Dad always wanted me to be a boy.
The day I was born, my dad, by virtue of being a resident doctor at Holy Cross Hospital, was permitted to hang out with mom while she labored to bring me into the world. Dad had privileges, unlike all the other anxious daddy-os brooding and pacing carpet ruts in the waiting room floor.
I was way overdue and not making any signs of popping out any time soon. Reportedly, my birth was a mighty push helped along by forceps and some happy-slappy amnesia-inducing medications they wouldn’t dare use today. But everything turned out fine. Mom and daughter resting comfortably.
There was one small problem, however, that provoked a ripple of concern throughout the hospital.
When, apparently against my will, I was yanked blinking and squealing out into the open, Dr. Pat announced, “It’s a GIRL!”
Then (and this must’ve been some Rockwell tableau) the obstetrical nurses and attending nuns gently applauded and made approving cooing noises. All admiring eyes, welling with tears of joy, were trained on the handsome young doctor who looked like Gregory Peck, his Grace Kelly doppelganger wife and their naked fussing pink wiggly newborn daughter.
Dad took a big breath looked seriously at my woozy giggling mom, then at me, and in a moment that will live in hospital infamy, he said:
“Put it back until it grows a dangle.”
Then explosively my mother laughed like a crazy maniacal doped-up nut woman and flopped back on the pillows in a swoon. Dad turned on his heel and rapidly left the labor room, never even attempting to kiss or hug mom or me, leaving the nuns and nursing staff in a stunned silence.
At Holy Cross, the underground railroad of juicy news was the staff - Telegraph, telephone, tell-a-nurse or tell-a-nun as the case may be. So the whisper game began quoting my father’s parting “dangle” remark, how my mom was apparently driven mad by the comment and passed out, and the tsk-tsking was escalating over what it seemed to reveal.
The rumor travelled at light-speed from the top of the hospital to the lobby infecting every coffee room and water cooler in its path.
“Could it be that the doctor doesn’t want his daughter?”
Now, dad and mom have wicked senses of humor. Of course they had discussed the idea of gender and they were fine with either. But Dad had teased mom relentlessly throughout this first pregnancy with crude faux-machismo taunts about producing a first born boy, or else.
His punchline delivery was in that Jackie Gleason-style “trip to the moon” kind of humor which was broadcasting in glorious black and white on TVs everywhere at the time.
He had saved up the “dangle” line as some kind of uproarious finale to his nine month (no, ten month) long comedy show. That’s why she laughed like crazy.
It was opus.
Just nobody else knew that.
Her swoon? She was spent and sedated.
And dad’s abrupt exit? Never much for smoochy, gooey displays of affection, he was just anxious to fulfill a promise to immediately call the grandparents on the phone outside in the hall. That’s all.
It didn’t take long for the staff at the hospital to see that dad adored his girls and the jungle telegraph piped down almost at once after a little explaining by both my parents.
However, as with any joke, fifty-percent is goofing around and the other fifty-percent is serious.
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