20 Jun Father’s-Day
Father’s Day. Last year at this point, I started working on my film, Donor 67 again. I had been doing a little research, and a little writing, but still mostly just thinking. A couple of weeks earlier I had posted an op-ed about the problems with anonymous donation. I had been corresponding with Alana
Sveta Stewart, and planned on meeting her that afternoon. My wife shot a little video as I was woken up by my kids upstate with cards and pancakes. On the way back to Brooklyn we stopped at a parking lot amusement park, and when we got back to Brooklyn we found chaos as a building across the street had collapsed. Alana came by and ended up staying for a month. She was the first adult donor conceived person I had met. Our discussions helped me to better understand some of the issues that our culture needs to better understand.
This year, with a deadline looming on our Brooklyn film- my wife stayed in Brooklyn to work on the cut. I took the kids upstate. It was tough, but it went well in general. They let me lay in bed this morning while they played, and I read this article in the Times. It’s incredibly powerful, and hits upon a lot of things that I have been thinking about. Part of the reason I took the kids upstate by myself was that my wife was also going to stay home with our sick cat. However, on Friday morning I took her to a vet and had her put to sleep. It was a deeply stressful week dealing with that decision. In this linked post I tried to deal with a lot of different themes (a bit more than i could chew)- because I’m in the kind of head where I’m making a lot of connections (about life/death- fatherhood- identity- donor issues- parenting- ethics and culture and how they shift- etc). I’m trying to hold onto them- and make enough sense of them to put them down on paper, but it’s starting to make me feel even more stressed out.
This article has a lot to do with the ethics of medical care- especially elder care- and these issues- and the reality of how technology often races ahead of culture/ethics has everything do with how we view our relationships to our pets, our parents, and our kids (donor conceived or made the old fashioned way).
Doctors who care for patients, be they animal or human, naturally want to use all of their skill to “save” their patients. However, if we perform open heart surgery on an 80 year old person, with the attendant risks, are we taking into consideration what the realities are for the person we save, and their caregivers. Just because we can prolong life, should we? When I was talking to a neighbor in Brooklyn about the difficulty I faced in dealing with the vet he hit upon this concern immediately, “I was visiting my wife’s grandma in the nursing home. She was fine for the most part, but the person in the next room screamed all day, and was clearly a wreck. It was torture that she was being kept alive.” Our 16 year old cat was not on her last legs before she was hit with some kind of stomach obstruction a week ago. She was weaker though and sometimes had trouble jumping on the bed. A very expensive surgery might have kept her alive for a couple of years. However, they would have probably been a tough few years on her – and on us. The point is, with unlimited resources we might have been able to keep her alive for a long time, but should we have? It’s also true that technology has enabled women as old as 70 to have children- but should they? I don’t know the answer. Really I don’t.
On Father’s Day I can’t help but think of my father. His death was the impetus for my film about family. He died 4.5 years ago, hit by a car while trying to cross a highway to get to a basketball game. He was having a lot of problems with pain and movement at the time, and he hated to feel weak nearly as much as he hated going to the doctor. So in some ways his very sudden death was a blessing. He died in full control of his faculties, but not way before his time. Our daughter Harper was born a few months after he passed, and she reminds me of him in a lot of ways. My older daughter is like my mom (and me) – and she is like her mother (and my father).
I am not overly superstitious but there are a number of times it has felt like he has reached out from beyond the grave. The first time was about a month after he passed away. Harper was due in a month and I was doing some construction to prepare for her arrival. I was getting ready to sand some floors and I took up the linoleum in a closet. Underneath the linoleum was a newspaper from the week of my father’s birth. He was born July 27 1934- the paper was from the 30th. 6 months later we went to the beach to scatter his ashes. The morning after spreading them in the ocean my wife was followed around the parking lot of the hotel by a white piece of paper as we packed the car. Finally she picked it up- it was his cremation certificate that had been lost on the beach the evening before. A couple months later my daughter knocked an urn of his ashes to the floor- spreading them around the room. It felt like an impish joke. Last week after the NY Times’ Ross Douhat wrote about the recent survey concerning donor issues, they published a letter from a psychology professor about how technology has gotten ahead of the ethics in some ways. That professor taught with my father and this year won an award in his name. I hadn’t met him, but plan to shoot with him next month when I go to visit my family in NC.
They cycle of life- and film – continues- with my father pulling the strings from above.