Last week, Burl Jr. the New Groundskeeper surprised us with some news, and it wasn’t good.
“My mom’s having open-heart surgery tomorrow,” he said as he, Gwen the Beautiful and I took turns trying to start the riding mower that had been sitting idle for six months.
“What?” I said. “Tomorrow?”
“I didn’t know Laurie was having problems,” Gwen said.
“We didn’t, either,” Burl Jr. said. “But Mom started running out of breath and getting dizzy, so my father made her see Dr. Max. Dr Max sent them to a cardiologist he knew in Fayetteville for an angiogram yesterday. The cardiologist there said Mom had to have a bypass ASAP.”
“Who’s the cardiologist?” I said. “Who’s the surgeon?”
“Whoever Dr. Max sent her to, I guess.”
“How do we know they’re the best? Maybe your dad should take your mother somewhere else â€””
“Larry â€”” Gwen said warningly.
“I just think Laurie should get the best treatment possible. Don’t you? We’ve got to make sure she does.”
“And how’re ‘we’ going to do that?” Gwen said. “We’re not part of the medical community. But Dr. Max is.”
“Right. But we need a second opinion. We need an ‘in.’ If there’s one thing life has taught me it’s that you’ve got to be an insider if you want to get the best of â€” well â€” everything.”
“Is that what life’s taught you?” said Gwen. “Or showbiz?”
“Now that you mention it,” Burl Jr. said to Gwen, “seems to me that Larry B’s always said that life and showbiz aren’t at all the same thing.”
“This isn’t about me and how I view the world,” I said. “It’s about your mother.”
And I hurried into the house. Got on the phone. Called â€” who else â€” the insider’s insider … The Old Billionaire.
“As a matter of fact, I do know the best cardiologist in the South,” the Old Billionaire told me. “And the best cardiovascular surgical team. The folks who did my quadruple bypass 10 years ago.”
“They’re good? Really good?” I said.
“I’m still breathing, aren’t I?” said the Old Billionaire. “When I should be six feet in the ground. And just to make sure other people keep breathing, too, I built these boys their own hospital wing. That’s how good they are.”
I wrote down the name. Went back outside just as Burl Jr. got the mower fired up. “Call your father!” I shouted. “I’ve got the name of the best man for the job!”
Burl Jr. took the StickIt note I handed him. “Soon as I finish mowing,” he said.
“Forget the mowing â€”” I said.
But he trundled off, and Gwen took my arm. “Let it be,” she said.
“Let it be. Different people handle their worry in different ways. You’ve got to call billionaires. Burl Jr.’s got to work.”
I knew she was right, so I let it be. And forced myself to sit back and do one of the things I do worst in the world â€” wait. And one of the things I do best â€” worry.
I made it through the rest of the day, and the following morning as well. But I couldn’t fully relax until Burl Jr. came over to the main house a little after noon to tell us, “Mom’s doing great. They did a triple bypass, and everything was routine. The doctor guaranteed that she’ll feel the best she has in years. He even told dad to start buffing up because he’s going to need to be in great condition to keep up with her now.”
Gwen and I sighed with relief. But some business still was unfinished.
“So who did the surgery?” I said. “Dr. Max’s doctor? Or the Old Billionaire’s?”
Burl Jr. grinned. “Both,” he said.
“Dr. Max’s doctor is the Old Billionaire’s doctor. They went to medical school together back in the day.”
Burl Jr. went outside to do some weed whacking. Gwen put her hand on my shoulder. Gave me a wry smile that meant, “So we needed an ‘in,’ huh? To make sure Laurie got the best care?”
And there it was. Another Lesson from Paradise:
One of the best things about living where everyone knows everyone else is that not only do they know who the good people are, they even know the good doctors as well.
Larry Brody is an author, veteran television writer and producer and creative director of Cloud Creek Institute for the Arts. He, his wife and their dogs, cats, horses and chickens live in Marion County. The other residents of the mythical town of Paradise reside in his imagination, however, and any resemblance to actual places or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Originally published May 30, 2007