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If it pains my friends and family to have to watch as I hobble about, one can now only imagine the discomfiture my old dentist and friend Richard Lewis must have felt as his family and friends watched him fade slowly and painfully from this life, a victim of pancreatic cancer.

But in my dream I get to tell Richard how grateful I am to him for far more than his professional services. For he was about the finest Jew I've had the privilege and comfort of knowing in my adult years. Oh, to lay eyes upon him once again in this life, and recount the times he would come out to my house and drive me to his office when I would call him complaining of a toothache that was about to drive me even crazier than I ordinarily am. He accepted the compliment with his usual modesty and just kept on driving, casting a sideways glance at his patient to make sure I was still with him.

Our doctors and friends do not minister to us just in their professional capacity but as guides. My half-asleep mind also thinks of Calvin Simmons, the obstetrician in Pine Bluff who many years ago delivered both my children. When my wife, eager to have her baby and get it over with, would lecture the doc between spasms on the advantages of natural childbirth, he would respond in his slow, deliberate way with a pause not just between every word but every syllable: "Now, Car-o-lyn, who's the ... doc ...tah ... heah?"

Naturally enough, or rather unnaturally, my children would arrive before he had finished his first sentence or even subordinate clause. And when the time came for the bris, or circumcision of my son, now a grown man with children of his own, it was held at Jefferson Hospital in Pine Bluff so all the nurses in attendance at the birth could attend.

I can still see my infant son tucked away in his cradle, our cat Dinah curled up beside him.

It struck one member of the family as unhygienic, and and she had written us a warning about cats sucking the breath out of babies, no doubt unaware in her innocence that cats cannot suck. Which is why they lap up milk.

Happiness is an emotion that seems to occur while the mind is elsewhere, worrying about dangers or duties that never actually loom. As a man I knew used to say, he had spent much of his life worrying about things that never happened. But what nervous young parents realize as much at the time?

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it's also taken its toll on dogs. Ours were named Holmes and Watson. The quick, darting Holmes offset the ponderous Watson, both of them pound dogs and full of affection for the couple who had saved them. Dinah sat back and watched these goings-on with no apparent interest until one of them dared mess with her, and then there was hell to pay.

Oh, to resurrect those bygone days that slip in and out of memory. Just as there is talk now about restoring the Hotel Pines in downtown Pine Bluff to its former glory. If only buildings could talk! What stories that great hulk could tell. I remember my first night there, waking up to have breakfast for something like $1.14 in its dining room. And then walking to my job interview at the Pine Bluff Commercial.

When I inquired of a passing man in khaki which direction I should go, he took me by the elbow, guided me to the outside of the broad sidewalk on Main, and pointed me in the right direction, commenting on each and every store, intersection or crack in the sidewalk I would cross en route. He might have appeared just another member of the Southern yeomanry giving a stranger directions. But I know better now, having then failed to recognize the angel he in truth was.

Paul Greenberg is a Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial writer and a columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Editorial on 09/07/2018

Print Headline: Next rooms of the dream

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