Friday, December 19, 2008
We went to the Salvation Army today to donate a dinette set. We had to drive to the back of the building in Waipahu where I grew up to deliver the table and chairs. Waipahu used to be a thriving sugar plantation town when I was growing up. I suppose we were poor but we didn't know it.
When I looked across the fenced parking lot I noticed a burned out building and memories flashed through my mind. That building was the plantation clinic where all the workers and families went for their care. There were two doctors, Dr. Noda (known to give injections) and Dr. Maffei (who liked to give pills). Guess which doctor I preferred?
I was a very gawky, country girl in those days (I still am in my heart). I must have been a middle schooler when chasing after my younger brother one evening, I fell and cut my knee on a broken piece of glass that was buried in the ground. The cut was deep and dirt filled.
I was driven to the clinic (emergency room) and examined by a nurse. About 45 minutes later, Dr. Maffei arrived. He was dressed in a white tuxedo and had obviously been called away from some higher society event. I'd never seen a white tuxedo before. With his blond hair he looked like Robert Redford but even more handsome. I was mortified that I'd called him away from some fancy ball or whatever to tend to my battered knee.
Not once did he ever show any disappointment or consternation at having been called away. He joked about my having a more difficult time now to win the Cherry Blossom Queen contest. I was shocked. Did he even think I had a chance? It's funny to think about it now from an adult point of view. He explained everything he was doing to my knee, keeping up a steady stream of quips to make me laugh and kindly sent me home all patched up. I wondered if he would be able to make it back in time to his social world.
Forty or so years later my mother mentioned how her friend's friend was doing some work for Dr. Maffei. I was stunned to hear the name. Being Hawaii, friends of friends or cousins can get you in touch with people you'd not seen in decades. I wrote to Dr. Maffei to tell him about that evening and what an impact it made on me...how he helped me through that evening and gave me a bit more confidence in that in between stage of my life. And yes, I mentioned how handsome he looked in his white tuxedo.
I got a long letter back from him a couple of weeks later which I treasured but can't find now. I think it's gotten stored away in some box somewhere. Seeing that burned out building reminded me of Dr. Maffei and his kindness and all the people in my past who did so much in all their different ways to make a difference in mine.