Be careful what you “ask” for


From the “Decision”

“What would you recommend if I were your father?”

I am asked this question very often after telling a family that a biopsy shows prostate cancer. I almost anticipate it and have to be careful not to smile after hearing it; certainly a smile after delivering bad news would come across as inappropriate. The irony of the question is that I am not a big fan of my father. He left my mother and her five boys when I was in the seventh grade and moved to Alaska. (That he went to Alaska reminds me of Jonah rejecting God’s command to go to Nineveh. Jonah instead went to Tarshish; a location that was not only in the opposite direction but a “far and distant land.” I have often thought that Alaska was my father’s Tarshish.) I saw him only one time after that, when he showed up at my part-time job during the Christmas break of my freshman year in college. He quizzed me briefly about my grades, told me that his had been better at Auburn University, and then left. I never saw him again. After the divorce, my mother, brothers, and I moved to LaGrange, Georgia to live with my grandmother Bess Davis who was 73 at the time. Looking back on it, this was one of the best things that could have happened to me. LaGrange was a great place to grow up, I adored my mother and grandmother, and I feel that not having a father to depend on made me a stronger person. So, when the inevitable question comes up, I fight back the smile and answer the question as if it were a good one, in the context of a normal father-son relationship. Rarely, however, after failing to withhold the smile, I’ve said, “That really is not the best question to ask me in light of my past relationship with my father. Considering the part of the male anatomy urologists work on, you might not like what I would recommend.”

 

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