July 1, 2016
I overhear my father speaking to my brother on the phone. He laughs as he reports that each time he sees a doctor, security is called. He thinks it’s funny. To me, it’s a reminder of the anger gene I inherited—which is not funny. Overcoming this trait—to anger easily and frequently—comprises my life work. And as I get older, my life’s work becomes more challenging.
My father’s doctors do not need security. My father’s doctors need to know that anger gets the best of him every so often, and he says foolish things, downright scary, violent words accompanied by mad gesticulations and facial expressions. Those who don’t know him well might fear. His last outburst was directed at the receptionist manning his doctor’s phones. She bore the brunt of his crazed-from-pain-and-impatience anger and threats spewed in demonic tones, I’m sure. I was not there.
But when the four police officers on my lawn caught my attention from inside the house, I found that they were cautious, though easily assuaged of their suspicions, that my father, who sat in front of them in a lawn chair in our front yard (detained), was relatively harmless. Neither of us owns a gun, after all.
My father had just ten minutes before told me that he lost patience and insinuated to the receptionist some veiled threat—this within days of the Orlando nightclub shooting. The doctor’s office receptionist and entire staff reacted seriously. When I heard it, I did not. I had heard these idle threats before and his relating them to me as if he had said them. Usually he admits that he felt like threatening out loud but did not. This time he admitted he said it, said something menacing.
No, I cannot say I was entirely surprised when I saw the cops in front of the house. Yes, he is a slouching, skinny 6 foot 3, 82 year old man, who looks older these days due to back pain, cancer surgery and infection recovery. And he rambles incoherently at times, particularly under duress, but he knows how to smooth things over too. The cops detected my exasperation and his beaten down pride, maybe even shame. Certainly embarrassment. So they let him go with a warning that next time…
A week later, his chuckling over the security guard called to his last doctor’s appointment reminds me of the cover up we end up having to do after we lose our cool—he and I both—to others and ourselves.