Papa Sez by Todd Hunter-Gilbert Issue #8
Papa Sez
by Todd Hunter-Gilbert

Dissing the Dad - May 2004

Past Issues

I look at our family as a team.  Denise and I share responsibilities. We take turns with most of the chores and certainly with all of the Quinn-related chores.  In my view, when you're talking to one of us about Quinn, you're talking to both of us.  The world, unfortunately, doesn't know what to do with people like us.  A case in two points:

As you may recall from last month's story, we had Quinn downstairs, barely breathing, with fire and ambulance on the way.  Over the course of the next five minutes or so eight emergency personnel arrived at our house.  Each entered tense but immediately relaxed upon hearing Quinn's seal-like bark.  I guess they see a lot of croup.

And let me make clear that I am eternally grateful to these guys.  Without their help and the oxygen they applied, I doubt Quinn would have made it to the hospital.  They did everything they had to and everything I could possibly have hoped for.

But about those things they have to do.  Apparently one requirement placed on emergency personnel is to look for any signs of abuse when out on their calls.  Each of these guys examined Quinn and made some subtle move to look around other parts of the house.  They found nothing, of course, but it made me bristle to think that I was suspected even momentarily--and make no mistake, if they had found something their body language made clear that I would be the suspect.

Even at the moment this was happening I couldn't fault the guys.  It was required of them and I was still busy panicking about Quinn. Knowing he had croup wasn't stopping the attack.  They put him on oxygen, took him outside (it was winter and cool air relaxes the airways).  None of this ended the attack, so they packed him up in the ambulance, along with Denise, and I followed in the car.

Ten minutes later he was in the ER and was being worked on.  Even after all that oxygen his blood-oxygen levels were critically low. The doctors gave him various steroids and such and within an hour he was walking around as though none of this had happened.

But I gloss over those details because that isn't the part of the hospital story I set out to tell.  After the doctors had set to work one of the receptionists came over to get our insurance information. We gave her Quinn's card and she went off to pull the data together.

Now, this was in a satellite ER to the hospital where Quinn was born, and I was quite pleasantly surprised when the receptionist came back with almost all of the answers she needed, gleaned from our insurance number and our records with this hospital.  She came back all smiles, and spoke to Quinn by name.  Then she turned and spoke to Denise by name.  Then she turned to me and said, "And you are?"

Pardon me, but I'm the primary insured on that card.  The same card used when Quinn was born.  The same account number, which also happens to be my social security number.  I'm the guy who was on record as his father just 18 months earlier.

In my more reasonable moments I realize there's probably some good reason I wasn't in the database.  But in my unreasonable moments I rail at the idea that people will assume the woman standing next to a child is its mother, but the guy standing on the other side could be any Y-chromosome-carrying clown.

Naturally, 2 AM in the emergency room with a child whose skin is just this side of blue isn't a situation conducive to reasonable moments, but I managed to not bite the woman's head off.  After all, she was trying to avoid an embarrassing situation.  With divorce so common and women almost always getting primary, if not exclusive, rights to the child, assuming the man is the father might make someone uncomfortable.  And we wouldn't want that.

Okay, actually, I would want that.  That is, I would like for the "default" position to be that a family has stayed together and for it to be considered atypical for one of the parents to be absent or replaced.  This won't change the divorce rate or the inequities in family court rulings--at least not at first--but it certainly won't hurt anybody.

I had finished this article with that abrupt ending and that evening Denise and I watched an episode of CSI in which a single mother kills the father of her child to avoid a custody battle.  The story ends with one of the investigators (Catherine Willows--who is a single mother whose ex-husband had died a few episodes earlier) tells the woman, "I'd rather my child know a bad father, than know no father at all."  While not the exact same message I'd just been extolling, it was close enough and serendipitous enough that I decided to end with it.

Be well.

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