This past week marked a huge milestone in the history of my dental practice. Barbara, my trusted office manager, confidant, and ever-present sounding board, retired. For nearly 30 years Barbara was at the front desk; the first person everyone saw when they entered my office, and the last person they saw when they left. An emotional week of good-byes to the dear patients she has known and happily served ended on Thursday June 19.
Barbara’s Last Week
On Monday, in true “Barbara fashion” she brought in her home-baked cupcakes for all who walked through the door. The hostess with the mostests’ wine and cheese buffet greeted Tuesday’s visitors. Thursday featured a plethora of tasty morsels and sangria, too.
On Friday night the entire staff celebrated Barbara with a wonderful dinner party at Carmines. Simultaneously joyous, celebratory, and bittersweet, it was mostly a night where we all got the chance to show our love and gratitude to the veritable Grande Dame of Suite 803.
Throughout the week Barbara was in her glory while reminiscing about past moments in the office and wistfully musing about what lies ahead for her. Following is the tribute I paid to Barbara at her party (minus the “roast” part which shall remain, um, private!).
A Tribute To Barbara
“After the Beatles broke up, George Harrison released an album entitled All Things Must Pass. That album was a nod to one of life’s realities: virtually everything that we experience during our lifetimes has a beginning, and an end. What happens in-between is what we call living. And sometimes things must end before something new can begin.
Tonight, we are here to acknowledge and congratulate Barbara for her retirement from dentistry. This marks the end of a very eventful 50-year career. And we are also here to rejoice and regale in Barbara’s new beginning as she starts the next, as yet unscripted, chapter in her life, unencumbered by the ringing of the alarm clock, the 2-hour commute, and all those subway stairs.
So, we are here tonight to celebrate Barbara, and to thank her for being such an influential force in our lives. And I emphasize the word force!
It was almost 19 years to the day that my path crossed with Barbara’s (or perhaps a more apt description would be “our paths collided!”). Having left my dental partnership of eleven years in Forest Hills, I was experiencing a professional do-over of sorts. When I bought Dr. Pekarne’s practice I was feeling a bit unsure of myself, somewhat vulnerable, and quite unsettled about the financial and personal uncertainties I was facing. But Dr. Pekarne was a kind and gentle soul with whom I felt an immediate connection. His earnest reassurances led me to consummate the deal without ever meeting the staff!
Then I met Barbara. My heart froze.
Barbara was the person upon whom I was going to be most dependent for a successful transition. Within hours of my arrival she and I had our first of many confrontations. I came in with wide-eyed wonder and idealism and Barbara greeted me with scornful cynicism and suspicion. To say we didn’t “hit it off” is an understatement. For weeks, and months, I feared that I’d made a terrible mistake and was consoled only by the notion that one day I could and would fire her.
But time passed (boy, does time pass!) and Barbara and I, still wary of each other’s motives, began to find common ground. We began to trust each other and help each other. We ended up developing a relationship based upon caring. At first, it was all about caring for our patients. Then somewhere along the line, it became about caring about each other.
Over the past 19 years Barbara has been much more than my trusted office manager. She has become even more than a colleague, or even a friend. Barbara is family. During the almost two decades that we worked together, we developed a closeness that boggles the mind. It’s something that could never have been imagined all those years ago. Barbara is devoted, loyal, and loving. She’s always had my back and I’ve always had hers. And despite retiring, she will always be a part of this office.
Barbara, you truly have been the sentimental heart and soul of the practice.
• You have inspired and touched so many with the multitude of special hand-picked cards you sent out to express joy, sorrow, congratulations or just “thinking of you.”
• You remember everyone’s birthday (except Carmen’s, for some reason).
• You instill the office with holiday spirit (for just about every holiday there is) with your creative decorations. I’ve always wondered if you own stock in Hallmark!
• You’ve always been so mindful of the little things. The little things that have transformed a dental office into a place of love.
• And, you convinced me to dress up for Halloween all those years ago and a grand tradition was born. We expect a visit from you ever Halloween (in costume). Remember, you started it!
I only hope that we will be able to emulate your creativity. We will surely continue to reach out and touch our patients in a manner that will make you proud.
So, I would like to raise my glass and propose a toast: To our beloved Barbara: Thank you for your guidance, your wisdom and your love. May this next phase of your life be filled with awe and wonderment, joy and love, good health, and fun.