Is It A Manly Fear?

My middle sister calls and asks if I have finished fighting with the doc’s office about my upcoming procedure.

“Little sister, you know I don’t lose fights like that. I am our father’s son. I got the business manager on the phone with my provider and took a screenshot of the section online that says preventative and diagnostic are covered.”

She ran the office for my BIL’s practice for a number of years and is very familiar with the coding and billing procedure between insurance companies and doctor’s offices.

When she tells me she can’t remember the exact code for preventative I tell her she is closer to 50 than 40.

It doesn’t faze her the way it used to, but she does say it is weird to think I’ll be 50 in a few months.

“I hate the idea of doing this. If I could skip it I would. Hell, if they would have said I had to wait to 50 I would have said screw it. What is a few months.”

We go back and forth about a few things and talk about hospice because she has a friend who just went in.

“You know what freaks me out a bit? That first night, after dad’s surgery when we knew the end was coming and weren’t clear if that was it.

About 2 AM he called me by my first and middle names and had me come to the bed. He held onto the bed with one hand and squeezed mine with the other. I have never seen him in that much pain. I felt a little guilty, but I told him that you were coming and to hang on.”

Is It A Manly Fear?

At dad’s retirement party one of his coworkers took me aside to say a few things about my dad.

“Do you know your father is fearless? That guy isn’t afraid of any one or anything.”

I smiled and nodded yes.

That is how I thought of him and it wasn’t until many years later that I realized it wasn’t completely true

Some of it was because I hadn’t been a father long enough and been through enough to appreciate certain aspects of life in a way that allowed me to really follow and appreciate certain things.

It wasn’t until my grandfather was clearly on a downward spiral and dad asked for my advice about whether to go away with mom that I saw he truly saw me as a man and not just a kid.

I was 37 but it wasn’t until around I was around 47 or 48 that we really hit our stride. Don’t mistake that to mean we weren’t close before that because we were but something changed around then.

It might have happened a few years before that but I can’t say for certain and it doesn’t matter.

What matters is I did what every son does and measured myself against him.

In most areas I felt solid but when it came to career I always felt a step behind.

Why?

Because dad worked for the county for 38 years. He held multiple positions and did well there, but I didn’t have anything close to that.

I had multiple jobs.

Got promoted and had success.

Got fired and laid off.

Dad never had any of that and for a long time I wondered what he could do that I couldn’t because I figured some of it had to be me.

And then one day he told me he thought I had caught some bad breaks and that in many ways he had gotten lucky.

My jaw might still be on the floor. My father was a great dad, but he could be very tough about some things and you never got to make excuses about accountability.

****

I don’t think of myself as a tough guy. Don’t think of myself as a wimp either.

Upon occasion I have had to use my fists to defend myself , I never liked getting hit or kicked, but I always felt better after that first punch.

It is like jumping into a really cold/hot shower. There is the initial shock and then you settle in.

The old man had the same procedure I am going in for multiple times, heck so has mom and millions of others.

But I am thinking about dad because we had a conversation about when I might have this and I told him I found the idea a little traumatic.

“It might not be a manly fear, but this gives me the willies.”

He rolled his eyes hard enough for the shock to extend all the way from LA to Texas.

“Josh, the prep sucks but you’ll take a really good nap. You’re old enough to appreciate those now.”

I’ll Fight A Lion

“Dad, I’d rather fight a lion. If you want we can market it as almost middle aged man takes on lions, gorilla and a great white shark.”

I felt the second eye roll and heard the sigh, but continued anyway.

“The only catch is the shark has to fight me on land. That is only fair, he’ll have several thousand pounds on me and might even be more than twice my size. But that won’t matter because I can beat him. Just promise you’ll watch.”

“How are my grandchildren?”

“Dad, don’t change the subject. When your son says he wants to spend time with you that is precisely when you need to do it. He could get busy and do more important things. Trust me, I have a teenager.”

“I had four, you have two.”

“Let’s not turn this into a competition. I would have had another four but that would have meant forcing the issue, getting married multiple times or casually picking up lost kids at the mall.

Forcing the issue and picking up lost kids at the mall tend to be marked as felonies so that is a non starter and getting married multiple times is a lot of work and costly.

Ya know dad, I don’t think I want to deal with all the mishegoss involved in multiple marriages and all those diapers. Hell, I haven’t had to change one in a decade.”

“Joshua, I am not interested in playing games.”

“That’s too bad dad because I have gotten really good at chess and I think I could beat you now.”

“Your sisters are right, you are a pain-in-the-ass.”

“That might be true, but I am the favorite. Just remember that.”

****

I am standing at the side of the bed, looking down at dad.

Mom is sort of sleeping in the corner and I am trying to process it all.  I woke up in Dallas, worked a full day and went about my business.

Now I am back in LA wondering how long my father will live.

The doc who said he wouldn’t make it through the night doesn’t know dad, he can say what he wants but it doesn’t matter.

Part of me knows some of that is wishful thinking and that I need to be prepared because if the doc is competent he has some professional expertise I don’t have and isn’t personally invested.

When I tell dad to hold on because Jennifer is on a plane and will be there soon I tell him it is his fault.

“You remember who told me I always had to protect my sisters and that I would be in big trouble if I didn’t. I am protecting her.”

He squeezes my hand but I have no idea if it is because of a spasm from pain or if it is agreement.

Seventy-nine days later much is still a blur but some of it is less so and new memories are taking their place alongside the old.

I think I have PTSD.

The prep kit for the procedure is nearby but dad isn’t.

If I offer to fight a lion or a gorilla do you think he’ll answer and more importantly, if he can make it happen will they give me time to stretch.

I don’t want the animals to win because I pulled a hamstring. This getting older shit sucks.

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