No, this is not the latest title I have in mind for my next book… this is a news item I saw which seems to confirm a link between plaque on teeth and heart problems… It reminded me of an old friend of my dad’s probably long dead who was a well-loved and well-respected doctor. I thought of him because he had a habit of using a pin, which he kept in his lapel, as a toothpick… yes, I know it sounds disgusting… anyway, he ended up in hospital with some serious heart-problem which was caused by him nicking his gum with the pin. My dad went to visit him several times and fortunately he recovered. This must be at least forty years ago so the connection between teeth/gums/heart has been known for a long time.
Anyway… this made me think of another story about him; I’ll call him Dr Doyle. Dr Doyle was a good doctor, a kind doctor, a caring doctor, who always had time for people. He used to visit one very old lady, well into her nineties, but who, despite her age, still lived alone, in a ramshackle and to be frank, filthy little home, not much more than a hovel. However she was a nice old thing, a dear old soul, and Dr Doyle would visit and would always sit down and have a little chat with her, just to keep her company.
One very cold winter’s day he visited the old dear, and having seen to her ailments sat down in her unheated kitchen in her freezing little house. The kitchen was chaotic, smelly, full of rubbish and unwashed dishes. There was no point in calling in anyone to help. The old lady was fit and well for her age, and it would have been cruel to have disturbed her when she was getting along just fine.
“Now Dr Doyle, I can see you’re as cold as a fish, will you have a cup of tea, just to warm yourself before you go on to your next patient?”
Dr Doyle was indeed very cold, and he didn’t have another patient before lunch, so he thought he would accept and keep the old lady company for a few more minutes. She was so happy as she put the kettle on, disinterred a filthy cup, found a screw of tea and warmed the pot.
She poured his tea and handed him the cup, sitting down by the table with her own. He couldn’t help but notice her blackened nails, her grimy skin, and her clothes where she had spilled countless things down her chin and chest as she tried to eat with her shaky hands.
Dr Doyle turned the cup round to hold it with his left hand so at least that side of the cup might be the cleaner as it was the side she herself wouldn’t use. He was glad he had accepted her hospitality; despite still being able to look after herself to a degree, and being self-sufficient on her own, she didn’t often have company, and her little old eyes sparkled as they chatted.
He took a final sip of the tea, black as there was no milk, and set the cup down on its grimy saucer.
“Thank you doctor, for stopping, so kind, and now I see we have something in common!” she exclaimed, her wrinkly old face beaming at him. “We’re both left-handed, I noticed as you drank your tea!”