When I was in sixth grade each child in our class had to put together a major report with articles and pictures about our lives. Mine, with my mother’s help, was exceedingly fancy. The front and back covers were X-rays and the title was “The Doctor’s Daughter.” I was so proud of my father and looked up to him with complete trust and love. My mother encouraged her children to see him as head of the family, a man who could do no wrong.
Dad was an old-fashioned doctor who lived during the time when patients would call at all hours of the night with requests for a house visit. He would hastily get dressed and groggily head off to one emergency or another, often several times a night. The Philadelphia police were kind to him and occasionally escorted his car rather than give him a ticket for speeding and skipping stop signs. Office hours were six days a week, 9 am to 4 pm and 6 to 9 pm, no evening hours on Saturday. He worked hard and set visitation hours that were convenient for his working class patients. As a family we ate together—though our dinners were often early to accommodate his schedule. We rarely saw him when he returned in the evening.
You might imagine that my father had very little time for his four children, yet somehow he managed to become part of our lives. When Dad had to make a home visit we were invited to travel along, waiting in the car until he returned from seeing the patient. It was a great time to talk. As we got older, my sister and I worked in his office assisting his nurse in all manner of duties. We were not really much help but it was fun and gave us an insight into the daily workings of a medical office.
Baseball was another of Dad’s passions. We played catch in the yard, listened to games on the radio and went to Philly’s baseball games as ardent supporters. I remember the hours after the game that we spent looking for our car because we never could remember where we parked.
I was also impacted by a more negative side of my father and of my mother’s desire to put him on a pedestal. Dad did not think that girls were very important. My two brothers were going to be the bread winners and future heads of their households. They were the ones that needed to be educated and do well in school. Girls were going to be mothers and schooling was of secondary importance.
Of course, his attitude made my sister and me work harder than our brothers. We excelled in school and Dad was forced to recognize our efforts. Even so, when I graduated from Boston University, magna cum laude, Dad did not come to the graduation. “That’s great,” he said from a distance when my mother called him to tell him of the honor. And so, I worked harder, hoping daily for the recognition that I so wanted from my father. It never came in so many words and I had to make my own peace with this aspect of his old-world values.
My father’s love for both his family and patients has inspired me throughout life. His work ethic was strong, yet his willingness to make time in a busy schedule showed us what is possible when you care about your children. My father gave me security and love, along with a passion for learning. Strangely his belief that women did not need an advanced education made me work harder to prove that I was equal to any man. And I did it all, five kids and a great career. Thank you, Dad!