My dad is a small-town doctor.
Specifically, he’s a small-town gastroenterologist. Other kids got to have career days where their fathers talked about firefighting and farming and banking. I got a particularly traumatic “take your daughter to work day” where it finally dawned on me that my father had probably shoved a tiny camera up the ass of most of my elementary school teachers. I asked him once why, after years of medical school, he had ventured into this particular branch of the profession. He started to give me a fairly articulate answer about his fascination with the complexity of the human body, with the necessity of the digestive system, his desire and ability to save lives… and then he got this mischievous twinkle in his eye and said, “Honestly, brain surgery was really hard, and there’s a lot of money in shit.”
So there’s stuff from my childhood that I didn’t realize was weird until much, much later. Other kids, for instance, didn’t sleep with an anatomically correct stuffed animal named “Funny Tummy,” let alone pretend Funny Tummy was their imaginary best friend. Other kids didn’t know how to define and spell “esophagus” by first grade. Other kids didn’t accompany their fathers to the grand opening of the “Colossal Colon” display at the Aviation Mall and crawl through a 40-foot replica of the human digestive tract to learn about diverticulitis. (Remember when Katie Couric had a colonoscopy on the TODAY show? This is the closest my father’s ever come to media stardom: he was interviewed on a local cable access channel about Katie Couric’s colon health, where he promptly taped over the VHS with a golf game, to my intense dismay, because that interview was YouTube gold).
But mostly, you know, when I come home to visit, I never think, gee, I wonder how the ol’ poop business is going. I think, oh, hey, great, I get to spend some time with my dad. That aspect of his life feels mostly off to the side: it’s just not the first thing I think about when I hang out with my father.
He is generous when it comes to charity, and I sometimes help him send out his end-of-the-year gifts: March of Dimes, Toys for Tots, Special Olympics, Make-A-Wish. I sat on the floor of his office, licking envelopes, writing return addresses, enjoying the task at hand and the opportunity, just for a few moments, to work alongside him.
And then I found this.
Of course he would donate to a charity that would use the colon as catchy marketing eye-candy. Of course.
When you’re gone from a place long enough, you forget the everyday weirdnesses until you’re asked to believe they are totally normal.
I tried to ask him about it. “Dad,” I said, “You’re donating at the rectosigmoid level!”
He smiled. “How far up is the next one?”
“… Splenic flexure?”
“Oh. Yeah. That’s pretty far up there.”
We exchanged thoughtful and tasteful Christmas gifts after that, but I’m pretty sure that next year, I’m just going to buy him this instead.