A happy father celebrates his day


The nurses came and grabbed my gurney, wheeling me toward a grim date with a doctor whose specialty is one I wouldn’t have chosen.

I felt drowsy and told a nurse to feel free to increase the dosage of whatever drug they were pumping through my IV hookup. She smiled, looked at me like I was half wimp and half dummy, and said they hadn’t given me any drugs yet.

Oh. Well please do, and don’t spare the juice.

Dr. Peter Rosenberg suddenly appeared and asked if I’d ever had a colonoscopy. No, I told him, but I’d had a similar procedure 6 1/2 years ago on a day which, for two reasons, I will never forget. Dr. Rosenberg was smart enough to guess one of them.


“There’s generally no drug with that procedure,” he said.

Bingo. A technician showed up looking like a Roto-Rooter man and went to town, performing what’s called a sigmoidoscopy. I wouldn’t recommend having one just for the fun of it.

The other reason I can’t forget that day is that as I left the house for the hospital, agonizing over the indignity of turning 50, my wife made the following announcement:

“I think I’m pregnant.”

That is a lot to take in one day.

With two grown sons, I felt too old to start over. My wife insisted this was going to be a wonderful adventure, and she gave me hell over my selfish and cranky reservations.

So today, on Father’s Day, I want to thank her for getting pregnant and enduring nine months of my dithering followed by 24 hours of labor. I want to thank my daughter for flying into this world as if shot from a cannon, ready to roll. And I want to give two thumbs up to her and the entire cast of the Ivanhoe School kindergarten class for last week’s production of “The Rainbow Fish.”

This was American theater at its finest, an exquisitely layered and brilliantly executed study of the isolating effects of narcissism and the redemptive power of giving. It worked for this balding graybeard on a deeply personal level, given my reluctant journey into third-time fatherhood, which has led to some of the best years of my life.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, so let’s back up to the doctor standing over me last week in Pasadena. I told him the last time someone went to work on me through a gown that opens in back, I’d gotten some big news that same day. This time around, I was happy to settle for the less dramatic news that I wasn’t about to


Dr. Rosenberg said he’d do what he could, or at least I think that’s what he said, but the drugs were kicking in, and here, I’d like to give a shout-out to Big Pharma.

Fentanyl is a work of genius. I was entirely conscious, yet blissfully oblivious and perfectly at ease despite having walked in there certain they’d find terrible things inside me. If I’d known what a snap the colonoscopy was going to be, I’d have brought in my laptop and written this column while the doctor worked. I could have played canasta or ping-pong. I wanted to sing.

Is that drug available over the counter?

Like millions of Americans, I’d foolishly put off this procedure for years, even though my doctor insisted it was important at my age to make sure everything was OK in that area.

Having a sister who is fighting cancer made me finally give in. Wanting to see school theater productions for years to come made me finally give in. If disease is detected early, of course, the chance of survival is greatly improved.

It was all over in 20 quick minutes, and Dr. Rosenberg seemed rather chipper as he wrote his findings on my discharge papers.

“Good news! No polyps or cancer. You don’t need another colonoscopy for 10 years!”


The very next morning at breakfast, the day of the play, my daughter rehearsed while eating French toast. She plays a starfish.

“Dad,” she said, “I can read my lines upside down with my eyes closed.”

She comes from the school of method acting, and her body of work in Ms. Morris’ class includes memorable turns in the holiday pageant and as a dancing senorita in the international fiesta.

This depth of experience made it possible for her to handle a devastating costume malfunction in the middle of the play. One of her five starfish points, the cone-head hat, tumbled off her head and crashed to the stage, but she retrieved it as if the play had been scripted that way.

Meanwhile, Augie’s entire fish costume fell off. In the chaos that ensued, some of the young thespians were off their marks, and Zoe had to come through with the lines they were missing. Sasha, who didn’t just play the Rainbow Fish, but BECAME the Rainbow Fish, stayed cool, even as the director implored the entire troupe to “SWIM, SWIM!”

And swim they did, away from the beautiful Rainbow Fish who had refused to share her dazzling scales.

“I’m so beautiful. Why doesn’t anyone like me?” the Rainbow fish pouted, like a Hollywood starlet whose last movie opened poorly.

“I can’t tell you,” chanted the chorus of starfish. “But if you go to the deep cave, you can ask the octopus. Maybe she can help you.”

The three-headed octopus, played compellingly by Charlotte, Nicco and Zeya, delivered grim advice, putting this critic in mind of the moral dilemma that was Sophie’s Choice:

“Give a scale to each of the other fish. You won’t be pretty, but this will make you happy.”

And of course it did.


The very next day, the kindergartners pulled off another grand performance. They invited dads into the classroom, handed us the most beautiful Father’s Day cards ever fashioned from construction paper, staples and crayons, and served us hot coffee and fresh doughnuts.

At Friday’s graduation ceremony, I wished I could slow time. One moment my wife says she’s pregnant, the next moment our daughter has finished kindergarten, two major events bracketed by endoscopic adventures. Such are the joys of middle-aged fatherhood.

She turns 6 next month, so already, there’s another milestone just down the road.

In 10 years, my daughter can drive me back to the Pasadena Endoscopy Center.

To my dad, to your dad, to dads everywhere, happy Father’s Day.