Today is Father’s Day. It’s a bittersweet holiday for me now that my Dad is no longer on this earth. The avalanche of advertising that accompanies this holiday started becoming an irritation and a sad reminder of this fact. Not that I don’t think about him every day and wish I could once again pick up the phone and hear his voice. As I was sitting in church this morning, I was reminded of all the funny emails he’d send along in our daily correspondence. They were usually tales of the latest exchange between he and my mother. I’ve saved all of those emails and often go through them to laugh once again. My thoughts then turned to his funeral and some of the great stories that were told. Yes I know, I should have been paying attention to the priest but I have the attention span of a gnat. There is one story in particular that always makes me laugh and my Mother is going to kill me for telling it. But I’m pretty sure she doesn’t read this so unless one of my siblings tattles, I’m safe. I should tell the story about bananas and how my mother used to send Dad to the grocery store with a list that included 5 bananas. He would stand over the banana display looking and looking for a bunch that had 5 bananas and 5 only. One day to his astonishment, he saw a woman walk up, rip 3 off a bunch and continue on. What an epiphany! He never knew this was a possibility in his world. Yes this was a man with an advanced medical degree.
Instead I’ll tell one of my favorite stories, this one from the OR. Dad had a wonderful relationship with the nurses, a rarity between nurses and doctors. For all of his pseudo-chauvinistic comments, he truly liked and respected the nursing staff and the vital jobs they performed. He treated them as collaborators and equals, which unfortunately doesn’t often happen. And they in turn respected and had a lot of affection for my Dad. So on this particular day, he was in the OR performing, yes, a hemorrhoidectomy which is exactly what you think it might be. The patient is positioned butt high to the sky for this procedure and the workspace is rather, forgive me, tight. The funny thing about surgery is TV gives the feeling of vastness when it portrays an operation when in reality it is really close working environment. I once watched Dad take out part of a lung and was amazed at how all those hands were able to fit in such a small space. Anyway, back to our story. Light is very important in an operation and the key light that was pointed on the field kept drifting off mark. Dad kept having to tell the dirty nurse (she’s not sterile so she does all things outside the sterile field) to fix the light, move the light, adjust the light until he finally reached a boiling point. Without raising his head he yelled “The asshole. Shine the light on the asshole!” Well that poor struggling nurse with the light took one look at one of the other nurses, shrugged her shoulders and promptly flashed the light right at my Dad’s face. And he just cracked up. He knew he’d deserved it. She got him back perfectly and he had the grace to accept it.
That’s one of the things that made my Dad a truly wonderful person. Not only was he a passionate and gifted surgeon (spelled it right this time Dad!), he had a great sense of humor and a humility about what he did. He treated people as equals and had no time for those who thought themselves better than everyone else. A lesson he passed on to me.
Forgive me for rambling on longer than I usually do. I just thought you’d like to know a bit about the hero in my life. And sorry Mom. Next time I’ll stop at the banana story.