I haven’t always wanted to be a dentist. I have always liked to build things, make things nice or attractive. I have always been intrigued by how things are built or how they work. I am pleased when I see people have a good time and I enjoy making that happen for people. I have always like to learn things and have looked up to teachers and leaders. I was called “fatso” by my mean stronger and older brother and he was known as pimple face when I tried in vane to get back at him. My parents were they typical American Dream. Dad went out to work, Mom raised five children and watched for sales and collected S&H green stamps, had Tupperware parties, and bought a freezer to store bread and meat when it was on sale. Mom and Dad were cub Masters and Den Leaders in Boy Scouts and we went to church every Sunday. They were very Victorian when it came to talking about the birds and the bees – they didn’t. My dad loved to sing hymns out loud. They worked very hard and a treat was to go out on special occasions to the Dinner Bell Cafeteria. No one in my family had ever gone to college or drank alcohol and I grew up in a family owned sexually oriented business that was kept secret.
Can you imagine when it was time at school to tell what your father did to make a living and I had to skirt the truth and say he had “vending machines”. That was a cover up for the real truth that he and my grandfather sold condoms in vending machines out of gas station restrooms, nightclubs and strip tease parlors. At that time the word condom was censored from TV and movies because it was considered unspeakably nasty. So I grew up with the false notion that it was OK to cover up your inner workings when it was counter to the public norm. It was easier and better than having to explain things. After all no real harm was done and you were not exactly telling a lie.
I was fortunate to have grandparents on both sides of my family. My dad’s mother worked as a janitor in the tallest building in Houston. Grandma Mitchmore was the most frugal person I have ever known.She never owned a car, rode the bus, lived over 100 years and, saved and repurposed things thrown away where she worked, an expert scrabble player, owned several rental properties, and led a very simple life. Her son, my father, worked hard and liked to play and was good at sports. He never sought to be wealthy and was vulnerable to get rich schemesin order to provide for his large family. He never balanced a check book a day in his life and was not concerned with his net worth as long as he could always pay his bills. He built the house we all grew up in by adding another room himself each time a child was born. My father taught me it is good to laugh and sing and play, fear God and work hard.
My mother’s parents could not have been more the opposite. My Grandma Melvill was not a sit in the rocking chair and knit type. She liked to have fun, have the latest George Jetson looking light fixtures, and stay up late. She could afford a car but never had one and preferred to be driven by my grandfather or my mother when she needed to go somewhere. Grandpa Melvill loved to talk and was a HAM radio operator with a 75 foot tower in his backyard for her antennas. What a cool challenge it was to climb that as a boy. One Christmas he hung a lighted star on the top that rotated and the local Catholics thought a miracle had happened. He had one of the first man caves in Houston – he called it his HAM shack inside the garage. He could stay up all hours and talk to perfect strangers all over the world just because he had the very special technology to do it with. It was a precursor to facebook and tweets. He would put a microphone in front of the grandchildren and just say talk to someone – we would run away in shock. Before the condom business he was a radio and TV repairman. He had all sorts of cool looking tubes and testing equipment. The invention of the transistor essentially killed the radio and TV repair business. These grandparents traveled to both Alaska and Hawaii before they were states and took the HAM radios with them. Life was an adventure. My mother was probably conceived out of wedlock and caused the move South from Illinois. She grew up poor and her 10 year younger sister grew up with lots of nice things. My mother taught me to look out for myself, to save, and to work hard and there is not time to play.
I was so different from the very beginning from anyone else in my family. They had their hands full with my older brother always being in trouble. I was the good boy that did not seem to really need any parenting therefore no rules were needed for me. I started working when I was 14 sacking groceries. I studied people. I could tell what kind of car a person would be driving and if the trunk of the car was going to be messy or neat by the kind of groceries they bought and how they filled their shopping cart.
Carlos Ortiz, a classmate and co-worker was an entrepreneur at sacking groceries. He learned to spot the people that would tip and he would always be on the lookout and position himself to be at that cash register at just the right time. He taught me how to look for business.
By 16 I was working full time at an electronics manufacturing plant two doors down. I took piano lessons, had lots of homework, made good grades and did not play outside much with the other guys. My idea of competition at school was to type the fastest words per minute in typing class, and join the slide rule club. I was a Geek.
Then one summer I went to Church camp for a week at met The Rev W.C. Hall, Jr. I had never known anyone like him. He was so smart! He genuinely cared about me – what I thought about things and what my feelings were. He asked me about my plans to go to college. I had none! He had a white German Shepherd named Sampson that was trained better than any circus act I had ever seen.
