A Tip for the Doctor

        I’ve thought  a lot lately about favorite patients who have since passed on.

       I had one old man who was ill with cancer and a variety of chronic illnesses. His eyes were as gray as what little hair he had, and his hands were so gnarled up with arthritis they were turned near side ways. He had Parkinson’s disease and shuffled along with a cane. His dusky color alone was enough to convince me he was dying.

        One day after our visit he began to reach in his pocket. “Hold on Doc, I’ve got something for you.”  His hand trembled and it took him a minute, but he finally dug out a ten-dollar bill. He stretched out his hand to offer it to me.

        “Oh, no my friend, you pay up front. I don’t handle the money end of this thing.”

       “This ain’t your pay, it’s a tip.”

        “A tip? Man, we don’t allow tips.  Honest to goodness, it might even be against the law.”

       “Against whose law?”

        “The government.”

         “Ain’t none of them come down here to help me.”

        “No man, I can’t, really.”  I gently pushed his hand away.

       “Yeah you can.   The government don’t pay you enough anyway. The way I see it, I’m old and hard to take care of . I want you to see me coming and know I’m gonna make your day better. I don’t want you to forget me.” 

       I gave in, but I put a qualifier on it. I put the bill in a special place in my wallet and never spent it on myself. The first person or cause I ran into after I received the tip who was down and out for the moment became the beneficiary. I would use the money to make their day better. Sometimes it was a little gift for my wife. I took a few people to lunch; sometimes I dropped it in the collection plate or gave it to a good cause.

        Come to think of it I never reported it as income or a charitable contribution either one. I’m certain the government wouldn’t understand, so we just left it under the table.

        Rest in peace my old friend, you accomplished your goal. I never forgot you.

Dr. B

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8 Comments on “A Tip for the Doctor”

  1. newt221 Says:

    I think they call that “paying it forward”. It just goes to show that your heart and your head are in the right place.

  2. drtombibey Says:


    I like that phrase- “paying it forward.” A good old southern way of saying something there.

    Dr. B

  3. blogmella Says:

    I used to care for old people in their own homes. One lady client of mine was over 90 and she always had breakfast in bed, read at least four newspapers, then got up for lunch. She’d spend all afternoon in a blue haze of cigarette smoke, drinking from a tumbler full of vodka. She wrote letters to relatives all over the World and was very intellectual and witty.

    One day she handed me a £10 note, saying it was for my son.

    “He sounds like such a good little boy and your stories about him make me laugh”.

    “That’s really kind of you but I’m not allowed to take money from clients.”

    “It’s not for you, it’s for your son!”

    “Haha! Hmmmm… But I’m still not allowed.”

    “I won’t tell anyone, you take it and give it to him. I’m old, I’m not stupid! I’m allowed to spend my money on a nice little boy if I want to!”

    In the end I took it and gave it to him – but I told her firmly that I wouldn’t take any money again. It is difficult to refuse gifts when people would have their pride hurt.

    I think you dealt with the problem nicely.

    • drtombibey Says:


      I just love old people like that. When I get old (not far away) I plan to give free mandolin lessons to anyone who will show up and then buy their lunch too.

      As our old friends showed, it really is hard to give much away.

      Dr. B

  4. Sharon Bess Says:

    Doc, while reading your article,the thought came to my mind that not only do we get “monetary” tips but verbal ones as well. Like the one my grannie was favorite of saying… “Smile when you’re young and when you get old all your wrinkles will be in the right place”. Or the one from my dad that said …. “Remember who you are and where you come from.” They weren’t worth much at the time (since I had heard them from a young age) but the older I get the more value they have. You just can’t beat “paying it forward”.

    • drtombibey Says:


      A lot of great things to remember there. Your dad’s is sort of like “don’t get above your raising.”

      One thing I love about bluegrass is they respect their elders and listen to the old people. (They still listen to me!)

      Dr. B

  5. I can understand this man’s urge. When someone takes care of you, and cares for you, you want to give something back. He felt you deserved a tip, and by George I’m sure he was right.

    I sometimes wonder whether it’s almost worse for people who lose so much of their control over their body but still have minds that are crystal clear… It seems so painful to be so aware of what you’re going through.

    I’m glad you used the money for good things, Doc. It was the best way of remembering this man, through a hundred other little experiences you got to have thanks to him.

    • drtombibey Says:


      He was sweet man. I always passed on his tip when he was alive. Now that he is gone, about all I can do is pass on his memory. I hope to do the same with my writing and that it will go on past my time.

      Dr. B

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