Its official title is “Sunshine Community Health
Center” but it’s really just The Clinic.
It has been around since I was in elementary school. 25
Back then, medical care meant either a drive to
Anchorage or a call to the paramedics. The Clinic
started in an office above the Troopers, and has
traveled around a bit, finally coming to stop in its
bright new home on the Spur Road. Now, it has exam
rooms. Medication refills. An x-ray machine. A
I’m recuperating from an abscessed tooth. Sunday
afternoon I was fine, but towards the end of the day
the pain had me curled on the couch, breathing slowly
and holding ice to my rapidly swelling face.
I called The Clinic and arranged to meet Mary, the
doctor, at the side door. It was snowing. I pulled
up to The Clinic drive, and followed the single set of
tracks in to park at the side door next to Mary’s car.
Someday, the board and clinic staff hopes the side
entrance and its exam rooms will be an “official”
emergency facility. A mini emergency room. Sunday,
there were no ambulances, nurses or waiting wounded.
But the door was open, golden light glowing through
the snow, and Mary was there with sympathy and
The next day, The Clinic called me. Chris at the desk
said Tina, the dentist, wanted to see me as soon as
possible. I went back, this time in the front door
with the others – children awaiting sport physicals
and limping woodcutters. A little girl asking her
daddy if the dentist did “owwies”. I promised I’d
report back to her. A baby played with the extensive
toy collection that once had The Clinic labeled as
“The Toy Store” by my youngest son. There’s a
magnetic sand table. That one is my favorite.
I went back to the room with the songbirds painted on
the walls. It’s so peaceful you hardly notice the
fancy chair or x-ray machine or little tray of what
look like medieval torture devices.
Tina and her team made sympathetic noises while paying
respects to my swollen face. Misti, Tina’s assistant,
asked me a radio station question. Mary wanted to
know how my daughter was doing in Thailand. Tracy the
hygienist asked how my son’s shirt had recovered,
after a demonstration of “sugar bugs” on his teeth,
using real purple dye, went horribly wrong.
They’re like family, only their advice works.
I got two hugs before I went home. Gave the little
girl in the waiting room a thumbs up and misshapen
Elephant Man smile as I went past.
The next day, I woke up sicker, and when Chris called
to check on me, I was almost in tears. Another phone
call had a neighbor who works at The Clinic dropping
off new antibiotics. I didn’t have to shift myself
from my nest on the couch, and they all knew where I
Two days later brought another trip to the room with
the songbirds; some exchanged jokes about talking with
my mouth full. Me, trying once again to spot the
inchworm in the painting on the wall; and soon I had
one tooth less than I came with.
My instructions were not to haul water or wood for a
To ask a neighbor to shovel the snow that keeps
falling, and falling, and falling.
To take it easy.
And oh hey, we’ll stop by Saturday and see how you’re
feeling. Maybe our kids can play together in the
snow. And are you going to Sarah’s baby shower on