Warmth of a Parent

I’ve never personally met Dr Rafi Romano.  I knew that he is in his early fifties, a good father to 4 children, a reputable orthodontist and a wanted lecturer. We had once a debate on the mail on the “impact of parents’ attitude on behaviour patterns of their kids when they mature” and Dr Romano told me, in a very charming way, this personal story:

About 20 years ago I was a 30-years-old young orthodontist and I was flying every other week to the south of Israel for 2 working days to straighten children’s teeth.

One morning a woman was waiting for me in the clinic. She was shy and hesitant, looking older than her actual age, and she wanted to talk with me privately. In my office she told me that she is a single mother of two 12- years-old twin daughters. Just recently many of their school mates started to straighten their teeth but unfortunately she postponed her daughters’ treatment because she can’t afford the expense.
“I’m a nurse in the local hospital for many years, sometimes I even work double shifts, but my income is not sufficient. Recently I took upon myself extra work by cleaning houses so I have now extra income that might be enough to have my girls treated by a specialist like you.”

“And why,” I asked, “you are not using the public medical service which is, no doubt, much cheaper?”

She looked at me straight in the eyes, smiled and said: “You are so young so I assume you are not a father yet. When you are a parent you’ll understand that a parent wants the best for his kids, even if in return he needs to sacrifice everything.”

Somewhat embarrassed by the words of unconditional motherhood I paused, but then I remembered her request for a personal conversation. “Why did you want to see me in private?” I asked.

“Look” she said quietly looking down, “the twins are doing everything together from their birth and I’m sure they wish to undergo the orthodontic treatment together. Financially, I can’t afford it, so I need to do it one at a time. If it comes from you it will be much easier. Will you please tell my daughters that one of them needs the treatment more urgently, and for the other it is better to wait one year?”

What would you have done in my place?

I took a deep breath, thought for a moment and then I asked her to bring the twins on the same day. They arrived in the afternoon, well dressed, polite and treating their mom with respect. When they smiled at me it was quite easy to notice that both of them needed an urgent treatment. I looked at the woman, she looked back at me as if she were  saying “thanks for the cooperation” and then I broke our verbal agreement. 
I said: “You both need an urgent treatment. Since I’m quite impressed of you as a united family it will be my honour to treat you both at the same time… and… completely free of charge.”

I saw the spark of surprise in the woman’s eyes. She mumbled few words of protest, trying to reject the gesture in order not to be perceived as a case of charity, but when she noticed that I’m determined, she gave up. They hugged warmly and I was delighted, wondering who was more excited, they for ‘receiving ‘ or me for ‘giving’…

During the year the twin’s teeth became gradually better and better and during that time the clinic was packed with cookies and cakes tastefully baked by the mother. Like in the old joke, my patients were sure that I have a secret agreement with a nearby confectionary in order to ruin their teeth and increase my clientele. 

Toward the end of the treatment the mother still had the chance to update me that the twins were admitted to a prestigious boarding school in Jerusalem. She was so proud and her smile was so big that she swept me into a long hug, like I had a part in the girl’s achievement.

Twenty years passed. I’m not certain whether  her warm motherhood had impact on me, but yet, in moments when I’m together with my family I find myself glancing at my kids and then I remember her and her words and I feel the power of love of a parent. Sometimes I ponder: “could my mom guess that I’ll become like this?”

I asked Dr Romano – “It is the first time that you mention your mother. I guess that you acquired all of this from home?’

“You’ll be surprised.”  The doctor replied. “My mother passed away few years ago. Showing emotions was not in my mother’s repertoire. She took care for all our needs, she taught us to be achievers, but yet…we never felt pure giving at home neither any warmth approach. But lo and behold, see what an impact it had on me, maybe as a corrective experience, with respect to my kids and even with respect to my patients…

Fireworks (75)
Shuka, Thursday, February24, 2011

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