Before noon on a June Wednesday, cardboard boxes are piled high in Dr. James Trinity’s second floor office in the brick building on Central Avenue in Glendale.
After two decades, the outgoing dentist is moving out of the very same office his GP physician father occupied some 54 years ago. The last patient was named John. He only half-joked, “I’m honored. You saved it for me.”
The specialized movers show up to take the dental chairs and heavy equipment in three “operatories” to a nonprofit in Santa Barbara. Dental Relief will distribute all of it to other nonprofits and dentists across America and around the world who serve poor communities.
“You can disconnect whatever,” points out Dr. Trinity. “Then if you start here and just go right down the line, we’re set.”
The younger man nods. “Sure.”
“What do you figure? Probably 10 minutes?” quips the dentist trying to hold a straight face.
The movers exchange looks until Dr. Trinity smiles, chuckles and says, “You guys been doing this long?”
Again the younger nods.
“It’s a donation, but we haven’t designated where it might go. Maybe we should donate it to wayward dentists or something.”
Now the movers are smiling.
A short while later, the 72-year-old parishioner of Incarnation Church in Glendale — a graduate of UCLA and Marquette School of Dentistry — is explaining to a visitor how he had to move out of the brick building because the new owner, like many in Glendale, is converting the property to condos and apartments with first-floor commercial sites. But then the memories start to flow.
“You kind of grew up with this building,” he says. “It’s 1960, so it’s like 54-plus years old. I was all of 18 years old when I started coming here. Yeah, I remember sitting in this very office and in college I had to do a history paper on the Etruscans or somebody. And so I remember sitting right here roughing it out.
“It’s interesting because my dad was a GP, family physician out of Michigan when they came out here in 1943. The blessing was he and the other GP across the way had the busiest practice in general medicine back in the ’40s, ’50s and into the ’60s. These guys were really respected by all the specialists because they had the largest general practices.”
His mother died in 1955 at the age of 41 of breast cancer, leaving his dad with three boys and three girls to raise. “We went through housekeepers like that,” he says snapping his fingers. “Nobody wanted to watch six kids. But it was fun growing up. And then my dad remarried and three more children came. So we ended up with nine.”
Two of his brothers and stepbrothers became physicians, one a pathologist (now retired), the other a transplant surgeon in Louisiana. Some of his sisters also went into health care. His stepmother went back to school to become an RN.
After 10 years of practicing dentistry, Dr. Trinity went back to school himself, earning a law degree from Southwestern School of Law in Los Angeles. He built and ran a thriving practice with four offices employing 20 dentists and 100 dental assistants. Then he retired in 1988 and traveled extensively to Russia and China.
In 1992, he ran in the Republican primary for U.S. senator, losing but garnering some 300,000 votes. He says he still loves the give and take of politics.
“Then reality hit me, and I said, ‘Well, I’ve got to go back to practice dentistry, which I did,” he reports. “And then after a year or two here, that’s when that little germ started to grow as far as the idea for the book.”
The book would take another 19 years of weekend and early-morning steadfast work. In the process, it became not only a mission but a ministry. An illustrator in Oregon just finished the job on the philosophical, sociological and theological treatise.
“The thing that I enjoyed was something I had always had in my mind: Why do we live in such an evil world? Why? Why? The biggest question was why?” he muses. “And so you keep on asking yourself, and I really do think God enlightens you. Basically, you ask a question and you keep asking it; and then what you do is you leave yourself open.
“But 19 years,” he adds with a sigh and chuckle. “It comes from a dentist being not a writer.
“But it’s done. It’s done. I wish I was done 10 years ago. But, it takes time.”
Now Dr. Trinity is looking forward to another life adventure, a new practice with two other dentists off of Brand Boulevard, just three-and-a-half blocks away in Glendale, currently called Grossman & McKay Dental. “This is a real good opportunity,” he says, “because it’s new.”