The Luckiest Guy in the World

Tom Cardella

(This columnist fell and fractured some small bones in his pelvis on Feb. 24. He was treated at Jefferson Hospital and Presbyterian Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Center and released last week. This is a column dedicated to my welcome home by Lil Vic and his staff and everyone else who makes me the luckiest guy in the world).

There are many things wrong with our system of medical care in America. But devotion, dedication and compassion, in my case, overcame any systemic deficiencies. But that’s a column for another time. I have been hospitalized so many times in the last year, I’ve lost track. At the same time I’m unable to remember the names of all the nurses who came to my assistance, but bless you all. I thank my wonderful therapists at Good Shepherd, Christiana and Meredith. And Dr. Michner who oversaw my care. And not to forget Dr. Poojah Singh of Jefferson Nephrology who stepped in personally to keep my care on the right track while I was treated at Jefferson.

It all led to the bright sunny day last week when I made my way to LIL VIC’S Hair Stylist in South Philly (2901 S. Sydenham St.) to get my white beard shaved off and a fresh new haircut, courtesy of Laurie. A word about Lil Vic’s —

The shop is owned and operated by Vic. Vic is by no means little. He’s the tall commanding general of his staff. Symbolic of the wonderful hockey fan who has been cheated of the joy of good NHL hockey by our local franchise. After a Flyers loss, you might want to chat about other stuff. Laurie is a hair stylist who works at Lil Vic’s on weekends. She’s been witness to my string of bad health and cutting my hair for a long time. She says I have nine lives. I figure I must be running out of comebacks by now, but I’m too stupid to know it.

Lisa washes hair and runs the appointment book. Lil Vic’s is run with the efficiency of a Prussian general.

My friend and driver, Jim, and I, accompanied by my super-dedicated wife Fran, headed from our apartment to South Philly for my appointment with Laurie. I’m using a walker these days. Probably will be doing so for at least four more weeks. Ever-obliging Jim packed the walker in the trunk of his car. Moved the front seat all the way up to allow me maximum leg room. We arrived right on time (Jim is always on time).

Lil Vic’s was ready for me. Vic, Laurie and Lisa snapped into action. Doors were opened. Arms reached out to help me inside. Laurie was waiting with her trusty clippers. Off came the accoutrements of old age. Eyeglasses. Hearing aids. And Laurie went to work.

For some of you, a haircut may not be a big thing. But don’t tell that to me. Laurie not only keeps me from looking like Methuselah, she’s my confidante and surrogate daughter. If it were up to me, I would enshrine Lil Vic’s as a historic site. There’s something so personal about a South Philly hair stylist owned and operated by the owner and his own staff that cannot simply be replaced by the fancy chains going up around the country. They have no soul. Lil Vic’s has soul, the soul of a unique neighborhood.

When I emerged from the chair, I felt renewed. The warmth of everyone overwhelmed me. My wife was inquiring about basket cheese to make her Easter pie. I swear if it were possible, Vic, Lisa and Laurie would’ve made the cheese for her right there in the store.

Everyone snapped into motion for my departure. Heartfelt goodbyes were said. Doors were opened, Arms were extended. For all I knew Lisa laid down a red carpet to Jim’s car outside.

“How did I do?,” Laurie shouted, referring to my haircut and shave. Jim shouted his approval as he held the door open for me.

It was another close call, but I was home. Surrounded by some of the people I love.