The Block Island Times
http://block-island.villagesoup.com/p/1164454

We're All Stakeholders

By Martha Ball | Apr 26, 2014

Autumn is free of her cone and more importantly, I am free of her running into me with it. An exceedingly long 17 days it has been.

Toward the end, I had let her run a bit and she would bound up the slope in the north lot, the explosion of joyful energy that is every golden retriever in every television commercial for products largely not remembered. The Elizabethan collar would flop as she ran, her head held high from experience, keeping the contraption just a hair's breath short of catching on the lumpy ground.

It has been funny in ways that should not be amusing but are. One day I went into the kitchen and there she was, beside the door, her cone seemingly stuck to the wall as if she had miscalculated and didn't know what had happened. I would discover her looking at the floor, the cone not quite touching the rug but close enough to immobilize her.

I had wondered if there were things she would forget about over that time span but no, there are already new holes in the yard and her fascination with a flushing toilet, thwarted by the big cone, is unchanged. I know I should not indulge her in the latter, but it amuses me, my dog with her nose almost in the bowl; she is intrigued by water in motion.

The first morning she is free it is raining and her early trip out is brief. Later, when it is only spitting, she runs great circles in the long north lot, back through the gate and around the house, and circumnavigating the barnyard.

Spring is coming. It is in the sound of the peepers in the night air, and in the surf rolling in which really does sound different than in winter. There is, I have just learned, a change in the density of the air that alters the sound, it is not solely it being more accessible for the absence of wind.

In the north lot I notice every day more green in the grass underfoot, and color running through the vines of the multiflora rose along the wall of the old shed. Evil stuff it is, but so beautiful in that narrow window in time when its blossoms open and it almost justifies its own existence. “But it's so pretty” is the lure of so many of these invasive that have come to threaten our landscape.

There is a swale in that lot, one filled by the flooding rains that washed away March. Dry to sodden, now, I see it is pot-marked with hoof prints, as though the deer held a dance there, celebrating the imprisonment of that dog.

In the afternoon of the first full day of freedom, after the morning's rain has passed, I think we will go to the beach. Autumn is out, running in more circles and I go in to gather her leash. She disappears off to the pond, likely after the troll until she is distracted by geese that take to flight. I locate her, finally, when a pheasant rises from the underbrush of the front field, and out follows my dog, proud and triumphant. She has been under cone-arrest for so long that little foray leaves her ready for sleep; we will go to the beach another day.

Over the winter I had reason to recall Dr. Wade Ortel and his family arriving in the fall of 1962 after the Island had been to long without any attending physician, when Mary Donnelly, herself a young mother, was often the sole provider.

We had been without a doctor for a very long time and this man, so much younger then than we children realized, was welcomed with open arms. I think today that a lesser person than Wade Ortel would have turned and gotten back on the boat. He was a caring and gentle presence who quickly became a part of the community.

It was a very different place, then, going to a doctor on the mainland was not an option available to most of the year-round population; the closest most came was maintaining ties with doctors who had left, but were still nearby.

Over the past few years it has often struck me that we did not have the luxury of not supporting the local doctor (there was no Medical Center, the office was in the doctor's residence). When we lost a doctor, we all lost a doctor. We all had to pull together and move forward as difficult as it sometimes was. “Stakeholder” wasn't a term used to define — and separate — members of the community; we were all stakeholders.

Next winter, a very short time from now, we will lose another doctor, one who has been here what feels like an unprecedented length of time. We have been fortunate beyond imagining, we had a doctor who stayed, whose husband is a techie who kept — among other things — the school systems working; they shared with us the vibrancy of three children.

Healthcare has changed but other issues remain, the residence among them. It was a problem before the Ortels came in the early 60's. Even a schoolchild knew that renovation was one of the times the office was moved within the structure, again before the Medical Center was built. We all felt our parents' hesitant relief first when it was announced a doctor would be coming, and that final exhale after he had been here a winter. There is nothing of that time to romanticize.

And, sadly, the squabbling. My mother recalled a good decade before the Ortrels' arrival when there were two health care related committees, the second created when people got mad at the first.

Last week's Health Services meeting was characterized not inaccurately as being about tech glitches and reactions to past events. The former is easy to remedy, the latter . . . has to be. We need all still be stakeholders.

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