curriculum vitae

29 Mar

You may know him from his comments.  His btc moniker is “dad” and he is my biggest fan.  He is the one who corrects my spelling in the comments section instead of sending me an email about it.  He is often the audience to whom I am writing at 9 or 10 or 11 o’clock at night.  He is precisely one-half of the reason that I don’t always tell you everything.  I don’t ever exclude the good.  I probably embellish that for his benefit, but he is definitely the reason that I won’t tell you all the bad things that happen to me.  There aren’t really that many bad incidents, but when he learns about them – usually from someone besides me – my mother, my brother, or completely by accident, he always calls me right away.
And he will say “we are coming out there.”  And I will say, “no, it’s okay.  I’m fine, we’re all fine.  Please don’t change your plans.” and he says “we are coming.”  My mother usually says “if you don’t want us to, we won’t.”  But my dad says “Yes, we are coming.”  He does the same thing to my brother when Walker is having an emergency or even just a very hard time.
And that is why I can’t tell him everything.  Because then he would never go to work.  He would always be right here in my house, reading the latest New Yorker that he subscribed me to when I was fifteen and which I have been receiving nonstop for 26 years, and asking if I had read this or that story.  Or while I was recovering from my first c-section – an emergency surgery, he would be the one to say “as long as you are in the kitchen, would you mind making me a sandwich?”
Which was not surprising given the time I limped into my hospital room, all but doubled over from the stomach staples, to find him lying in my adjustable bed watching Wimbledon.  The fact that he and my brother had settled right into my room was the reason this brand new mother had to find another spot to nurse the baby.  Because I didn’t yet know how to feed a hungry infant without completely disrobing and because I didn’t want to hurt their feelings by asking them to leave.  They would have left, but I didn’t want to ask.  Three children later, I know I should have been more direct.  Sometimes that’s the way you have to be with my dad – direct.
He will be direct with you.  He once told a new boyfriend of mine that he was not whisking the custard correctly for the crème caramel we were making.  “That’s not how you hold the whisk,” he said.  I was mortified, but I couldn’t argue – he had long ago taught me the proper way to whisk the milk into the egg – a little bit at a time so that the egg doesn’t cook – and this hapless young man was doing it all wrong.  My mother just stays out of the kitchen when he is cooking because he is so precise about how he wants you to do things, and after 43 years she just chooses not to participate.  Don’t try the “if you think I am doing it wrong, why don’t you just do it?” challenge on him, because exactly like my mother’s father, he will say: “I don’t want to do it.  I just want you to do it correctly.”
Disappointing him was and is my greatest fear.  I have done so several times that I know of, and probably many more that I never heard about because neither he nor my mother wanted me to feel bad.  They just want you to understand where you failed, what their expectations of you are, and that they don’t expect you to ever do THAT again.  I don’t think that I have ever heard him raise his voice.  His disapproval is all the disincentive I will ever need.  Not that he will treat me differently if he is displeased, but knowing that he thinks I must not have good sense causes me to feel like a complete failure in life.  But he is actually very tolerant.  His highest praise for someone is that “she never tries to straighten anyone out.” 
I grew up going to the hospital with him and sitting in swiveling chairs in the nurses’ station while he saw patients.  The nurses would give me paper to draw on and a pen and I would just wait and wait.  And they would tell each other “this is Dr. Carter’s daughter,” and the other would say “Don’t she look just like him!”  í could tell who your daddy is.”  We’d go make rounds.  He would introduce me to his patients and they would tell me how much they loved my dad and how he took such good care of them.  They often had raspy voices because they had throat cancer or laryngectomies.  He is always nice to old people and to parents who are worried about their children.

I spent my entire childhood answering the phone with these instructions: “If it’s the hospital, I have my beeper.  If it’s an emergency, they should go to the emergency room.”  He was on call at least 50% of the time.  I was not allowed to talk on the phone for more than 10 minutes at a time as a teenager because then patients couldn’t get through.  To him, teenagers didn’t rate nearly as high as patients.
I am not making him sound like all that much fun, but that is because I have too many memories of him to put in this post.  All non-relatives have surely stopped reading by now.
He is a LOT of fun.  Especially to go out to eat with or travel with.  Going out of town with him is like being given carte blanche for all the movies and good meals you can possibly fit into your schedule.  Even if you have to stand in line in the snow at the Carnegie Deli for what seems like hours.  We like to do the same things: walk and walk and walk and go into markets and patisseries and Dean and Deluca.  And then stop and sit at a table outside to take in the day with a cup of coffee, or now that I am older, sit in the lobby bar and have a drink.  My parents took me on so many trips last year as a salve to my broken-homedness.  We went to Puerto Vallarta, Chicago, New Orleans, Sewanee.  In every place we scheduled plenty of leisure and plenty of dining.  And unless it is walking in the city, we don’t schedule any exercise.  We also like to sleep late and we don’t like to rush around unless we are late for one of the multiple movies he is going to pack into one day.
He knows about a lot of things and he thinks about a lot of things.  And he is rarely concerned when people take a different stance on an issue than he does.  But I am.  Because if you don’t feel about something the way he does, in my estimation, there is a 95% chance that you are holding that whisk wrong.

Happy birthday, Daddy.  The Godiva is in the mail.


7 Responses to “curriculum vitae”

  1. sonya March 30, 2011 at 3:01 am #

    What a sweet way to honor your Dad on his birthday.

  2. dad March 30, 2011 at 3:27 am #

    What a gift—you are. Thanks.

  3. Anne Byrn March 30, 2011 at 3:46 am #

    Happy Birthday (tomorrow) Uncle Mike! Sorry we missed you on our last trip to Greenwood, but hopefully I will see you next time!

  4. MCM March 30, 2011 at 1:53 pm #

    Well said, Claire. He also still takes his mother out to eat at the Crystal Grill. We should all hope to have such a son or father and such a friend. Happy Birthday, Mike.

    • brightenthecorner March 30, 2011 at 2:15 pm #

      and don’t even get me started on bridge, the jumble puzzle, or the correct usage of compose and comprise, MC!

  5. Esmer March 30, 2011 at 3:06 pm #

    Happy birthday, Dr. Carter!
    And, Claire, can’t wait to see you on Friday!

    • dad March 31, 2011 at 4:07 am #

      Thanks Esmer. Hope you have a great weekend.

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