Monday, May 08, 2006

Doing Dad duty, part one -- and an eventual commercial tie-in to The Da Vinci Code

Middle-aged men are supposed to be established in their careers, with accumulated vacation time and "people" to take care of things when they can't be at the office. At least that's what I've been told.

Unfortunately this middle-aged man is a sole practitioner, barely covering the rent at the moment. This is an inevitable consequence of my recent office move: I wasn't working a couple of months ago; I'm not collecting any fees now.

But I sure have a flexible schedule. (When you don't have enough business it's real easy being flexible.)

And my Long Suffering Spouse, who's working as a teacher, and whose benefits package currently includes our health insurance coverage, has very limited flexibility: It's almost more work to plan a day off than it is to work the day.

So when the trainer at Younger Daughter's school called last week to advise that Younger Daughter's shin splints had returned with a vengeance, I was delegated to obtain the medical treatment.

Younger Daughter first came up with shin splints last year, as a freshman, when she ran cross country. We discovered she had flat feet; we got inserts for her feet and different shoes and she took some time off from running. Things got better. Then she ran track in the Spring of last year -- and the shin splints came back. She couldn't finish the season.

We therefore entered into this Fall's soccer season with a certain trepidation, concerned about the possibility of recurrence. We didn't notice when Younger Daughter began popping Advil or Motrin by the handful; we had only begun to notice that our supplies were dwindling when the trainer's call came. Apparently Younger Daughter was finding it difficult to actually go up and down the stairs in the school. The trainer suspected that the shin splints might have actually ripened into stress fractures.

So I drove to work on Tuesday, not because I had a doctor's appointment, but just in case I was able to procure one.

It turns out that it is most difficult to get in to see an orthopedic doctor on short notice. I called the doctor who successfully treated Youngest Son's strained MCL during football season; the prior relationship was enough to get the appointment secretary to take my call until she figured out that I was calling about a different child. Then I got routed back to the triage nurse -- in fairness, more because of the doctor leaving for vacation Thursday than because of any other factor. But I was at my silver-tongued best, and the triage nurse bounced me back to the appointment secretary. I got a Wednesday appointment.

My office mates were impressed: No one, they said, gets an appointment with a specialist in under 24 hours except in cases of the most dire emergency.

LSS was not so impressed: Maybe we should call someone else, she said. This delay was unacceptable; our daughter is hurting now. I persuaded her that this would not get us seen any faster. She said maybe we should go to the emergency room; I reminded her that when we took Youngest Son to the ER after his injury at football practice, the doctors there casted his ankle. But it was a knee sprain, as I've mentioned already. So going to the ER would not necessarily be helpful.

So we kept our appointment with the orthopedic doctor. That is, I kept it: I picked Younger Daughter up at school at 2:00 p.m. She got out at 1:30 p.m. She didn't miss a minute of school. But I missed another half day of work.

The specialist is a nice young man, very smart and apparently very competent. He told us the x-rays he took were inconclusive, but when he examined Younger Daughter he agreed that she did have shin splints so severe that they might have become stress fractures. If the bones were actually fractured, the treatment would of course be different. The only way to find out, he said, was to have a bone scan done. But, unlike the x-rays, this test couldn't be done at his office.

Once again, LSS was not impressed: What do you mean we have to wait again? And then he'll be on vacation and we still won't have an answer?

I got back to the house and started calling the hospital. Sure we can do the test for your daughter, I was told: How about next Tuesday? I knew that wouldn't go over well, so I whined and I moaned and I begged and I pleaded -- and I eventually got an appointment for the next day, Thursday.

Of course, I'd miss another half day of work. This time, I had to pick Younger Daughter up at noon.

But it wasn't all bad. I got to read back issues of the New Yorker in the waiting room. And one of the old people who came into the room actually was brave enough to turn off the TV. I wouldn't watch the soaps or the talk shows, you understand, but they are a distraction. And naturally, although the White Sox were playing an afternoon game, the telecast was only on cable. But I would never have mustered the courage to push the off button. I'd be afraid someone would yell at me.

Younger Daughter made me buy her a late lunch in the hospital cafeteria; this was during the two hours between tests. She told me how she'd talked to the tech about how she was studying bone development in Biology this semester and the tech was very informative then about all that was going on. Eventually, the radiologist came in and added his comments -- what I heard was that he saw no fractures. I thought this good news -- but what Younger Daughter heard was that she had "mild" shin splints. She was insulted.

LSS was furious when she heard this, even though I tried to "spin" it by leading with the news that the radiologist found no fractures. He's incompetent, she said; we have to change doctors, she said. I said, wait a minute; this isn't the doctor who's providing treatment, this is only the doctor reading the bone scans.

I agree that Younger Daughter and LSS are right to take exception to the suggestion that these shin splints are mild. Younger Daughter went to the trainer because the pain was intolerable -- and she has a high pain tolerance. Every child is different: Her sister, Older Daughter, was the model for the Princess in the Princess and the Pea. She could never have endured the constant pain that Younger Daughter put up with for weeks so she could play soccer. Not that there's anything wrong with low pain tolerance: I myself am allergic to pain. (This goes hand in glove with my natural cowardice.)

But I was just a tad upset that LSS was so seemingly critical of everything I'd done.

And then it hit me: Wives are never satisfied with what their husbands do. LSS wasn't really upset with me; it's just part of the job description. Wives are so used to us husbands performing our duties in a haphazard manner, so they have to pick up behind us, that they don't always recognize those few occasions where we may actually get it right. And it's not that wives are dissatisfied with how we perform our fatherly obligations -- no, this general dissatisfaction extends to all areas, and I do mean all areas, judging by the many commercials for... well, you know.

And then I hit on a commercial tie-in: The Da Vinci Code will open in a week or so, perhaps the most anticipated potential blockbuster of the Summer movie season. A central premise of the book, of course, is that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and that they had a child. Do you think Mary Magdalene would have been satisfied with everything her husband did?

In fact, that's why I dismiss this central premise of The Da Vinci Code out of hand. If Jesus had been married, there would be evidence of spousal disapproval in the Bible.

Consider the miracle of the loaves and fishes: This is recounted in every single Gospel narrative. If Jesus had been married, the story would have ended very differently -- something like this: And, lo, Mary Magdalene came to Jesus and said unto Him, "So, Mr. Big Shot. These people come all this way to hear you talk and all you give them is bread and fish? You couldn't come up with a cold beverage for everyone, or maybe a nice slice of pie?"

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