So, while Dad’s been off in rehab, I’ve been spending some up-close-and-personal time with the big-screen in the living room. The Netflix queue has been all mine, as has the wood stove, and I’ve taken great advantage of this chance to re-own my home.
One of my guilty pleasures has been catching up on the last season of Big Love, the HBO series about life as a middle-class, polygamous family in the Salt Lake City suburbs. I’ve been a fan since the first episode – I’m now catching up on the third season – because of the amazing job it does of portraying the everyday life of Bill Henrickson, an otherwise completely unremarkable business owner and community member, who just happens to have multiple SUV/Subaru/Country Squire-driving wives, and an accompanying brood of children. Periodically, they decide that maybe they need to bring another into their family, a decision reached by the entire collection of husband and wives mutually “dating” the potential new addition. This arrangement, lived out in three adjacent houses in an anonymous cul-de-sac neighborhood, is contrasted against a more traditional community of plurally married Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints members, resembling the one in Texas that was raided last year.
While watching Henrickson as he attempts to broaden his home-supply center business by expanding into the very un-Mormon casino business, I’ve begun picking up on some very unsettling parallels to my father’s life. Like Henrickson, my father is now engaged in multiple, simultaneous relationships with a close circle of individuals, all in relationship with each other, and with whom he regularly spends unclothed time on a scheduled cycle.
Yes, I’m saying Dad is in plural marriage. With multiple doctors.
As hard as this is to admit, there’s just no way around the fact: My father is a poly-doctorist.
I’ve just been an observer as he’s developed this alternative lifestyle, like the across-the-street neighbor in Big Love, who becomes, for a brief time, third-wife Marjene’s best friend. I suppose you could even say I’ve been an enabler, driving Dad from date to date as he’s assembled this multi-doctor family. But, really, I just wanted him to be happy.
It started with his first doctor, the primary (care) doctor in the much-maligned, yet mutually supportive style of relationship that is poly-doctory. After a year of monthly meetings, this first doctor urged him to expand the relationship, bring another in to share in the care and understanding Dad and the first doctor had already established. That’s how Dad came to his second doctor, his nephrologist. As is so often the case in poly-doctory, she brought her own special knowledge and attention, with her focus on those things that so often got Dad up in the middle of the night.
As he saw how easily second doctor became incorporated into this growing relationship, first doctor suggested yet another addition – third doctor was the podiatrist, who worked to keep Dad standing tall and on his toes. Then came fourth doctor, the cardiologist, who understood so well those affairs of the heart that were beginning to slow Dad down.
In fact, fourth doctor was so in tune with Dad and his multiple issues that he was the one to suggest both fifth doctor – the pulmonologist, who may help Dad breathe easier as he negotiates the many tests (and results) a poly-doctory lifestyle raises – and sixth doctor, the vascular consultant, who may be able to help Dad’s toes feel the flow.
Now, you might think this seven-way relationship would raise issues of jealousy and mis-communication among its many members. But, with me as his second-in-command and official appointments keeper, Dad’s been able to maintain harmony in this multi-doctored lifestyle. In fact, I just saw in our latest referral slip that sixth doctor, the vascular consultant, has suggested Dad and his growing stable of brother- and sister-doctors add yet another vascular specialist to their growing family. And all the involved respective mothers would be so proud – you see, they are thinking of dating a surgeon!