Saturday, January 10, 1987
Caleb is an osteopath. He says osteopaths have the same training as an MD, but I'm not so sure. He's a friendly guy. We have mutual friends and encounter each other from time to time. He has two young boys who are like having two wild goats in the house. My kids don't want anything to do with them.
About a year ago Caleb asked me to look at his bathtub. One evening I dropped by after a particularly long day's work when I was too exhausted to be enthusiastic. It's weird, but I have to sound enthusiastic about a plumbing job, or people won't hire me. Maybe it isn't so for all plumbers, but it's true for me. I need to instill confidence in my clients. Anyway, Caleb gave the job to somebody else.
The somebody else couldn't have been too great, because now — it's 1987 — Caleb has called me for another job. His two boys are somewhat calmer now, ages 3 and 5. I install a new water heater, replacing 30 gallons with 50. To comply with the building code, I put the new water heater on a stand, which necessitates some replumbing of the entry and exit pipes. It turns into a full day job when Caleb adds some carpentry work: reversing doors, installing cabinet trim.
Sissy, Caleb's earth-goddess wife, waddles into the garage where I'm working. With a smile she says, "Nice to see you again." She's gorgeously, button-poppingly pregnant.
Joking, I gape at her belly and say, "Oh no. Not again."
Sharply she says, "Well you have three!" And she waddles out.
Sensitive subject, I guess. Or my usual poor delivery.
Caleb follows me around for much of the day asking questions, watching, learning how I do it. He tells me he bought a new Mac computer, just like me. He got together with a group of 23 homeopathic practitioners and ordered 23 Macs, shopping for the best group rate, and paid less than I did. There's a homeopathic program that runs on the Mac.
Try as I might, I can't make myself believe in homeopathy. And now here's this guy who looks like a nice young Jewish doctor practicing wacko medicine. Osteo makes sense to me, but homeopathy sounds like a con game.
Unlike so many alternative providers who claim to cure everything from acne to cancer, Caleb is modest. "I usually get good results," he says. "I don't think I've ever hurt anybody."
Caleb does cranial adjustments, especially with infants. In other words, he squeezes the baby's skull between his hands, reshaping it. "It takes a leap of faith by the parents," he says. "There's no scientific proof. Just good results most of the time. Here — look at this." Caleb shows me two photos of an infant. "Before and after," he says.
In the first photo the child looks tense and anxious. "Your basic colicky baby. Crying for two solid months. The mom was going crazy."
In the second photo, the child looks relaxed, smiling. "Five minutes after the first cranial." Then Caleb laughs. "It proves nothing. But the mom was sure happy. Tell me: after you install a water heater, has it ever blown up?"
"Have you ever left a job worse than before you started?"
He pretends to wipe sweat from his brow. "I'm reassured."
Apparently he's forgotten, so I tell him: "You gave a cranial to my youngest. Three years ago."
"At my office?"
"No, at my house. You were visiting next door, and we got to talking, and you came over and gave my son a cranial."
"Uh oh." Caleb frowns. "Did I charge you for it?"
"Good. Boy, was I green!" He pauses, thinking. "Why'd you let me do it?"
"I honestly don't know. You must've seemed confident."
"That's an act. For the placebo effect."
"Yeah. Sometimes I do that, too."
"Placebo plumbing! And that works on the pipes?"
"That, and a little solder."
"So now, how's your son doing?"
"He's great. A happy kid."
Caleb sighs. "I lucked out."
"Have you done cranials on your own boys?"
"Of course." He laughs. "That's what keeps me humble."