The Good Doctor 13
I can’t imagine that after all of these years that my
mother is still a mystery to my dad but that’s the way
he sometimes looks at her, with a slightly perplexed look and
a tiny smile. She’s different with him, she gives in
to him. She doesn’t do that with anyone else that I’ve
ever met. In a way it feels like she’s still thinking
of him as he was when he was young. A hot young stud husband
with lots of ambition and the brains to match.
My mom has actually seated Pete next
to her with my dad on the other side of her. Normally she
would have Jase within
hugging distance. I wonder if she really understands that she
doesn’t have to sell me anymore.
Jase keeps getting out of his chair and
leaning against me. “You
know what, Dad?”
“What, Kiddo?” Meanwhile
my mother is doing everything but hand feeding Pete.
He’s almost climbing onto my lap. “I’m
gonna try those things that I never used to like, those curly
I’m clueless. “Curly things?”
“Yeah, Dad, the little curly fishy
A wild ass guess. “You mean shrimp?”
“Yeah, Dad, those things, I’m
gonna eat those. Do they make those things here, Dad?”
I bend over and pull Jase to my chest
and kiss him on the neck. He squirms but doesn’t pull away. “Jase,
I think that Mary would make you anything that you wanted.”
I’m sliding into dad mode. Usually I don’t even
notice it at the time that it happens, only afterwards do I
realize that I’ve been listening only to Jase, focused
totally on him. I lay my hand on his neck and feel the heat
of his body, wishing that I could draw out the bad stuff, wishing
that I could pull it into me. I can take it, whatever it is,
he’s just a little boy and shouldn’t have to deal
with bad stuff. He lays his head on my knee and then turns
it and looks up at me with big hazel eyes flecked with green.
My eyes say “I love you” and I know that he gets
the message. He’s like a puppy dog rubbing up against
another warm body, basic. It’s about his mom although
I’m not even sure that he knows that.
I glance up and see my dad watching me,
he smiles but it’s
not a “boy that’s funny” smile but a “I
remember that feeling” smile. It’s a tie that binds
us, a shared dad thing. Funny, I never thought……………well
I never thought that we shared that much.
“Jase how bout I order shrimp and you get a burger or
something that you know that you like. That way you can eat
off of my plate too.” I grin at him. “And if it
turns out that you REALLY like shrimp then the next time we
eat out you can order a whole plate full.” I love feeding
Jase. I love watching him eat. That’s gotta be some really
deep genetic thing.
He looks relieved and climbs back up
in his chair. “Grandma,
I’m gonna eat shrimp!” He gives me a quick look. “And
a burger too.” My mother flashes him a smile and starts
to say something but my dad interrupts her.
He reaches over and places his hand gently
on Jase head. He’s
looking old but his hands are still huge. “Me too, Jase!
I’m gonna have shrimp with lobster sauce.”
My mother zero’s in on that. “Bill, you know that
you can’t eat that it gives you indigestion.”
My dad shrugs, he knows that she’s right but says simply. “I
don’t care, I’m having it anyway.” He touches
Jase’s shoulder. “Jase can give it a try too if
he wants.” Father, son and grandson united against the
killjoy nature of womenfolk. We’ll probably all be sick!
Meanwhile Pete is chatting up my mom
by asking her how she makes her Braciola. This is like pouring
gasoline on a fire.
My mother could talk forever about Italian cooking. The rest
of us stopped listening years ago but Pete is actually interested.
Not that he’ll ever actually need to fix that stuff himself.
Not at least for a decade or so after mom is no longer with
us. Geez! It sounds like I hate her or something, which I don’t,
I love her, but mom likes to have her way. Oh what the hell,
she drives everyone crazy!
My dad is watching Pete with a friendly
smile on his face but I know that behind his eyes he’s got questions. Fuck,
I’d have questions too. If I was sitting where my dad
is I’d have plenty of questions but I know too that he
won’t ask them, he’ll just worry.
Suddenly Pete stops talking. He gets
up quickly and excuses himself while he grabs for his cell
phone. The first call of
the evening. Pete walks away from the table while he talks
quietly into his cell. I still can’t tell by the expression
on his face whether this is and infected ingrown toenail or
a heart attack. Steady, Pete is steady. He’s the guy
you want with you in a life raft or trapped on a desert island.
Nothing shakes him, listen, analyze, and decide. Ringing your
hands and putting the decision off isn’t an option, you
really gotta know what you’re doing. I don’t deserve
him. What does he see in me?
