It was kept in the trunk of my fathers old Chrysler. The smell of leather and cherry pipe tobacco came from the bottom of it when the satchel was open, and when he did have to open it, there in lay his syringes, his stethoscope, and other medical necessities that the local small town doctor carried with him on house calls. When he came home, that same brown leather satchel had prizes in it for us children who stood on the steps leading to the spare room waiting to surprise him when he came home. We would jump on him and act as though we had not seen him for years. Out would come the trinkets the pharmaceutical reps would have brought him during the day, now presents for his children. They were pens, to spinning balls with names on them that we had never heard of or understood how to pronounce but they were the highlights of his coming home beside himself.
He was the first doctor and the last doctor to practice the art of going to someones home to tend to the sick and elderly. After he passed, no one I knew or came to know made house calls. A rarity then, certainly unheard of today unless the doctor is a concierge medicine practitioner, just another name for high dollar visits. There was nothing uppity about my father. Nothing that said affluence or better than in position or life. Most of his patients couldn’t pay for their care let alone the medicine that he gave so freely. They were the poor, the starving, trying to survive in a small southern town in South Carolina. Money was the reason he became a doctor, the honest route, to help was in his nature. When they couldn’t pay, we would come home from school to find pies, baked items, fresh produce from their garden on our door step. “A way of payment back for what he had done” can be heard echoing in my mind from my days as an adolescent. Several times we would have gifts of puppies or other animals. There began my love affair with nature and animals of all kinds. It came from my father.
If it was on the weekend, they would come to the house and the garage turned into his medical exam room. Like clock work the cars would be coming down the driveway to see Dr. Lawton.
The first time my ex husband, 15 years my senior met my daddy, my father sat him down and brought out the brown satchel bag with the golden buckle and pulled out hydrogen peroxide and band aids. Mending people with that salt and pepper hair, those black rimmed glasses and soft demeanor was Daddy’s way. He had a fan that day. He still does.
When he passed I was given his national geographic collection dating back to the 20’s and his brown leather satchel with the golden buckle. I put every memorable thing that I had from his medical practice in that bag to include pharmaceutical statues of African chiefs that my father kept on his shelf at the office. Perhaps I could have wanted more but those were the items that meant the most to me and still do.
Eventually my sister went on to fill his shoes but in a different medical setting and in a different town, this time a city, not the country were our life began.
Many years later, I went into my attic and saw that precious parcel sitting all by itself. I emptied out the brown leather satchel with the golden buckle and handed it to my sister at Christmas. It was now her turn to mend the sick, and put band aids on grown men.