"Close one eye," Ruben would say in the most comforting voice any doctor could have, "it's the fun part now."
Dr. Ruben was my Dr. when I was young, real young. I’m still afraid of shots like I was back then, but I’m through collecting hamsters. Ruben’s office was in Beverly Hills back when Beverly Hills 90210 had still not premiered on Television. It was also back when Beverly Hills did not mean much to me except for a place with good ice cream and a doctor’s office that had weird machines for my eye and ear check-ups.
The ear exam was my favorite. Ruben would put this thing in my ear that looked like the snout of a hamster and I would need to be very quiet so that I could listen to the noises that it made. I would close my eyes tight until little asteroids would appear in the darkness and wait for the strange sounds. By the end of this exercise I would feel like I had just been on a journey, and my hearing was always perfect, which sweetened the deal.
The eye exam was a fun one too.
“Close one eye,” Ruben would say in the most comforting voice any doctor could have, “it’s the fun part now.”
He couldn’t be more right because the fun part usually came after the not so fun part, the blood test. Back then blood tests were administered on my thumb. Another strange machine that looked like a Pez dispenser would be placed, mouth side up, on my thumb, and then the next thing I knew my thumb was being squeezed to smithereens by some mean nurse who was probably going to go home that night with a few extra welts. Dr. Ruben was never present for this part of the exam. How could such a nice man bare to see one of his patients belittled by the blood sucking Pez dispenser?
At the end of each appointment came the best part of the whole experience. Dr. Ruben, benevolent man that he was, had come up with the ingenious idea of a sticker system. There were three levels or color groups: Bronze, Silver, and Gold. In all my years of going to that gentle Dr.’s office there was not one year where I failed to receive a gold star.
One day, a few years before my Bar Mitzvah, I believe, although it’s always hard to tell, my mother told me that Dr. Ruben was no longer going to be my pediatrician. When I asked her why she said that she didn’t know, but that it probably had something to do with his age.
“He never seemed old to me,” I replied to my mother, a little confused.
But of course he was. Dr. Ruben was probably in his 70’s when I first started seeing him and who knows how old he was when he retired.
It never seemed fair.
I’ve seen many doctors since those days. From the good Dr. Goldstein who will always hold a special place in my heart for telling me that I wasn’t dying of some terrible disease, to Dr. Chang, my stoic current doctor, who delivers news fairly and with tender disconnection. There have been good and there have been some bad, but none will ever compare to that first one, Dr. Ruben, who I could always count on for a gold star.