I have been fortunate to have experienced the effect loving fathers have on the lives of their families, friends and colleagues. My grandfather was the ideal father. He was always so loving and caring. He never raised his voice but when he did it was well deserved. He provided for 10 children and scores of grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces, nephews, friends and everyone else who found themselves in our extended family. We called him “Big Daddy.” To others, he was Mr. John, Uncle John and Mr. Waldrop. I cannot forget my uncles who were my mother’s brothers and her sister’s husbands. They cared for all of us like we were their own children. My parents were divorced when I was five years-old so they all filled the void.
The others were patients I have cared for over the years. So many of them I met because their wives pushed them in to the office. When they finally got there, they often shared why they were so reluctant to come. Many thought I was just this kid and I had to win their respect with my skill. Once accomplished, they came in and confided in me.
They appeared to be healthy hard-working husbands and fathers. Unfortunately, I diagnosed quite a few with untreated hypertension, cancer and diabetes. It can be the hardest thing a man does when he admits he has an illness. I found what I thought was just a cyst on a patient’s back. It turned out to be metastatic kidney cancer. He was so strong through the ordeal. Most concerned about his wonderful wife and his children. His wife was my patient. It was not a prolonged illness and he did not have a long battle. We did not have many treatment options.
My favorite couple was one of my most tragic cases. Mr. C ‘s wife had multiple medical problems. Through it all he was there. She developed a blood clot in her leg and then we finally diagnosed cancer of the kidney. We transferred her to the University Hospital but she died during surgery. He was devastated. Every visit was not about his medical problems but about the loss of his wife, soul mate after more than thirty years of being together. He was comfortable enough after all this time to reveal how lost he felt. He was overwhelmed by the advances from women who wanted to take his wife’s place. He was surprised because many of them were her friends. I tried to be helpful and not offend him. I told him he was such a good husband that they wanted to have the same loving relationship. He was not ready. I found myself giving him tips on how to handle those lovely church ladies many of whom I knew because they were patients or I knew them through my work in the community. He would just say “She was a beautiful woman and no one can replace her.”
One of my colleagues, Dr. S, entrusted the care of his beloved wife to me. It was a compliment but I felt I had failed the first time I admitted her to the hospital. I soon learned that he had been taking IV bags on vacations just in case she had a problem. She had decided he needed support. She was devoted to him. She would tell me stories of the old days when doctors lived in the hospital housing. She was a nurse and that is how they met. She held the family together while he was always in the operating room. They lived on what she earned because residents had meager salaries at that time. He was the beloved surgeon. She had managed his office and his life. When she died, I remember telling him to take care of himself. He had retired. His daughter-in-law hugged him and said that was her responsibility now and she was honored to do it. He had been there for everyone. I did respect his philosophy; he was going to use all the money he made to enjoy time with his wife. He planned to leave no money for his children and they knew that. However, he left them more, the legacy of his hard work and total devotion to them.
We always think the smoker will get lung cancer. Sometimes, it is the innocent one who spent all those years saying, “Please stop smoking.” Finding out that the lung mass in the non-smoking wife is cancer can be devastating to the family. When that cancer is one typically associated with second-hand smoke exposure, it is especially hard. I had cared for the wife and my male colleague, her husband. She died from her cancer. He had to go on and struggle through her loss and unfortunately, emphysema. His daughters took care of him because he was a loving father and husband who made sure they all had the best.
Father’s Day is a time to honor those men who love and support their families. I remember admitting a dad who had developed pertussis (whooping cough). The pediatrician admitted the infant daughter. He was so upset that he had been the one to make his child sick. We explained this can happen
Loving husbands and fathers make a difference. My husband has cared so lovingly for his children. He spent many hours taking our son to the Pediatrician alone for shots. It was difficult for me to get away from my training and later the office. He did the soccer games, tennis lessons and all the homework. He was the Book Fair volunteer; he and another Dad would make sure the kids made smart book choices. He was the chaperone on the school trips. He made all the visits to the orthodontist for the braces, found the Barber for the haircuts and scheduled the music lessons. He cooked all our meals and even did the laundry. He also just made sure I was always safe and loved as I navigated my professional career. He made some sacrifices that made it possible for me to focus on my career goals.
Happy Father’s Day!!!!