A couple weeks ago, I had a pleasant surprise, and a month before book release made it even more special. One of my father’s former patients from his dental practice of decades ago found and read a story I wrote in back in 2006, A Lucky Man, a precursor to my novel. The piece was awarded honorable mention for nonfiction in the annual contest for the Preservation Foundation.
This patient of my dad posted the story on a Facebook page, “I grew up in
.” Click on the highlighted link to view the post, which generated a storm
of memories and testimonials from my dad’s patients, amazingly, 25 years
after he retired! My family and I are touched over the praise and heartfelt
thanks. And none of his patients knew of my dad’s journey from a village in
Puerto Rico to his dental practice in Northboro, Massachusetts Massachusetts.
Every one of them was astounded to learn about his story and his struggles. One thing
they shared: they all miss their favorite dentist.
I was his dental assistant during the summers of the latter part of high school and college in the late 70s and early 80s and the comments don’t surprise me. One patient wrote how he sent his assistant to pick her up for an appointment when she was in terrible pain and I remember Dad driving a patient to see a oral surgeon in Worcester, Mass, when the man didn’t own a car. My father did some revolutionary procedures in his practice. He made hypnosis tapes for people to listen to help them stop smoking. We plugged in a padded, heated massage pad for the back of the dental chair, and I brought in my turntable and played classical and folk music for patients to listen to with headphones. Pachelbel and Judy Collins were my favorites. Dad employed some eastern medicine: he placed a cotton ball on some patients’ earlobes with a close pin to stimulate the dental analgesia point. After working in
Puerto Rico, he opened his practice in Northborough in
1959 and told patients, “You are now part of my family!” He treated whole families, witnessing children
grow up and treating their children. He made house calls and when someone
couldn’t pay, he bartered for services, such as landscaping. When he retired in
1990, many of his patents cried. He was truly a “family dentist”.
Thank you, Kathy Wallace Boyd, for sharing a wonderful tribute.
Ramón León in dental school, 1953.