I found out yesterday that my ENT, Ronald Kirschner, had passed away. It’s strange when someone like that dies, because no one – including me – knows how to react. I mean, you don’t know your doctor in the same way you know your sister or your best friend, right? I guess I lied, because although I did not know the appropriate reaction, I felt it anyway.
I came under his care back in 2003 when I was slowly losing the hearing in my right ear. It was a scary time, made even more frightening when he said surgery was the only sure way to clear it up, and even that might not restore the hearing loss but simply arrest it. Since my GP had strongly recommended Kirschner I agreed to the surgery, and now I am glad I did. Everything went swimmingly, and I felt as though the care I received was top-notch. Within six months my hearing had fully returned, which took the experience from great to amazing.
I saw Dr. Kirschner regularly over the ten years because, in addition to that hearing loss thing, I have a recurring earwax problem that he’d take care of. (Very pretty, right?) I always looked forward to the visits, because this guy had a really interesting life. I remember seeing on his office wall a black-and-white photo of him in a military uniform cutting a giant sheet cake with a sabre. I asked him about it and he told me that was taken when he was in the Navy and had received some award or another and there was a ceremony involving cake. Being who I am, I naturally asked if the cake had been good, and he screwed up his face in this hilarious expression of distaste and said, “No, it was terrible! But because the admiral was there I had to eat it.”
He had this amazing life I found out about in small increments, spread over years. In another visit I found out that Kirschner had tended patients far more noteworthy than I. As I found out, the President of the United States receives care from Navy doctors, and sure enough, one of them was Ronald Kirschner. He worked with both Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, and he had great stories about both. Apparently, Nixon was nicer; Johnson refused to leave the White House for his appointments so Kirscher would have to have his entire office relocated to a basement room under the Oval Office for the brief time he’d see the Big Guy. “All that for ten minutes!” Kirschner told me, shaking his head.
Dr. Kirschner was a great traveler, and whenever he heard I was going someplace he’d offer tips on where to eat and what to do, and when I got back he’d ask what I thought. He was also delighted that I coauthored a book, and he’d ply me with questions about novel-writing, the publishing industry, etc. His interest was always genuine, and how many people you see a few times a year actually care about what you’re doing?
I really came to enjoy those chats, and now that they are over I feel as though there’s this little void in my life where they used to fit. I’m going to miss hearing about a life that’s now over but was fully lived. I don’t know if that’s an inappropriate response, but I feel the loss. And that’s enough for me.