My mother lays a hand lightly on my dad’s arm and says. “Must
be an emergency.” She looks at me. “Honey, if you
have to go we’ll understand.” She’s loving
the drama of this!
“I don’t think that it’ll
come to that, Mom.”
Jason has climbed up and is kneeling
on his chair. “That
happens all the time, Grandma. Pete’s a doctor, he gets
“Well, I’m just saying that if it’s an emergency…………” She
shrugs. “A life may depend on Pete going, he’s
a doctor.” I wonder how painful it would be cutting my
own throat with a butter knife?
Pete is standing over by a window talking
quietly into the phone and my dad is watching him. He doesn’t say anything
just watches. Lately dad seems to go more deeply into himself
like he’s got some sort of internal debate going and
he’s willing to keep it to himself. There was a time
when he had an opinion about everything and not only wanted
to tell you about it but hoped that you’d disagree with
him so that he could argue. Now it’s all internal. Maybe
that’s happening because I’ve grown up, no more “What
should I do, Dad?” questions and no more work questions
so maybe he just feels like there’s no point in it anymore,
no point in talking.
“Dad, you think that it’s possible that I need
a new roof? It’s beginning to look a little ratty, maybe
you could come over and take a look.” It’s worth
“Eric, there’s no way you
need a new roof! That house is only ten years old, ya got
another ten years before
you need to think about roofs.”
I shrug. “Maybe I can get a roofing contractor to come
over and take a look.” Let’s introduce a little
“Eric, they’ll charge ya a fortune! Don’t
do anything until I’ve had a chance to look at it. Maybe
next week if your mother can fit me into the car along with
all the food, I’ll give it a look.”
Pete is snapping shut his cell phone
as he slides back into his seat. “Sorry bout that.” He flashes a screwy
grin. “Sometimes that happens a lot.” There’s
something about that look that he gets on his face, a look
that says, “I don’t take myself too seriously,
I fuck up too.” It’s also, to me, a sexy look because
somewhere in it is a flash of vulnerability, a vulnerability
that mitigates, smoothes all that competence, makes him more
accessible. Sitting here with my parents and my son I’m
thinking about how it will feel later to be wrapped in Pete’s
arms as I fall asleep. Surely at some point in their lives
my parents must have experienced that, maybe they still do
and surely Jase will eventually experience the same thing.
Another tie that binds. A human thing.
Pete is being charming. His eyes are
gesturing with his hands and his deep voice is running the
gamut from intimate to sports announcer. My mother, his natural
ally, is spellbound. My father, on the other hand, is taking
a wait and see attitude. Pete almost had him swung over with
all that football talk. Where the hell did he get that? I’ve
never understood football, maybe if they played it on gravel
dressed only in tank tops and jock straps.
Jase is tired of eating and listening
to grownups and is approaching the climbing on to his dad’s
lap and napping stage. His index finger is in his mouth where
it spends a great deal of
“Are we gonna go home, Dad?” He’s climbed
between my legs and lays his head down in my lap. “I
don’t wanna eat anymore, Dad!”
“Hang in there, Kiddo, we’ll
be goin soon.”
Jase is bored outta his skull and that prompts question time.
“Dad, do you like me?”
“It said to do that on the instructions.”
“Remember when we bought that new
toaster a couple of months ago and when we opened the box
it had that piece of
paper that said how to use it and take care of it?”
Jase nods yes warily. “Yeah.”
“Well when you were born you had this page of instructions.
It was on blue paper cause you’re a little boy, little
girls have instructions on pink paper. Anyway the instructions
said to feed you, change your diaper and love you.”
Jase is disgusted. Why does he have to
tolerate me? “That
didn’t happen, Dad! You’re making that up!”
“No, honest! It was written in
English, Spanish, German and French.”
My mother is looking at me appalled.
My dad thinks it’s
hilarious. Pete is smiling gently and trying to decide what
medication he should use on me. Prozac or Paxil hmmmmm.
Jase decides to take his case directly
to the Supreme Court. “Grandma,
did I come with instructions?”
“Eric! Will you stop teasing him!” She then holds
out her arms to Jase who tiredly walks into them. “You’re
making him crazy!” Mom doesn’t get it. Teasing
is just another way to be close, for fathers and sons anyway.
I pull into the garage and get out of
the car to unlock the door to the house in the meantime Pete
has gone into the back
seat and scooped up a sleeping Jase who is like totally unconscious
and lying against Pete’s chest.
