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Doing the right thing

My dad died of Parkinson’s on Thanksgiving Day.

Neither I nor my sister traveled to St. Louis to be at his deathbed nor his funeral service and burial three days later.

Why? We chose to act out of an abundance of caution, choosing to follow the CDC guidelines against travel. We chose not to risk exposing our 80-something-year-old stepmom and his caregivers to more potential COVID vectors. I chose not to expose my wife and kids to additional COVID risks and not to bring those risks back to our community. I chose not to try to figure out how to go to a cemetery, house of worship, and my father’s home and not give or accept a hug because I didn’t think I could do it.



The decision to go to St. Louis to see my father for one last moment, to hold his hand on his deathbed, to help bury him was left to us. It was lovely that there was no pressure put on us one way or another. It gave me room to think — what would my dad do? My dad the internist who made house calls until he retired. My dad who specialized in infectious diseases. My dad who did not support the Vietnam War, but when drafted served with honor, was in country when I was born, picked up a handful of medals, and when discharged, spoke out about his experiences. My dad’s moral compass pointed true North. Always.

There are times I wondered why my father didn’t find a fellow doctor to discover he had bone spurs, or flat feet or some other ailment that would have disqualified him from service, or at a minimum used his Harvard, Johns Hopkins connections to keep him stateside. Likewise, there were times I was frustrated that he didn’t make a call or two to help me see a particular doctor more quickly. But to wonder about those things is to forget the unwavering nature of his moral compass.



If my father had been able to speak in those last days and I had asked him what he wanted me to do, his answer would have been predictable. First, he would assume his doctor voice, and then he would say “you should follow the CDC recommendations, you should not put your family’s health at risk, you should think about our country’s lives and livelihood and stay home. And you should have one heck of a memorial service for me in a year.”

So, what did you do for Thanksgiving? What are you going to do for Christmas and New Year’s? What sacrifices are you willing to make every day for our country’s lives and livelihood? Does your compass waver? My dad’s didn’t.

Dan Goldman

Snowmass Village

 


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