Thirty-one years ago the Head of the Pediatrics Department at St. Peter’s recommended a pediatrician in Clifton Park to take care of my new-born daughter. She was the best, he said, and he was sure I would like her. I did. My daughter did and so did her little brother. So much so that they both balked when they turned 18 and had to find a “grown-up” doctor.
On Friday morning, shopping done and looking for a short-cut to the check-out counter, I turned down the frozen food aisle at Price Chopper. Usually oblivious in the market, for some reason I glanced up and down the aisle. That is when I saw her. A small African-American woman with thinning grey hair and practical shoes, thick glasses and a wide gentle smile. Dr. Glasgow.
“Dr. Glasgow? Hello, I’m Deborah Sabin.” I called out to her as I approached and offered my hand. She clasped my warm hand in her two, smaller, cool hands.
“Oh my, yes, how are you? And how are your children? A girl and a boy, yes?”
“Yes, Leah and Benjamin. They’re fine. They are doing really well.”
She smiled. “Yes, I remember them. And you. What are they up to?”
I related the recent developments in their lives, telling her that Leah was completing her internship in Clinical Psychology by working with traumatized adolescent girls at a facility in Massachusetts, before she came home to finish the revisions to her doctoral dissertation.
“Oh, I can see how she would be wonderful with girls that age. And a psychologist? Wonderful!”
Ben, I told her, had graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science but had no desire to attend law school. She chuckled at that, as if she had always known he would not want to be a lawyer, despite his parents’ profession. He had joined AmeriCorps to work in rural New Hampshire as a domestic violence liaison. I related to her, he had then departed for Seattle on a fellowship with President Obama’s re-election campaign. Upon completion of the assignment, he decided to stay in Seattle and was now in client services with an online insurance consulting and referral firm. And he had a girlfriend.
“Oh, that is wonderful. Good for him. And how are you?”
“I’m retired, doing some arbitrations, teaching Sunday school and writing romance novels and essays about Mitch.”
A shadow passed over her face as I said Mitch’s name.
“Yes, I remember as though it was yesterday.”
We stood under the fluorescent lights, in the chill air of the ice cream aisle, looking into each other’s eyes, lost in a moment of shared grief.
“He was the best father I ever met.” She told me the words, just as she had said them to me on a hot August day in 1988. I could see her trudging up my driveway in the middle of the afternoon to pay a shiva call. We sat together in the family room and she related just how marvelous he was with our children. It was not right that such a good man was gone and that my children had lost their daddy. She patted my hand then and told me that if there was anything she could do to help me, she would.
And she did. For the next 15 years, until my daughter was in college and my son turned 18, she was there whenever I needed her. Through asthma and broken bones. Through camp, sports and college physicals. Through growing pains and adolescence, she was there. Appointments were given when I needed them, prescription refills called in to save me time, special weekend visits to fit my schedule and my children’s needs, she and her associates were there. Firm yet kind, practical and professional; she helped me raise my children, both as a new mom and a new widow.
“You know, there were some days when I did not think they would be fine, but you helped me through.” I took her hands in mine over a cart brimming with chicken and yogurt and lettuce. “My children are fine and I could not have done it without you. Thank you, thank you so much.”
“You are a good mother. You did a good job. They were always special. I’ve thought about them over the years, wondered how they were and wished them well. You did it.”
“I did it with your help. They say it takes a village and it does. You were there for us and I don’t think I ever thanked you properly. So, thank you.”
We both had tears in our eyes when I hugged her. She has doctored thousands of children in the over 40 years she has been practicing. Yet, she had remembered mine and spared a thought for them while tending the infants and toddlers and teenagers that had followed them through the doors of her office.
We made our good-byes with heartfelt good wishes for the future. As I turned from her, I felt a lightness in my step and in my heart. As I often did when leaving her office, a worry about my children left in her capable hands, trusting her assurance that “I will see to it, actually. It will be fine.”