W.C. took me under his wing and informed me that it was time for me to take college entrance exams, visit and apply to college. He picked me up and took be to tour my first college campus. I was in awe – it was a world I had never known about. He taught be how to order in a restaurant and how to enjoy a glass of wine. It was a rose’ from Portugal in an oval green bottle called Mateus. He had a history of helping disadvantaged kids. To this day, I give him credit and gratitude for changing the course of my life from a blue collar worker by the sweat of my brow to as esteemed professional. I wanted to be just like him.
That led me to declare my intention to become a Methodist Minister. I studied and received a license to preach before graduating High School. I started college at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas with advanced classes in English, Humanities, and Religion. It was a private liberal arts college for rich kids. I was lost and miserable. I was there on scholarship and a work program of busing tables and washing dishes in the cafeteria for the rich kids. It was there I learned humility. There was a charismatic movement going on in the protestant churches at that time that I was confused about. I turned to my mentor W.C. and he explained that part of being a minister is the political nature and the corporate structure of organized religion. Religion became like sausage. I was grossed out by what goes in to the making of it. My naïve thoughts of a higher calling and everything and everything around church was good was shattered. I had to reassess my life. I could no longer go in a direction where I was wanting to copy someone instead of doing what I really liked.
After my first dreadful year at Southwestern I decided to test the waters in the Science Department by going to Summer School at The University of Houston. I LOVED and excelled at it. I went back to Southwestern as a Science major and found myself. My best friend and roommate Dod Moore and I decided to become dentists. He did not want to be a physician like his father and I had a distant Uncle that was a dentist with what appeared to be a good life. I could exercise my love of science and my love to serve people at the same time. A decision was made. We both finished our college work in only three years and we both were accepted to The University of Texas Dental Branch in Houston.
My dream had come true but I had no idea how to pay for it. I took a position at the old V.A. Hospital in Houston. In exchange for drawing blood on the T.B. ward at 5:30 every morning, I could live in a concrete dormitory with no air conditioning that had a common bathroom and eat in the hospital cafeteria. I took it and I was good at it. I rode a bicycle to dental school then worked in the Methodist Hospital next door until 11 PM for money to pay for school. It was a nightmare and I lost 30 lbs that first year! The hard work lessons from my mother propelled me to finish dental school almost a year ahead of schedule. My work in the pathology lab, drawing blood from patients with all kinds of medical problems and working in the blood band taught me a great deal about medicine that my dental school classmates did not get in the lecture halls. This knowledge and experience would come to serve me well in my dental career.
I got married to the only woman I dated in college. I did not give myself time to date during the insanity of dental school. She followed me to Houston the following year after she finished Southwestern. Millie was bright, fun, a talented and creative artist, and I loved her family. My peers were getting married and it seemed like it was the next logical step for the beginning of my own American Dream of living the good life with a nice home and 2.2 children and two cars in the garage. I graduated early and the following week I purchased a used building from my distant Uncle the dentist in a very small country town in the Piney Woods of East Texas. I hung my shingle out as the new dentist in town. I worked very hard and joined all of the service organizations. The townspeople welcomed my devotion to the betterment of the community as most of the other younger doctors chose to live in a nice suburb of Houston and commute to this sawmill town. I was even elected three different times to serve as a City Councilman. I had opponents in each race and I can assure you the small town politics has all of the same trappings of big city politics. My practice grew quickly and I enjoyed the lifestyle it provided. I continued my dental education at the finest dental institute in the world in Key Biscayne, Florida a couple of weeks each year. Nice cars, a custom home, lots of travel across the country, Europe, Canada, and Mexico, fine restaurants and theater, and SCUBA diving, and golf. On the outside I was the definition of success and on the inside I was conflicted and confused. I was a gay man playing the role of a straight man. I was not exactly telling a lie. It was the false notion that it was OK to cover up your inner workings when it was counter to the public norm. It was easier and better than having to explain things. After fourteen years of marriage and working days and going to various meetings in the evenings, my beautiful daughter Emily was born. Being a parent provided another diversion from coming to grips and facing my own feelings of malcontent. Of course, I had to be the ideal parent the best that I could.
