Dr. Bibey Sr.
Like me, my dad is a country doctor. Even though he is 79 and holding, he is still the same country doc he has always been and always will be. Some things never change.
I learned a lot from my Dad. No so much about hemachromatosis- I had to go to school for that- but more about how to treat patients with respect and dignity. For that, I learned at the feet of a master. I have never met one who was better.
I had a number of influences in my life. My mom was an English teacher before she retired to raise me, (they say I was a handful) and she instilled my love of books. My grandfather the farmer taught me more about hard work than I wanted to know. It was my Dad, though, who first influenced me to be a Doc.
Our crowd goes a long way back in the doctor gig. I remember when Dad wrote Marshall Dillon (of T.V. western “Gunsmoke” fame) to tell him he shouldn’t smoke, especially on television. It was years before I realized Matt Dillon did not quit smoking because of my father’s advice. When color T.V. came in and Pa Cartwright on “Bonanza” had a funny skin tint on that early color T.V. set my Dad remarked that he looked jaundiced. I went to look it up, but it was some time before I realized jaundice was not a diagnosis!
I remember going through Mississippi on a family vacation, and an elderly man walked across the street. My dad observed his gait, and said, “Son that man has had a stroke.” To a kid, for a man to make such a pronouncement about a stranger- a human being he’d never laid eyes on- was an unbelievable knowledge base. I had to tap into it.
Once my cousin Robert got the “side pleurisy” and his folks brought him all the way across the state so we could keep him till he got well. Dad was the only doc in the extended family. I bet they passed the offices of fifty good docs on the trip, but my father was the only one they trusted, so we kept the boy a few days till he got well and his people could come back to get him. I think mama deserved the credit; it seems all the boy did was drink chicken soup and play cops and robbers with me for a few day till his folks came back, but he got well and they were most appreciative. In those days everybody knew of someone who had died of side pleurisy, and it was a respected foe.
For a long time in town, if Dr. Bibey Sr. said it, it was the gospel, and we’d go about our merry way glad the issue was resolved. We were just kids and had no idea how much he struggled to take care of everybody. Like Tiger hitting a golf ball, he make it look easy.
Here is one story I never forgot. Dad was on a ship in WWII. He told me of a ship mate who went berserk- shell shock. (I can’t blame the cat, I’m sure it would get to me.) Dad was a medic (he went to school on the G.I. bill) and called the ship doctor to get the situation under control.
The Doc was a large man, and it took that and more to wrest control of the situation. To this day Dad recalls the poor crewman cursing and spitting, and calling the old doc’s mother’s integrity into question while the doc sat on the boy’s chest and gave him some sort of injection to get him down.
Dad asked the doctor how he could stay so calm in the face of such abusiveness, and the doctor replied he was a professional. It was his job to save the fellow from himself if humanly possible. In all the years I have watched my Dad work I have never seen him lose his patience with another human being, regardless of how unreasonable they might be.
My Dad learned his lessons from that old ship Doctor well. I learned mine from my Dad. I wish I could say I’m as good as him, but I’m not- I can get surly if my patience is stretched far enough.
My Dad was like Marcus Welby. In real life, he was that patient. I’m afraid I am more like Dr. Kiley, the cat that rode around on the motorcycle and had a bit of a wild streak in him. (I gave up on motorcycles long ago, though.) I reckon all I can do is keep trying- there ain’t no human on the planet more patient than Bibey Sr. I’ll just have to do the best I can.