This month, while families are focused on the matriarchs in their lives in celebration of Mother’s Day, I will pay tribute to my Dad.

On May 15, after delivering nearly 4,500 babies, spending 962 weekends on call, and managing 37 years of practice, Dr. Richard S. Cybulsky, Ob/Gyn, will close the doors of Brookwood Hospital’s Premier Women’s Care, and delve headfirst into retirement.

As anyone who has experienced childbirth can attest, those first few moments between mother and child are among the most precious we ever will experience in our worldly lives. For nearly four decades, this has been his life’s work.

When new daddies with shaking hands went to cut the umbilical cord, he was there. When seconds-old babies made their triumphant first cries of life, he was there. In that first visible moment when women became mothers, men became fathers and couples became families, he was there.

In September 1977, Dad opened his first practice on 11th Avenue South, a stone’s throw from Southside. He was 28 years old. Three months later, he became a first time daddy himself when I arrived on December 22nd.

New Daddy. New Baby. One of our first pictures together, December 1977.
New Daddy. New Baby. One of our first pictures together, December 1977.

Balancing the demands of a new baby and a new practice, Dad began to perfect the trademark quality I’ve heard attributed to him over the years more times than I can count (my maiden name ensured I could not walk down the halls of Pizitz Middle School, or to the Vestavia Hills Public Library, or frankly anywhere any type of ID with surname was involved, without people putting two and two together:

“He is so patient.” Yes, he is. Unfailingly so. Even to this day when I am at my wits end after a trying day with my own children, I often envy him this quality.

I asked him recently about the secret mojo behind his bottomless patience.

His answer was astonishingly simple.

“You cannot learn anything if your hand is on the doorknob,” he said.

Of course.

It’s as true in an examination room as it is in a preschooler’s bedroom, during the bedtime tug of war that happens at my house more often than I’d like to admit.

“I bet I would spend no more time with my patients [than a doctor standing up], but I certainly learned a lot more by sitting down,” he said. “Your eyes can see what a person’s words don’t necessarily convey. Facial expression is so meaningful; without it, you cannot provide the best possible care.”

And he always did. As a doctor, and as a daddy.

Even now, at age 36, I swell with pride when a family stops us while we are out, only to introduce their teenage son or daughter to Dad, telling their child, “He was there when you were born.”

Occasionally we run into patients who once upon time were babies he delivered, and who are now having babies of their own – what Dad refers to as his first grandfather experience.

“That makes you very reflective,” he said. “To think you have been in this business long enough that enough time has passed for such a thing to occur, it’s surreal. It also carries a sense of accomplishment because you have engendered enough faith and trust in your ability that these children would seek you out.”

Were it not for shows like Ben Casey or Dr. Kildare, they might not have had the chance.

Leading a successful career as a physician in Birmingham was certainly an unlikely calling for a farm boy from Lockport, Manitoba. But he did it. Exposure to family members who married physicians, a bit of black and white TV medical drama, and an aptitude for math and science in grade school were all the indicators Dad needed to articulate and achieve his dream.

It’s an awesome lift yourself up by the bootstraps legacy, and one that always will influence my own choices.

We Cybulskys like to shake things up a bit. We thrive on rising above what others think we ought to do.

And I am fiercely proud to be my father’s daughter.

Congratulations Daddy. I love you!