Patients and friends.
The son of a very old friend sent my wife and me a beautiful memorial card he had printed in tribute to his mother, which incorporated postage stamp photographs of her at key periods in her life. His mother was one of the first patients I had in Canada when I started medical practice in 1963. She didn't actually choose me as her doctor. I was a new doctor in a large clinic and the busy established physicians used to offload patients to the 'new boys' to lessen their own burden. If the patients liked you they tended to stay with you because you were available. Thus were medical practices built in those days. Tweelee (that wasn't her real name, but the one she liked to be called by) became my patient and soon she and her husband became close friends with my wife and me. A life-long relationship that only death could end.
The cover photograph was a beautifully composed picture of her, probably in her mid-eighties, sitting upright on a beautiful period couch, slight smile on her face, looking for all the world like a duchess from a previous century. Indeed, she so fit into that model of a duchess, that years earlier I liked to tease her by addressing her as 'Duchess'. I think she liked that.
She was a remarkable woman. Born in Burma in the early part of the Twentieth Century, her father was in the British Military and her mother was a Burmese Karen, (Sino-Tibetan). She was one of the few Eurasian girls who went to a very select private girls school in England. She would return to Burma or travel around Europe and England in the summers with her uncle. After her schooling in England, her father sent her to 'Finishing School' in Paris, where Tweelee joked, she spent her time studying young Parisian Men and taking in the Parisian life.
While returning to England on a ship, she met Ralph returning from his WW2 Navel Service and they fell in love, got married and lived happily ever after.
Not only was she educated and elegant, she was eloquent. Sometimes it wasn't easy being her physician, because she had very much her own ideas about medical care and management. She loved to argue them, in her unique good humoured way and was always ultimately co-operative when she had finished extracting explanations. Exquisitely feminine, she was as tough as nails, when need be.
Ralph and Tweelee were not only wonderful friends, they had values and principles that they lived by. They were fascinating. Impeccable manners from another era enhanced the remarkable tales of British Colonial life and Ralph's stories of his not inconsiderable adventures in WW2 , (particularly those aboard HMS Petard, a P-class Destroyer). His naval commitment continued for many years as Commander of HMCS Unicorn naval reserve division in Saskatoon. He and Tweelee were truly regal in their full regalia at the Royal United Services Institute functions in Saskatchewan, where Tweelee was often referred to as the real 'Commanding Officer'.
Their wisdom, knowledge, incredible sense of humour, as well as their loyalty as lifelong friends have proven to me that that the old saw that a doctor should not have patients as close friends is poppycock!
I miss them both.