Yesterday’s Children

Ethel Bray was in for her annual ear wash Friday. Ninety years old next month, she is one of the spunkiest, funniest women I know. Her youngest sister accompanied her to the office. Somehow we came to talk about Ethel’s remarkable vitality.

“You know the doctor didn’t think she’d make it,” her sister told me. “She couldn’t tolerate her mother’s milk, so she was raised on barley water.”

Ethel does all her own housework and credits her long staircase for her remarkable physical health.

“I get all my exercise going up and down those stairs half a dozen times a day,” she announced.

I know I cannot take any credit here; she takes no prescription medications and she hasn’t had any blood tests in the last decade. She never had a mammogram or a colonoscopy. If it weren’t for her recurring earwax buildup, I wouldn’t have the privilege of knowing her.

The day before I had seen another child nobody expected to live. Jonathan Buck is only seventy-five, a stocky, muscular man with a can-do attitude. His daughter, Wendy, told me last year that the doctor who delivered him advised his mother to put him in a dresser drawer and keep him warm, but not to get attached to him, because he probably wouldn’t live through the night, since his brain was bulging out through a soft spot in the back of his head. Mr. Buck still has an unusual looking bulge in the back of his head, but is a bear of a man in every other respect.

We must never underestimate what a child can overcome.

3 Responses to “Yesterday’s Children”


  1. 1 Steph June 28, 2009 at 9:44 am

    How I envy Ethel her constitution.

    I was admitted to a 6-bed NHS ward recently when a 92 year old lady, Dolly beckoned me over to her bed. She wanted to warn me not to take my eyes off my pretty neck scarf as she wanted it! She then proceeded to tell me that while her body was rapidly decaying, she kept her mind alive by reciting poetry, Tennyson, Shakespeare etc. I was in total admiration of her.

    They don’t make them like Dolly and Ethel anymore!

  2. 2 Johan G July 13, 2009 at 7:16 pm

    I have just recently gone over all back posts in your blog, and must say that I admire your writing and commitment to your community. I’ve only just started deciding to pursue a career in primary care (here in Sweden) and must say that your blog is an inspiration to me.


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