Dr. James R. Kennedy, M.D. was no Justin Bieber and certainly no Dr. Oz. He was the last man an incompetent wanted anywhere near whatever half-assed anything is being performed. Kennedy's thick eyebrows and soft eyes could cut deeper than any scalpel crafted by the most exacting Präzisionsstahlrohre Handwerker.
Dr. Kennedy beefed me when one of his kids turned over an essay that I had graded. " You gave this paper a B?" I nodded.
" You had better hold the paper closer to your eyes next time. I found three spelling errors, any number of glaring grammatical errors and the punctuation stinks."
I kopped a plea that sometimes getting near to the assigned task was more encouraging for . . .
" You are not here to make kids feel good. That's my job as parent. Imagine if I got close to doing a good job with your mother's liver, or father's bowels with my knife?"
Message received (circa 1976). I hope I did better. Seemed to anyway.
While working at La Lumiere School, Mary and I had added Conor* to the family Hickey in 1989. He was healthy little guy and as happy as a baby at a boarding school full of homesick kids could be. In 1991, our neighbors three old baby died of an odd form of childhood cancer that manifested itself with the toddler's inability to stand. The entire La Lumiere School and Notre Dame Parish of Michigan City was heart-broken by the parents' grief.
Almost a year after this tragedy, I was lining the football field for an upcoming loss to South Central. Father Jay, Pat Mulligan, Head Coach Mike Hall and I were pulling the lines and walking chalk. Soon our we saw my blue Ford Taurus come tearing ass down the hill between Becket House and Newman House. Mary was driving, daughter Nora (8) in the backs et and in the baby seat Conor (3). Mary was devasted -" Get in! Now. Drop the Goddam, liner and get in this car!"
I hopped in. " Conor can't stand up! Oh, God." We headed to the ER at La Porte Hospital.
We had been in the ER and an examining room with two doctors and three nurses for the better part of an hour and understood exactly nothing.
As in any medical emergency, everything moves like a kaliescope and sounds like the Sgt. Pepper album and nothing makes sense but prayers. I had the presence of mind to call Betsy Kennedy at their house in Long Beach. " Jim and I will be there - I'm driving."
Long Beach near Michigan City and La Porte Hospital are about twenty minutes apart - Betsy was driving and that meant a fifteen minute trip.
Ten minutes later, Dr. and Betsy emerged from an elevator.
Doctor Kennedy consulted with the medical staff. They wanted to run some blood tests, scans, probes and etc.
Doctor Kennedy greeted Conor -"How you doing, old buddy! What's the problem, Conor?"
The little man looked up at his friend who always let him eat scads of KeeWee Frupes, " My legs can't somehow work."
Doctor Kennedy examined the boy's feet.
He asked Mary, " Wasn't your Mom up here last week?"
Mary told him that Alice, my sister-in-law Gail Cleary and her two boys Pat and Danny had spent the weekend with us.
Dr. Kennedy nodded, " Did Alice buy these three cowboy boots?"
Grandma Alice had indeed bought the the three lad cowboy boots and summer sun suits cut to make them look like railroad men with caps to match. I still fail to associate cowboy boots with railroad man wear, but then again I am no Grandma.
Dr, Kennedy announced, " Conor's fine. He won't need the exams, unless you feel it would be good, but they won't find anything. Betsy and I bought cowboy boots too."
Further examination and probes were not performed.
A great surgeon only applies the knife, after holding the patient very close to his eyes.
A great soul misses nothing.
We miss a great soul.
* Conor played football on that very field for the La Lumiere Lakers; l remains healthy and happy as member of Local 399 Stationary Engineers.