies or anything else that seemed appropriate at the time and
that eased the patients through the procedures.
My patients were gay and straight. bums and millionaires and religious
and non believers. The Good Lord doesn’t appear to show any
favoritism when it comes to illness and we all need a little kindness
and respect. One day the Hospital Chaplin came down to my lab and he
was quite serious. He told me that he was really very sorry to have
to tell me but someone had asked him to give me a compliment. I had
an AID’s patient who was in pretty tough shape. He wasn’t someone
that I would have wanted to start a conversation with on a bus but he
was my patient and so I plopped myself down on my little blue chair
and talked him through the procedure. His sister had appreciated that
I treated him like any other patient.
The Chaplin told me that he considered me to be the lay minister in my
area but I had never thought about it that way but actually, how we
interact with people may be the largest part of our ministry. I
didn’t preach or hand out leaflets but I made an effort to treat my
patients with respect and they knew that I cared. I made the effort,
but I think that over the long haul, I probably received more from my
patients than I gave.
My philosophy is reach out and help people when you can. It doesn’t
have be anything major. It may just be a smile or perhaps just taking
the time to listen and yes, you can try this at home. The Bible tells
us to “Love our neighbors as ourself”. Love and respect your
neighbors and your family and also respect yourself. Some of us
aren’t all that easy to love and we may have to work on it. If you
can make a difference in your neighbor’s life, you will probably will
end up with a nicer neighbors and so will they.
I started back to church here when I retired and returned to Rainier
and I think my mother probably conned me into it. She needed a ride
to church and I could sing in the choir and I went along with it. You
have become my church family and I accept and enjoy you as you are. I
could just as easily read the Bible at home and sing hymns along with
the TV but I attend church for the fellowship and of course, for the
insights provided by the pastor. You are not just my friends, you are
my anchor. Thank you and blessings to you all.