House Calls


Where the hell am I?

I should have stopped to ask for directions but I was on an unmarked dirt road and the only sign of life was an electrified fence with two signs: One said, “No Trespassing!” The other said, “Protected by Smith and Wesson.” I have lived around these sorts of people all my life. They really DO have guns and they are NOT posting about them to be funny…

(This was before GPS changed my life.)

Waiting in the car for a few more minutes in an attempt to gather courage did not really help. I gave up and hopped out, slinging the giant red leather computer bag with all of my equipment over one shoulder. I pushed open the gate with a sturdy stick just in case. Getting electrocuted before I even introduced myself would have been awkward.

How could this be the right place? 

She was so sweet and kind when I saw her at the office. She had begged me to see her mother, to get her on hospice. They had to have a doctor’s order, but there was no way she could get her to the office and I could not write an order for someone I had never seen.

I trekked up the driveway. It was littered with debris. Tires. Half of a car. Rusted metal oil drums. Sweat started to run down my back. Was it the heat? I had goosebumbs…. Why did I ever agree to this? I don’t DO housecalls.

“Never again!” I muttered under my breath.

As I approached the house, which was in an advanced state of disrepair, a large dog began a deep, gutteral bark/howl and threw himself against the door. He sounded BIG. 

At least the snarling brute was on the inside. 

For now.

I tried the doorbell. No sound. I knocked. No response. I knocked again, louder. Still nothing. As I was turning to walk away, there was a series of noises that signaled a lock being turned. Then another. And another. One more. The door cracked open. 

The wrinkled eye peering warily through the crack, just above the door chain? I recognized it. Thank God! I breathed a sigh of relief. 

I WAS in the right place after all.

“Give me a minute to lock up Bruce,” she said, closing the door again.

Shouting, scrabbling, and more growling ensued. Then I heard the door chain being removed and the door opened all of the way.

“Sorry. Since Frank died, I have to be careful.” She leaned in close and whispered, “There are people who would rape someone like me…”

I was ushered across the matted shag carpet through the entryway. Her mother was lying in a hospital bed in the living room, TV blaring. A pile of angular bones and skin. Advanced dementia. 

I calculated her age. She was 98.

“She barely eats.” 

I started to examine her. She groaned as I shifted her arms and legs looking for pressure sores. There were none. She was well cared for.

I paused to survey the cluttered surroundings. 

There were dozens of breathtakingly beautiful paintings tacked up, covering the walls from floor to ceiling. Landscapes. Portraits. 

“Who did these?”

“She did.”

Suddenly, the woman in the bed was no longer the wordless body with the thinning white hair, unseeing eyes, and skin that hung off of her like speckled drapery. She was an artist. Her voice was all over these walls.

And that is why I love house calls. No one is ever who you expect them to be. 


104 thoughts on “House Calls

      • WE have a “mission” here in Ottawa that serves the homeless. They offer meals and overnights and clinics -all for free for the indigent. The doctors volunteer their time. There was an article in the newspaper editorial section written by one of those doctors. He saw a very poor First Nations man who had numerous problems and they got to talking. It turned out that the man was a world renowned First Nations artist who had numerous works hung in Canada’s National Arts Museum. The doc made a deal with the man that if he started taking better care of himself, the doc would take the artist on a shopping trip at the premiere art supply store in town (Wallacks). Sure enough after a few months, they consummated the deal and the artist is doing much better now.

        Liked by 3 people

  1. Good story. Good picture. I’m familiar with the dirt roads and electrified fences, but it must have been a surprise to find a pile like that out there.

    La Muse’s father was a doc in west Texas. Sometimes he would get paid in chickens for a visit like that.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. What a beautiful story. When my mother was in her final nursing home, the lady in the bed next to her looked like every other 90+- year-old patient there. Turned out she had been a fairly well-known concert pianist in her younger days. I can only assume that her family picked that particular nursing home in order to keep her closer to them – or perhaps she no longer had family. Who knows?

    Liked by 2 people

    • I thought I knew who she would be. Then I stood in the driveway and made a different kind of judgement about who she was. THEN I finally got to the truth, at least what little of it that remained hanging on those walls. There is beauty inside of everyone if you have the patience to look for it. I fail sometimes.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Isn’t that the truth. As a former Care Aid that’s what I did house calls. I never an experience like this one you described but there were definitely some scary, awkward, and wonderful experiences involved. Do you still do house calls?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I used to do TV service calls when I was in college in the ’80s (way before GPS and cell phones!) It was amazing the wonderful people I met! Sadly, there were combative customers and one that pulled a gun on me. I like thinking of the pleasant ones the most! Wow, I think I used up all my exclamation points there.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. My mother’s doctor made house calls to our house to see her. It was a blessing to be able to avoid the true hardship of getting to his office. He knew how difficult it would be for her and we appreciated his compassion. It did seem more personal than a office visit and my mom liked that too. I am sure your home visit was appreciated.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What a heartwarming story. It is wonderful to read that their are still doctors that will make house calls.
    Yes we all rush to judgment at times, and then we get to know who we are judging and we find a totally different person then we imagined, or thought we knew by their surroundings. I am sure those paintings took your breath away. I am happy that she had such a good doctor to come to her aid. Kudos to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. A little tear, a little smile. I don’t “like” or “comment” on everything, but I do read every post you write and am always touched or given something to think about. You have a gift, beyond what you do in medicine.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. How wonderful. Do doctors still make house calls in the US? An older neighbor came to my house in the middle of the night as her terminally ill husband was dying. She didn’t want to take him to ER because he would die on a trolley in distress. I asked if she had any medicine and she had oral morphine from the last hospice (no longer employed). I took a deep breath and suggested we give him some. He lived overnight in less distress and we organized for a different hospice to take over the next day and he died shortly thereafter. I was so worried about being a Dr, Kevorkian in this age of litigation although the medication was prescribed. Are you sure you can’t be my doctor???


      • My instinct told me I did the right thing (but thank you for saying so) but medical care is very different in Europe, Africa and the Americas. Egypt was so much easier – the pharmacists were as well trained as doctors and could prescribe almost anything.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. A lovely story. Or was it a tale?
    (I remember a high-ranking hospital urologist in his fifties going to my father’s house late at night to change a Cystostomy, around ten pm. He went after his last hospital rounds. Did not send a young associate. I’d thank him for taking the time, so late after a long day. And he would smile and tell me. That’s my job.)

    Liked by 1 person

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