BY CHANA SHAPIRO / AJT //
This was the week of our grandchildren’s annual visits to the pediatrician. Their delight at being declared two inches taller and a few teeth lighter was unfortunately offset by the anticipation of booster shots.
When the kids complained about the impending pin-pricks, I reminded them that
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they are blessed with great doctors and effective treatments. But you and I know that conventional treatment, while usually effective, is occasionally stymied – sometimes, one must try the unknown.
Or, as my mother would say, “G-d works in strange and mysterious ways.” Let me relate the following unbelievable, but entirely true story.
I grew up in a world where children spent more time outdoors than indoors. We cavalierly rode our bikes on gravelly roads, climbed bug-infested trees, dug in mossy mud and scaled splintery fences.
Such behavior had its consequences, as one day, I came home limping. I’d been racing around with my friends when suddenly the bottom of my left foot hurt so much that I fell to the ground in pain.
My mother twisted and turned my foot every which way, which I tolerated. But when she touched the sole of my foot, my yelps convinced her that we needed an expert opinion. She called my father, who came home from work to assess the situation.
This time, it was he who tried to twist my foot into submission. When his ministrations reached the sole of my foot, I screamed. So he carried me to the car and took me to the doctor.
Dr. Mallory was believed to have seen everything, but he was confounded. He tried but could find nothing wrong with me, so he cheerfully sent us home, assuring my parents that I would be up and about the next day; but instead, the pain intensified.
During the following week, my parents took me to other doctors, but none of them could help. I stopped walking – I, a child used to leaping eagerly out of bed in the morning, lay listlessly on the sofa, reading stories about adventurers who climbed mountains and traversed oceans.
On Sunday, when all the relatives congregated at my grandparents’ house, I was the center of attention. Everyone tried to figure out what was wrong with me. My quiet grandmother, who typically spent the family day preparing and serving food, suddenly surprised us.
Apparently, she’d been working independently on the problem all week and had consulted with my great-uncle Louie, who sold newspapers in the projects. He, in turn, had found out about a strange, miracle-working healer: This mystery person could be found in an old house in a downtown neighborhood that no one in my family was in the habit of visiting.
But Grandma, trusting Louie, insisted that I be taken there despite my mother’s hand-wringing. My father was determined, and I was desperate to start walking again. Also, I realized that I would see an area of the city my friends would never experience, and thus I begged to go there.
Finally, with no other options, they located the mysterious doctor and arranged to bring me to him. He hailed us as we approached his “office,” probably aware that the unfamiliarity of the area would be problematic.
Inside, he led my father, who carried me up a couple of flights of stairs. When the doctor spoke directly to me, I realized something: Even though his voice was beautiful and rhythmic, I couldn’t understand him.
He had an accent, but it was nothing like that of my grandparents. His skin was smooth and darker than I’d ever seen. We skipped the waiting room – there was none – and went straight to the examining room, a small and littered with bottles, pots and pans but none of the paraphernalia of the other doctors I’d visited. It smelled like flowers, but not sweet ones.
The “doctor” didn’t use a stethoscope or take my temperature, and when he asked my father to leave the room, my father – inexplicably – complied. I can assure you, my mother never found out that my father had left me alone with the doctor!
I was instructed to lie down and close my eyes. I’m sure the doctor knew I was peeking, but he didn’t let on. For a while, he walked around me, silently and slowly. Then he suddenly stopped, sat beside me and cupped my left foot in his hands.
It started to itch, then tickle, then nothing. I fell asleep. I slept through the car ride home and slept until the next morning. When I woke up, it was clear that I’d been cured.
Years later, my father and I tried to locate the house where the healing had taken place, but we couldn’t find it.
“What if you hadn’t taken me to that doctor?” I asked.
“But I did take you! I had to!” he replied.
“It’s because of Grandma and great uncle Louie,” I added. “I wonder why Mom let you do it?”
“Mom always says that G-d is universal and works in strange and mysterious ways,” my father explained. “What could be more strange and mysterious than what happened?”
Chana Shapiro is an educator, writer, editor and illustrator whose work has appeared in journals, newspapers and magazines.