I entered the darkest period of my life. My wife new of my attraction to men and we sought counseling for it. I prayed to change and read the book As A Man Thinketh a thousand times trying to change my feelings. Finally my wife secretly planned a surprise divorce. I came home from the office on a Friday at Noon to find my personal belongings in the driveway and an officer delivered divorce papers with an eviction notice. I was suddenly homeless and my American Dream and family torn apart. The divorce was horrible and included extortion to pay a higher than typical settlement otherwise my sexuality would be broadcast on the local radio and newspaper to ruin my practice. The child was used as a negotiating tool but I never backed down to my total commitment to be a father not matter how difficult it was going to be. This was all was made for juicy fodder for the rumor mills and my practice was devastated. Church pamphlets were left in my office about the sins of homosexuality and I was introduced over the telephone to the local White Camillia Chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. The KKK was a white militant organization for the purpose to protect and rid this country of the evil onslaught of Blacks, Jews and Homosexuals. During this same time the daughter of an elderly patient filed a complaint with the Texas Dental Board that I was doing more for her mother than what the daughter wanted. I immediately refunded her money but the Texas Rangers still had to investigate the claim. I was in the midst of a suing my general contractor because the windows leaked in the large professional building I built and he would not fix them. Everything that was dear to me was terribly torn apart.
I finally got the message that I had better start living my life from the inside out. I had to change.
I had to leave the town that I thought I had too many deep financial roots in to leave. I moved to a wealthy master planned, and family oriented community north of Houston. My still cloudy thinking told me this would be best for my daughter. A very dear neighbor saw me scurrying around to be the absentee father more than taking care of myself. She gave me very profound advice. Kaye said, “You know Randy, your daughter Emily will be just fine when you are just fine.” It was time to truly live my whole life with intentional purpose.
I took a deep breath and rented 900 square feet in a strip center in a nice part of Houston and hung my shingle out as the new dentist in town. I was not going to work for another dentist or buy an existing practice where my true self could ever be compromised. I commuted 200 miles between the master planned community, the new tiny practice in Houston, the old practice in the small town which was barely keeping the doors open as most of the patients in this fundamentalist town had left. I finally sold the real estate in the small town, except for one small piece that I still have today, the patio home in the master planned community. Now I could devote all of my energy to my new life.
My Houston practice blossomed. I was finally able to practice the highest and most advanced dentist that I had trained myself to be. I had been a frustrated dentist in the small town because few people there had the same values and appreciation for the best that could be done. Most were satisfied with mediocre dentistry and I wanted to be and perform the best.
It did not take long for my reputation as an outstanding and caring dentist to spread. I had to move to a larger building. I closed my eyes and envisioned what my ideal dental office would look like. That vision had hardwood floors, a fireplace, columns, nice landscape, tastefully done, space, and did not smell like a dental office. I drove around town and spotted a rundown building for sale. It was much more expensive than what I thought I could afford but the minute I walked in it clicked as this is the place.
A year later the remodel of a 1930 two story duplex home became one of the most unique dental offices in the country. Dental patients overlook a tropically landscaped pool as they received the most high tech dental service possible. With the use of 3-D digital x-ray CT scans, 3-D images instead of gooey impressions, CAD/CAM designs, and EMG’s and computer bite analysis, cosmetic dentistry, and dental implant surgery. I deliver outstanding dentistry that can look good, feel good, and last a long time. I am the only dentist with a Masters honor from both the American Academy of General Dentistry and The American Dental Implant Association. I am the only general dentist that has all of that and is certified and licensed to give my patients IV sedation for assure the most comfortable experience possible for any procedure, not just surgery.
I have lectured at dental meetings to teach dentists what I do and authored many dental articles. I used my non-profit and political experiences to be on the Board of Directors of Bering Omega. BeringOmega served people infected and affected with HIV during the crisis years of the epidemic. One of my proudest accomplishments was being chosen to serve as Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry Charitable Foundation for two terms. A nationwide network of volunteer dentist to Give Back A Smile to survivors of domestic violence or domestic partner abuse that resulted in a damaged smile without charge. I lost my only sister to suicide in the aftermath of horrible domestic violence behind closed doors that I did not know about until the damage had been done. Domestic Violence is another one of America’s dirty secrets that I shine light on.
The Texas Legislature appointed me to serve on the newly created Monstrose Management District where I live and work. This is a political body to make assessments on commercial property and use that money for the betterment of this District. My past experiences have helped me serve in another area that I am passionate about.
I have struggled with what both Aristotle and my mentor Dr. L.D. Pankey taught about balance in life. I have come to conclude that the center point of balance between work and play, love and worship is pinned down at different places for different people and does not have to be directly in the center of that compass. I am fortunate to find the line is very blurry between what some people would call work and what I call play. I am blessed to have a wholesome partner that not only is good to the bone but is understanding of my love of my work. He helps by putting his hand on my balance scale and teaches me how to relax and be happy with a simple evening at home with love. Life is good. I am grateful.