We met in 1989 and we were an unlikely pair. I was this sassy 25-year-old cigarette smoking New Yorker, and he was a straight laced, penny loafers & bowtie wearing non-smoker, Colorado native, who I honestly don't think ever cursed in his life.
We were both somewhat recent transplants to thecommunity. At the time, I had a new baby and a preschooler.
You see Jeff, also known as Dr. Jeff, became our pediatrician that hot summer day in 1989.
Who could’ve guessed the great friendship in store for us?
As odd a pair as we were, we clicked.
R-E-S-P-E-C-T, to me one of the most important words ever, respect, that was what bonded us.
Jeff had an extraordinary way of showing respect to the moms, dads, guardians, and also his patients (no matter how young or old they might be). He listened and didn’t dismiss the logic or reasoning behind your point of view, like the times he reminded me it would be best if the kids drank skim milk, and I just kept whining that it’s never on sale (really 1% would be on sale all the time, and they drank a lot of milk!$). Well, we’ve been on skim now for years because it turns out that whole milk is 3% milkfat and skim of course is 0%, but milk fat is one of the really bad fats and kids don’t need it after reaching 2.
OK, so Jeff….1, Sheila….0.
I’ll get you next time you…, you…., you evil genius. Damn you!!
Well not exactly, we had many other lively exchanges, but always with respect.
Jeff was so much more than just our doctor. We had kids the same age who were in Boy Scouts, sports and school plays together, but they were also (and still are) friends. This meant we were school parents together too, and we would team up, with others as well, to get a budget passed and even a school built (yes, we dared to dream). Over the years we spent time together on blankets at soccer, in the audience at plays, around the campfire at Boy Scouts and more as we celebrated the lives of our children.
I was on vacation and sadly missed it when he renewed his vows with Nancy. Luckily, I was there for the double celebration, Nancy’s 50th birthday and their 25th anniversary and thrilled to be counted amongst the special people in their lives (also thrilled with the desserts. Nancy is soooo talented, but I digress).
We laughed together and shared our lives’ for 20 years, well almost 20 (five months shy).
I miss my buddy Jeff. Last Tuesday was the first anniversary of his passing and I still can't believe that he is not here, with us.
During that “almost” 20 years he saved my children’s lives, on more than one occasion. My two younger children had been hospitalized 13 times between them, for big stuff, and I am in no way making light of other children’s hospitalizations. There were times when Jeff had “hit the books” to figure out what was wrong when the specialists couldn’t. What a blessing he was in our lives. Jeff was always in our corner, always our “champion”. Every (especially new) mom should have that kind of support from their pediatrician. How lucky I was (and of course, my family) that job relocations landed us in the same community.
I've also been blessed with love and friendship of Jeff's wife Nancy. We are soul sisters…. but that’s for another blog, or 10… but for now, just know that her love and grace are a gift to all who know her. In Jeff's final days she opened her home to those he loved so they could keep him company, share stories, prayers and comfort food. Everyone had a chance to be at his bedside, WHAT AN HONOR.
I miss Jeff desperately, especially when I need advice, not because he was our doctor, but because he was my friend... my buddy, my partner in crime. In the final hours before he left us, I was able to sit on his bed, lean down, hug him and whisper in his ear. My heart was breaking, this amazing man, this hero, this savior to my children, had to go. How lucky I was to be able to tell him what he meant to me. I’m sure he already knew. How many times he had saved their lives and here I had to accept saying goodbye to him. What a world.
So, don’t judge a book by its cover. Maybe more importantly, don't judge.
For today I say thanks Jeff for being such a special force in my life. So often I have strength to accomplish much because of your faith in me.
Brian and I are forever in your debt, and Nancy and the kids can depend on us for anything.
I love you and miss you,