My wife’s hand found its way to mine; in the corner of the overly lit room our five-year old son was blissfully unaware of cruel trick the fates had played upon him. We were in shock. Tears welled in my eyes as I looked at him enjoying perhaps his last happy moments, ripping the head off of one of the dolls in the bucket of toys that so many doctor’s offices place in the corner of their exam rooms as a way to offer “comprehensive” medical care.
I looked back at the doctor. I could see that her lips were moving but I could hardly discern the words that they were forming, everything was moving in slow motion. After what felt like an eternity of suspended action, I started out of the fog as she said, “Do you understand? I am sorry, but the tests are conclusive – your son is an asshole.”
Standing in front of the x-rays on the lighted walls, showing us charts and graphs and using doctor talk, she made a fairly convincing case. I knew Charlie wasn’t always the best kid, but an asshole? I looked at him, drawing on the wall what was a pretty good representation of the doctor pooping and wondered…my wife, when she was pregnant, had eaten at a restaurant that soon after was closed due to a health code violation (in that they were not wearing pants in the kitchen because a broken thermostat made it “pretty toasty”). I asked if there was a chance that this was something that had happened when he was in the womb; had we done something wrong? The doctor assured us that we had, in fact, done many things wrong.
We left in silence. Unfortunately we weren’t quiet enough and the doctor caught up before we hit the parking lot and made us take Charlie with us.
Devastation sat heavy in the car as we made our way home. The car ride would have been in complete silence if not for Charlie’s continuous impression of a fire truck siren “made with farts.” Even given everything that had just happened, I wanted to laugh at the uninhibited joy of a five-year old but I knew better, so I did the fatherly thing and suppressed all signs of emotion.
The next week we went to get a second opinion. According to this new doctor’s tests, Charlie was more of a dick but the doctor wanted to wait until he got the blood results back to be certain. When we asked what we should do, the doctor excused himself, returning moments later with a prayer candle.
Finally succumbing to the science, we started accepting Charlie for who he was. On the way home we stopped by the mall to pick up some size-5 tank-top T-shirts. We also walked over to the bookstore and looked through their entire section of “How to Deal with a Problem Child” books. Unfortunately they all either lacked my needed 1:1 picture/word page ratio or were focused on kids in their teens, so we bought the new Us Weekly and headed home.
For a couple of days we avoided the topic entirely but, on Thursday when he was expelled from another afterschool care, we realized we couldn’t hide from the facts any further. That night, after Charlie was in bed, we sat down and reassessed where we were and how we had gotten there.
My wife blamed herself. Naturally I blamed her as well. After a few choice words and some broken mugs, we came to an agreement that it didn’t really matter whose fault it was, what was important was what we were going to do about it. (Just, for the record, my wife agreed to that assessment pretty quickly for someone who was so strongly just moments before professing her innocence.)
From what the doctors had told us, this was not something that we should try and deal with alone, we would need medical specialists, strong family support, and eventually, a lawyer. We decided to start with family as Charlie’s actions had admittedly strained some of our relative relations. Sunday afternoon we were all gathering for an intervention for my cousin Louis and since we were going to be together, we thought we could use the time before the whole intervention thing really got going. We sent Charlie off to play his favorite game, “Will it Flush?”, while we took the floor. Surprisingly everyone agreed with the diagnosis and there were even a few of Louis’s friend there, whom we had just met. The discussion about Charlie, what he had done, and what we should do got pretty intense with people selfishly rolling up sleeves or pant legs to show scars from their time with him. No father wants to hear his child spoken about negatively, especially by family. My wife and I grabbed our things, but we didn’t even make it to the car before Aunt Silva ran out to give us Charlie.
A week so later, we found my watch, my grandfather’s watch, on the dog. We didn’t own a dog. That watch meant the world to me; it was the last thing I had from my grandfather. He had gotten it during the war. Granted it was a price war that he had had with the delicatessen down the street, but it was still a tense time. Of course ultimately he was driven out of business and had to sell off everything in order to just buy bread. Everything, including this watch, to me. There were a lot of memories in that watch.
I stood there, watching the dog urinate on the settee and thought “How did this dog get in here? What kind of an asshole…” then I went and called a therapist. Turns out though that insurance won’t cover being an asshole. They will cover your asshole but not assist someone who is one. That’s Obamacare, man.
Noell Wolfgram Evans, the owner of a couple of Thurber Treat awards for humor writing, is a writer and playwright whose work has been produced on stages across the country. Consider this your invitation to follow him on Twitter.
The Humor Section features a piece of original humor writing each week. To submit, send an email to Brian Boone.