Pete twists his head and looks at Jase
with an odd smile on his face. We walk into the house and
carry Jase straight to
his bedroom. Pete lays him gently on his bed between Alan’s
huge emerald green paws and then looks up at me with that same
odd smile. We strip Jase down to his underwear and then pull
the covers up to his chin. He stays totally unconscious.
In the kitchen Pete leans against the counter and rolls his
head around loosening his neck muscles. I back up against him
and pull his arms around me, not a sex thing a human warmth
thing. He snuggles his chin down against my neck, I snuggle
He speaks quietly in my ear. “What is it about little
kids? S’like they push all your genetic buttons. If there’s
an ounce of fatherhood in you they pullllll it out.”
“I know! You’re never the same, they change you.” His
arms feel so good, his hands are large and strong.
He speaks softly, a whisper. “You’ve
changed me too.”
“Yeah, I’ve brought down your standard of living!” There’s
something very reassuring about a guy getting a hardon just
from wrapping his arms around you.
Pete slowly pulls my shirt out of my
pants and then rubs my bare chest with his hands. “Gee, handsome young Italian
boy who loves me………..that is rough!”
I roll my head back against his shoulder
while he kisses my neck. “I do you know…………love
you that is.”
“Why do you give little boys shots?” Pete is………or
was, lying on the sofa reading the paper when Jase wheedled
his way between him and the paper and is now leaning on his
chest and occasionally reaching out and touching Pete’s
chin with his index finger. I move my sock covered foot down
and lightly nudge the spot in Pete’s pants where I know
his balls to be and watch the corners of his mouth turn up
“Yeah, you know, with needles.”
Pete takes the question seriously. Not
that Jase would give him a chance not to. He puts one hand
behind his head to prop
it up. “Well, Jase, sometimes we’ve gotta get things
inside of someone’s body………….you
know, like to fight bacteria………..germs. Now
some things that we need to get into you we can just make into
pills………you know, like aspirin and you can
just swallow those with water. But sometimes that’s not
the best way, sometimes some stuff has gotta go right into
your blood or your muscles and that’s when we need to
give you shots.” He smiles and ruffles Jase’s hair. “It’s
not cause we wanna hurt you.”
Jase is fascinated by Pete and wants to know everything about
him and what he does for a living, especially what he does
for a living. To Jase a doctor is a goldmine of answers to
questions yet to be asked.
I’m fascinated by the bacon sandwich with mayonnaise
on toast that I’m eating.
Pete must have heard the crunch and looks
up at me. “Watcha
“My favorite….a bacon sandwich….with mayonnaise.” He
looks at me like I’ve just told him that I made a sandwich
out of a Cocker Spaniel! “Want a bite?” I’m
He blinks. “Have you had your cholesterol checked?” Who
pushed the “Doctor On” button?
“Cholesterol?” Crunch crunch
Jase decides that bacon warrants jumping
I have a bite, Dad?” He scampers across Pete and climbs
across my legs before straddling my waist. Jase is always careless
about where he puts his knees when he scampers and I see Pete
grimace. Shouldn’t little boys automatically know that
their dad’s have testicles that need not to be mashed?
Little hands, god knows where they’ve been, grab mine
and pull my sandwich to Jase’s mouth. Crunch crunch.
Pete looks worried. When Jase sits on me I can feel the life
force in him, he’s like a little atomic bomb going off
“Wouldn’t Dr. Malvic have done that? He never
said that I had high cholesterol.” Like I would have
remembered or even have been paying attention. If it was about
Jase’s cholesterol it’d be burned into my brain
but somehow mine doesn’t count.
Jase is getting down to my fingers and
I gotta be careful, we’ve have accidents in the past. What is it with bacon?
It’s like some sort of porcine heroin. Just the smell
of it drives people to do extreme things.
I hand Jase the napkin and the remains
of the sandwich. “Sweetheart,
do your dad a favor and go finish this in the kitchen. Then
toss the napkin. In the garbage, not on the floor!” He
looks at me with disgust.
“I know, Dad! I just missed the garbage can that one
time!” Like leave me fucking alone, Dad! At least that’s
how I used to feel. Why do little boys have to grow up? They’re
so perfect the way that they are, well maybe perfect isn’t
the right word. They’re so satisfying, for their dad’s
at least. They’re so open to love, so open to everything
in the world. Little boys actually say, “I love you,