Take my Doctor … Please

“A doctor gave a man six months to live. The man couldn’t pay his bill, so he gave him another six months.”

As a kid growing up in Ludlow, no night was bigger than Sunday night. As the closing act for each and every weekend, the Robinson clan would gather around the black and white Zenith for The Ed Sullivan Show. The classic variety show, Sullivan brought the world to Elm Street once a week.

Each of us had our favorite portion of The Ed Sullivan Show. My sisters watched for the rock ‘n’ roll groups that were introduced to the world via Sullivan’s stage. My mom watched for the dancers. But my dad and me, we could not wait for the comedian to come on.

Henny Youngman—the King of the One Liners—was my dad’s favorite. So whenever Youngman would be on Sullivan, I’d try to memorize his entire routine. Then I’d spend the rest of the week trying to get a laugh out of my dad by doing my best Henny Youngman impersonation.

Until the day he died, I could always make my dad laugh.

“A man goes to a psychiatrist. The doctor says, ‘You’re crazy.’ The man says, ‘I want a second opinion!’ The doctor says ‘Okay, you’re ugly too!’”

When my editor told me that the theme of this edition of NKY Magazine was the region’s best doctors, all I could think about was Henny Youngman. His violin in hand, Youngman’s funniest rim-shot laden bits were about doctors.

The fact that talk of doctors brought Youngman to mind is odd, because my childhood doctor, Ludlow’s Charley Justice, Jr., seemingly lacked any sense of humor whatsoever. At least, I don’t remember any humor after he gave me the shot of penicillin that suddenly determined I was, in fact, allergic to penicillin.

Growing up in Northern Kentucky in the ‘60s, health care was a city matter. Each small community had one or two general practitioners who made house calls in the morning and saw patients in the office after lunch. The doctor who showed up at your doorstep was a pediatrician, a specialist, a generalist, a psychiatrist and usually a neighbor.

For those too young to remember “house calls,” think reverse walk-in clinics where your doctor actually came to you. When your neighbor would see the familiar car of the town doctor parked in front of your house, the party lines would light up. And if you don’t remember house calls, you have no conception of “party lines.” I don’t have enough space in this column, but ask anyone over 50 what it would be like to share your smart phone with the person next door—but I digress.

The traveling doctor is a thing of the past. Still it is the foundation of the neighbor giving shots that has made the region’s current health-care system so strong. We are blessed to live in a community so small that we still know our physician on a personal level.

“My doctor grabbed me by the wallet and said, ‘Cough!’”

As I wrote this column, I had an appointment with a Dr. Bob Baker from St. Elizabeth Physicians, whom I’ve known since elementary school. He is still the hometown doctor for lots of folks from Ludlow.

I told him, “Bob, my foot hurts. What can I do?”

Bob replied, “Limp!”

Apparently his family watched the Sullivan Show too.