I always thought that having a doctor in the family meant that every once in a while you might get some free medical advice, but boy, was I wrong. Even before he had finished med school, my oldest son has refused to offer any opinion whatsoever regarding any health questions coming from a member of his immediate family. "Go see a doctor" was his standard reply, anytime anybody mentioned an ache or pain or a condition. But you are a doctor! we would say, but he was having none of it. After a while I got used to his ways and never grumbled too much, but my wife still gets exasperated by this absolutist policy.
"I don't see what's so wrong about just asking an opinion," she said recently, after getting rebuffed once again. "It's not like we're going to nag you all the time or move in with you. We just want to know what you think because you're a trained professional."
"It's a bad idea," he said.
"You know that old joke from courtrooms about the guy who represents himself has a fool for a client? It's like that."
"Thanks for the compliment."
"No, no, I'm the fool in the scenario. And I guarantee you wouldn't get the trained professional's response that you wanted."
My son took a moment and softened his tone a bit. "Look, what would happen is, my bias would get in the way. I wouldn't want to imagine that anything is really wrong with you, and I'd probably settle on the best possible scenario as being the underlying condition. I wouldn't want to be thorough, like a properly unbiased doctor would be, and explore all possible explanations. Though my actions would be borne out of concern and love, they could cause more harm than good."
Well. That seemed to settle it for a while. My wife didn't ask our son for any advice after that. And I accepted the fact, finally, that his decision to not offer any medical recommendations came from a smart and proper place. And a loving place, too.
So it was quite a surprise a few months later when, totally out of the blue, my son told me that it looked like I had gained 15 pounds and that, for my health's sake, I had better lose it.
"Jeez! Thanks a lot! So the medical advice embargo is officially off now!?"
"I'm serious. You've never been this heavy. What's going on?"
I replied to this, a little sharply, that ever since I had my knee replaced I had found it difficult to exercise as regularly as before. The rehab was taking more time that I thought and I guess my body hadn't adjusted to that yet.
"Well, until your knee gets better, you should really watch what you eat. At your age it's more important to cut back, anyway. Controlling calorie intake is more important than exercise, for longevity purposes."
"Thanks for your professional concern, Doctor. And by the way, your bedside manner is awful."
"Please, dad. You'll feel better. Just get back to your fighting weight, okay?"
Well. In spite of his pleas, I did indeed lose the weight. I had been thinking about doing it before he mentioned my weight gain, but I guess I needed the little extra push that his (kind of mean) words provided. It wasn't as hard as I imagined, either; I just cut back on late-night snacks, concentrated on eating more produce. Little by slow, as it always goes, but I lost the weight.
So I went up to my son after the diet was over, and told him, with a smirk, that I guess it was okay to ask his medical advice now; after all, he offered his professional medical opinion--unsolicited!--about my weight gain. But he smiled and said, "You misunderstand--when I mentioned your weight, I wasn't a professional medical expert. I was just a Loving, Concerned Son looking out for his Beloved Father." And he raised his eyebrows to the heavens, like he did as a kid, when he was trying to look fake-innocent. And then he jumped away before I had a chance to punch him.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: You should always be wary about sending smart kids to college. For, chances are, they're just going to spend the rest of their life showing off.
Until Next Week,
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