Twinkle’s Back!

It warmed my heart to see Albert T. McCall the other day. Nobody knows what his real middle name is, but his nickname is “Twinkle”.

When he greeted me, I instantly saw his deep-set small blue eyes sparkle against his pale complexion, and I knew “Twinkle” was back!

It had been a long haul. Ethel, the love of his life, had died about a year and a half ago. They were high school sweethearts and always did everything together. When her health failed, he took over all the household duties and kept her comfortable at home into the end. At age 83 he lost her, and he became a different man.

Years ago the two of them were the square dance royal couple of our area, and for a decade they ran a dance hall in a retirement community in Florida every winter. He was the caller, and she took care of the business.

“Twinkle” had a thick New England accent, and a wicked sense of humor. Over the years he had developed another persona, “Uncle Al”, with an even thicker accent, wide suspenders, an oversized plad shirt and a silly hat. He told stories about growing up poor and mischievous in the thirties, and he wrote hilarious poetry, which he would always bring samples of to his office visits.

Before Medicare D came about, with rising medication expenses for himself and Ethel, he self-published a book of stories and poems. This endeavor brought in enough money to cover one or two years’ worth of medications. The following year, his children helped him produce a CD based on his book. At 83, he was on a roll, making public appearances to promote “Uncle Al”, always joking in his quiet, soft-spoken way. His deep-set baby-blue eyes did justice to his nickname, squinting and twinkling in his kind, pasty-white, round-cheeked face.

After Ethel passed away, “Twinkle” lost his nerve. He developed heart palpitations, spells of wheezing and hyperventilation, indigestion and poor sleep. Nothing I did seemed to work, and he was always leery of new medications. He even ended up in the Emergency Room a couple of times with no firm diagnosis.

Finally he agreed to an almost homeopathic dose of an antidepressant – the same one his wife had taken for a while.

I knew the instant I saw him that the medication had helped; the twinkle was back in his eyes, there was a faint grin across his round face. His shoulders were raised high instead of drooping, and I could almost imagine the hat and suspenders from the cover of his CD.

“Jeez, I feel good”, he exclaimed, his little eyes squinting at me.

“I’m glad the stuff worked”, I said.

“I don’t know what’s in it, but I feel like myself again!” he beamed.

After many unproductive visits with Albert T. McCall, I again enjoyed the company of “Twinkle” and “Uncle Al”.

I need to find that CD and put it in the car; it will make great listening when I go on house calls this fall.

1 Response to “Twinkle’s Back!”

  1. 1 Joe October 16, 2008 at 2:53 pm

    The transformation of the Albert T. McCalls under your care is what makes it all worthwhile. Thank you for being a compassionate healer to those who so desperately need you.

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Osler said “Listen to your patient, he is telling you the diagnosis”. Duvefelt says “Listen to your patient, he is telling you what kind of doctor he needs you to be”.


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