"You need to get your mother an abortion."
The phone rang….it was 2 AM . I was in medical school, recently married, and had been soundly sleeping.
“Were you sleeping?” I heard my father's voice say.
I was tempted to say: “No. I was having wild sex—but the likelihood of that was too low to even be a humorous comment...
"Yes, but go ahead", I answered instead.
There followed three "I’m sorry I woke you's" in such a way that the ‘right’ response from me was to be …"no, I was awake before you called.’
But I defiantly persisted …"I WAS sleeping, but am awake now, so go ahead."
“Sonny, I need you to do one thing for me. I will never ask for anything else. I will sign the house over to you right now. Just this one thing.”
I had no idea what he was talking about. So I asked, "What is it that you want me to do?"
He answered, "You are our only child—everything will be yours and I will sign the house over to you now…"
(Asking him what he wanted me to do fell on deaf ears…)
He kept going back to saying I needed to promise I would do “IT”-as if everyone knew what “IT” was…
Finally after going back and forth for what seemed like an hour, though was actually all of 5 minutes, he let me in on the secret---telling me as though I must be an idiot for even asking…
“You need to get your mother an abortion.” he announced firmly.
I knew my mother could not be pregnant, and it was all I could do to prevent uncontrollable laughter.
I had been with him when, years before, a psychiatrist interviewed him about his sex life. I can vouch for one sexual experience they had. I doubt there were ever others.
I initially tried to assure him that my mother was not pregnant.
My father’s hard head disagreed.
‘She missed her last period.’ He blurted, as if he had just found the answer to a game show's million dollar question… My mother at that time was in her late 40s. I tried to reason with him explaining that many women at that age miss a period and are not pregnant. None of that registered with him.
I could hear my mother in the background scolding him, blaming him, and being in a state of near panic. This was an opportunity for her to enjoy two of her favorite things at the same time:
‘Worrying’ which ranked just above praying; and blaming my father, which was a bonus sport.
He almost chanted “just this one thing---you can have the house…”
I did the only thing I could at that point. I needed to assure myself of the diagnosis.
I spent the next 45 to 60 minutes asking him specifically what part of his anatomy he had placed in what part of my mother's anatomy.
The conversation went something like this:
Son: “Lets talk about your penis…”
Father: "Just this one thing—why won’t you do this one thing?" …as if the word penis had not come up---
Son: “This is Important---focus on your penis.”, I tried to insist
“Your penis, did it get hard?”
Father: "But I don’t see why you won't do just one thing for us!" he would blurt whenever I paused to breathe…
Son: “Tell me about your penis…DID IT GET HARD?”
The term "hard" took explanation—I had intentionally avoided the term, erection!
Apparently his penis had grown hard. OK we are making some progress…
More questions followed, each initially answered with ‘Why won’t you do this one thing?"
I persisted--- “What did you do with it?", I asked adding “your penis” for clarification I was not sure was needed.
“Where did you put it?” “Did you have clothing on?” “Did you put it in her?”.
“Did anything come out of it?” Was another question. I feared the term ejaculate would have pushed him over the edge.
Forty-five minutes of this kind of conversation left me absolutely convinced that my parents had not had sex.
My best guess was that during one of my mother's sleeping pill/pain pill stupors, my father had laid down beside her, had an erection, and possibly ejaculated, though the latter is not entirely clear.
But it's clear that he never penetrated her vagina and that she, unless her name was Mary (and I had a famous brother) was not pregnant.
He seemed minimally relieved and totally embarrassed at the end of the conversation. I think he accepted my comforting words mostly because he was afraid I would ask even more probing questions. I told him we would wait another month and then have that conversation again if necessary.
He never brought the conversation up again and when I asked several weeks later if she had had her period, my father simply said, "Everything is okay, don't worry about it.”
As if my worry was ever a consideration.
-Marvin C. Mengel, M.D.