Well, I’m a-standin’ on a corner in Winslow, Arizona
Such a fine sight to see
It’s a girl, my Lord, in a flat bed Ford
Slowin’ down to take a look at me
Lyrics from Take it Easy written by Jackson Browne & Glenn Frey
Dr. Robert (Bob) Mason started practicing medicine in June of 1954 as the first doctor in the central Missouri rural recreational community known as Lake of the Ozarks. Sometime during 1967 he became my family’s doctor. In April of 1985 he became my father-in-law.
Bob stewed and stewed over finding just the right mutual fund to buy us as our wedding gift and soon after followed a book on personal financial planning. That was how we began our continual discussions on two of his favorite topics: personal finance and the practice of medicine. That book and related financial discussions were the impetus for me becoming a financial planner a few years later. I was never tempted to become a doctor.
As part of Bob’s semi-retirement he became an avid fan of The Eagles and enjoyed several of their concerts. He was not only a big fan of their music but also their rich history as pioneers and influencers in the music business. When band member Glenn Frey died he really did want to attend the funeral. There was just no public funeral to be found. Noticing how truly disheartened he was by both the sudden death and no funeral, I offered to take him to Winslow, Arizona so he could go to the Standin’ on the Corner Park and pay tribute to one of his favorite Eagles and the band’s historical signature song, Take it Easy. As a scientist he was never one to make a snap decision. But at age 86 he jumped on it. Now we were both pumped.
We planned a three day two night trip to Winslow. Well into our three hour drive from the Phoenix airport to Winslow I asked Bob if he thought we would find a place to listen to a band performing Eagles music. Not likely. After arriving in Winslow and immediately noticing the number of boarded up buildings, I knew he was right. But that first night we were surprised by a musician fan, guitar in hand, ready to sing his version of “Take It Easy”. While Bob and the musician stood near the life-size bronze statue and mural commemorating the song, I filmed this perfectly non-scripted moment.
Of course, Winslow and everything about The Corner was Bob’s highlight. We spent the afternoon of our arrival and most of the next morning hanging out on the corner, taking pictures (My Lord, the Flatbed Ford on right), visiting with the steady flow of other visitors, and shopping in the tribute store across the street.
Without a doubt, the highlight for me was something we both enjoy: windshield time. The desert scenery was as expected but the rich red rock of Sedona, the elevation and mountain landscapes of Flagstaff, and the impromptu trip to the Grand Canyon were all spectacular. We constantly commented about how striking it all was. Eventually I did win the debate on whether that was actual snow on the mountain tops we kept seeing out in the distance of the desert landscapes.
I have always enjoyed the highlight reel of Bob’s medical career and the related business of medicine. Willing to talk about the practice of medicine but iron clad about anything confidential, I decided to take advantage of this special time to firm up the facts as they have always been fascinating to me. And at age 58, I didn’t know how much longer I would be around. 62 years of practicing medicine and he’s still working two days a week. To be sure, Bob does not need to work but loves medicine and loves seeing patients. He readily admits he may be more secure with death than the end of medicine. Of course he will accept it but fears what that may do to him. I do too.
Today things are a far cry from the early years as the first doctor in a rural community living in a rented house with Aleen, his new bride. This house also functioned as clinic and laboratory while Aleen admirably served as nurse. Then on to renting for several more years before building the clinic he and his partner shared for the next 35 or so years. The early economics and toil: patient visits $1.50; stitches and an occasional pulled tooth $1 each; baby delivery $50; middle of the night house calls $10 or a fair barter; seven days a week, 15-20 phone calls per night, without relief until he finally got a partner to stick some 12 years later. As many times as I have heard this over the last 30 years, it is always referenced as matter of fact. No drama. It’s just what was needed to serve.
Today it is not unusual for his long time patients to seek him out on days he is at work, even though he is randomly scheduled at multiple locations. This always means fond moments for both doctor and patient. After the 4+ generations he has treated they still trust him implicitly. So do I. His mind kicks into a different gear when he delves into medicine. After retiring he told me how he had planned to work on his bucket list, read the classics, etc. And he did all that. But after a few years it was obvious his lifelong love of continuing medical education (CME) and related medical journal reading was something he enjoyed as much as anything.
While Bob and I are very different, over the years we have truly developed a common bond. Yet at the onset of our trip, I didn’t know what to expect of our concentrated time together on the road which would include something we had never done: share a hotel room. Since we both have our share of quirks I was ready to be extremely accommodating to insure he had a good time. In the end, I think I had the better time.
Bob and I have agreed on another road trip next year. That is of course if I am still around.