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Sunday, February 03, 2008

Oh, the things we parents don't know.

I spent a few hours with my father-in-law the other day, waiting for his chemotherapy to start. In his twenties, he came here from Serbia to go to Harvard with ten dollars in his pocket. The first thing he bought was a Coke. He practiced medicine for many years, often complaining (in perfect English, albeit with a thick Serbian accent*),

"Your Dad has the worst job in the world."

If he believed that, though, it didn't show, because he was devoted to his work. Until he retired last year, well into his seventies, he mostly treated patients with HIV. I'm so proud to share his last name, because at least once a month, someone recognizes it and tells me a story about how he cared for a relative of theirs and how he made them feel. His direct, sometimes gruff, manner made people feel less embarrassed and more at ease during times when that was close to impossible. But I digress...

I don't think I've ever spent that much time with my father-in-law, one on one, and I enjoyed it.
Although his cancer was the thing I couldn't forget, we talked about a lot of things. One of those things was his dedication to healthy habits over the years, which I like to believe may have held his cancer at bay, at least for a while. He's always eaten fresh, healthy food, very Mediterranean. He's made exercise a part of his life. He loves tennis so much that he bought a house right in front of some public courts. Rumor has it that he's fairly proprietary about those courts and has been known to come out with his racket and look through the fence until he's asked to join the game. Colleagues in the hospitals where he worked said they were used to the elevator doors opening on him hopping up and down on one foot, switching feet every so often, probably to help him stay on his toes on the tennis court. I also pointed out that he rarely drinks. Which lead to a discussion about his sons' health habits. Leaning forward, he confided,

"You know, G [his son, my brother-in-law] personally got drunk two or three times. But this hasn't happened in years."

Ahem. It's certainly not my place to comment on that, but I will share a story that's been told over and over in our family.

One wild high school night, G. came home after having more beer than any sane adult would ever drink a few too many. After sort of greeting his parents, he headed immediately to the bathroom to reacquaint himself with everything he had had to drink that evening. I don't know about you, but I didn't always have the best judgment about alcohol when I was younger, so I think we can forgive G. this indiscretion.

"G.," said my father-in-law, calmly, as if he was talking to a patient, "How many beers did you have."

"Two," G. answered, slightly muffled by the bowl.

"Well," responded the clinician, "Now you know your limit."

And so he did.

Namasté, y'all!

* He sounds kind of like a Serbian Bill Clinton. I've been told my imitation isn't half bad, if you're interested in hearing it. Just ask me next time you see me!

1 comment:

Don Mills Diva said...

I love that story! Two!! If only he (and we) could stop at two...