The first voice I heard entering Juvenile Court’s second floor elevator came from a maintenance worker. In heavy work clothes bearing both his and his company’s name he wasn’t so much speaking to his compatriots as he was making a declaration.

“I never go to doctors,” he pronounced.
“Me either,” said I stepping in — like he’d been speaking to me.

One flight we  would share, but bond we did.

“I was never sick ‘til I went,” he continued, “You go to a doctor — they’ll find something wrong with you.”
“Only if there’s insurance,” snapped another.

As the door opened and we separated in the lobby I was warmed by the fact that I’m not the only counterintuitive person that gets it.

Look, don’t get me wrong.  I respect physicians.  Let’s, however, look at the facts:

Our mother was never one running us to docs at the drop of a hat. Our father, however, shot me to Huron Road Hospital each time I was hit by a pitch. “Just to play it safe” he’d advise. (Ed. Note 1: Years later I would note the irony that Al Bogart, a stickler for grammar, always used the adjective instead of the appropriate adverb).

To be sure, we had the family assortment — a pediatrician, dentist, and eye doctor … all chosen by our patriarch. (Ed.Note 2: This, remember, was the 50’s, long before women were allowed to make decisions). Al Bogart did, however, select medical professionals employing the strictest of standards.  Each needed to be from either Ohio State, Glenville, or — in the case of one whose parents moved to the Heights in his adolescence — a graduate of Patrick Henry Junior High….or the Lodge.

Still we didn’t rely on doctors in those days. And didn’t go. And didn’t get sick. Ever.

Then college came, followed closely by my first stab at adulthood. It was the 70’s and a time where everybody (it seemed) wanted to act like grownups. For the would-be upwardly mobile, this meant having doctors. Me? I was married to a girl from New Jersey, so I drank the Kool Aid, followed the rules, and opted in.

…So there I was, on paper only, with Stuart Markowitz, Jerry Adelstein, Art Newman and Art Wohlfeiler — each of them either Ohio State, Brush High School … or the Lodge.

Like the sands through the hourglass, divorce ensued over time. My marriage ended mid-1995; my health insurance a month later. Ripped from the trenches of grownup society, any impulse I may have had for medical attention slid to remission.

Time — make that decades — passed, and not once did I take ill. Minor issues perhaps, yet nothing enduring in nature. Ever. Truth is, even in those rebounding years I not only relied on the foundation I’d received as an Army medic, but I was also blessed with a talented cadre providing advice.

For general health issues, if he were in town, there was Stuart: “I’d have that looked at, B”, he might say, after suggesting yet again his lifelong remedy:  wheat germ. (Dr. Fenton’s first medical advice actually issued in the early 80’s. “B, you need to start running,” he submitted. His laughter — he barely finished his sentence — meant he already knew my answer.

For diet and nutrition I had Bobby. His Wednesday admonitions about my weight and eating right were never quite convincing since I’d watch him (each week) grab seven pads of butter from the Corky’s receptacle.

And as for specialists, well, I didn’t have my own ENT person, but I did have my kid Stacy for both eyes and nose. Eyes and nose, you wonder? Consider one trip to Chicago:

“Dad, you need to have glasses,” she told me. “Not just contacts.”

Obliging, we ducked into an optometrist right there on the spot. No appointment— we just walked into a storefront. (At least that’s how I remember it, and for some reason I think Michael, Meredith and Jason were there … but I could be wrong).

“Dad,” she said, when first seeing my new frames and glasses, “I never realized how big your nose was.”

—- So I always had medical coverage, o’er the years. The Friends And Family Plan, I would call it.  It worked, and for lo those decades I was healthy.

Halloween of ‘14 I turned 65: eligible (pointed out Stuart, Bobby and Stacy) for Medicare. (Ed. Note 3: Fenton’s reminders to enroll began with his birthday that August).

Since then I’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure, diabetes, and gum disease — none of these a malady I’d had in my twenty years sans-insurance.

I thought of that last week, as I met the men on that elevator.

And I laughed.

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