THE BLOG
12/31/2014 04:38 pm ET Updated Mar 01, 2015

Dare to Be 100: Spock/Bortz Symmetry

Maybe 10 years ago the phone rang, "Dr. Bortz, my name is Mary McCarthy and I am a friend of Dr. Peter Wood. I have recently moved here and so am anxious to find a good doctor. Peter, knowing that you have practiced here in Palo Alto for a long while, suggested your name as a likely referral source.

All doctors receive such asks, minor nuisances.

But Peter Wood was a very close friend and colleague. He is famous for his discovery that exercise leads to elevated levels of the good cholesterol. His license plate was "HIGH HDL." So with little fuss I volunteered the names of three primary care docs from my clinic.

A week later the phone rang again, "Dr. Bortz, I called those names that you provided and they each said that they would accept me as a patient if you would call personally in my behalf." Such a reaction, while understandable, was nettlesome. I'm sure that some aggravation must have reflected in my voice.

"Okay, Mrs. McCarthy, tell me a little about yourself."
"Well, I am a doctor's widow. My husband was a pediatrician in New York."
"What was his name?"
"Spock."
"BENJAMIN SPOCK?'
"Why, yes. Benjamin Spock was my husband."
"Mrs. Spock, why didn't you tell me that right off? Any doctor would be very proud to care for his widow. Your husband was huge in our family's life. He was a third parent to our four kids. We loved his stuff." (His book, Baby and Child Care sold 50 million copies, second only to the Bible in overall sales.)
"Dr. Bortz, that is very sweet and generous of you. But, I want to tell you that your writing helped him to grow old." (He died in 1998 at age 95.)

Such a miniature anecdote was immediately precious to me. To think that I helped Dr. Spock to grow old was an affirmation of the Golden Rule. In myriad, usually unseen, ways we all are interdependent. Dr. Spock and Dr. Bortz bonded.