29 June 2015

Dear Dad

Dear Dad,

As you may know, last time I wrote about how Mom reads my books now. It only seems fair to talk to you this week, even though we haven’t spoken since 2008. So, how’s it going?

I’ve been concentrating on mysteries lately. I find them satisfying because you can describe the ugliness in the world and bring a bad guy to justice. Since I work in an emergency room, I see a lot of illness, and not a lot of justice. Nice people get cancer. Sometimes nice people die. Meanwhile, a patient punched one of our nurses in the face and another patient attacked a different nurse with a high-heeled shoe. I’m having trouble finding the links, though, because there was an even more dramatic story about a patient hit a third nurse with a metal bar while uttering death threats.
Don’t worry, though. I feel pretty safe. We do have security guards, and I see at least one concrete change: we now have posters on the wall saying that we have a zero tolerance attitude toward violence. I hope the criminals can read.
It’s funny. I know you and mom always approved of me going into medicine because it’s considered a safe career. Much safer than writing, which is considered pretty much equivalent to committing hara-kiri. But now that I think about it, medicine is far more dangerous. You spend years abusing your brain and body, inhaling as much information and working as many hours as possible, exposing yourself to flesh-eating disease and felons, whereas a writer…sits in a room and makes stuff up.
True, writers earn less money on average, and poor people tend to get sick. This article even mentions that almost half of poor children have witnessed a killing.
Still, I remember reading articles saying that most doctors discouraged their children from becoming physicians. The articles slid right off of me as a medical student. I was young. I was excited. I was going to be a doctor!
But now, when my four-year-old daughter says, “I want to be a doctor,” I’m thinking of the deregulated medical school tuition and fees alone that cost up to $24,000 per year. I’m thinking of how much she loves babies (already, she walked around Sears, choosing which carriage and crib her baby should have), and how hard it is to balance children and medicine. And I understand why this survey showed that nine out of ten physicians discourage anyone from entering medicine.
I guess that’s why my other moniker is The Most Unfeeling Doctor in the World.
Anyway, I’m not sure what you think of my writing. The most reaction I got out of you was when I brought you and mom to the joint book launch for Island Dreams: Montreal Writers of the Fantastic and Open Space: New Canadian Fantastic Fiction, and you were astonished by the free food and drinks. “Who’s paying for this?” you asked afterward.
I wasn’t sure myself. That’s a mystery, too.
But not as much of a mystery as what you’re up to now, after fighting a high-grade glioma for 18 months before succumbing in May 2008. I’m agnostic, but part of me wants to believe that somehow, you know you now have four adorable grandchildren and that I still love you.



  1. Wow, Melissa. That is poignant! It's going to take a while for thoughts and feelings to gel, but in the meantime, that's a great letter to Dad.

  2. Melissa, I had missed your previous post about your mom reading your stuff, but after reading today's post I went back and read that one too. Both are very touching. And I think it's great that your mom made the trip to your signings, at least some of them.

    And my brother was an ER doc for a while, so I've heard some of those types of stories. Be safe!

  3. A fine piece and very appropriate right around father's day.
    Your dad would be proud as I am sure he always was of you.

  4. How/Why did you get the Most Unfeeling Doctor in the World label?

  5. That was lovely! Well not the part about the violent patients, but I know you know what I mean ... I lost my father in 2005 & miss him especially around Father's Day.

  6. Wonderful letter. I'm sure your dad is proud of you.

  7. I like when you write from the heart. Nicely done!

  8. Melissa, that was wonderful!

  9. @Leigh, thanks. I appreciate that. It's like the concert audience sitting in silence for a moment before applauding.

  10. @Paul, ah, you know about the dark side already! Thanks for the kind words.

  11. @Janice, I think my dad was proud of me, even though he didn't always understand me. I felt close to him, though. Thank you.

  12. @Anonymous, from a patient, of course. That's the best way. ;)

  13. @Elizabeth, sorry to hear about your dad, too. I hope you had a good Father's Day anyway. I think not everyone is aware how these Hallmark holidays can bring up sadness. My Facebook post on Mother's Day was something like "Celebrating mothers and caring people everywhere."

  14. Thanks, @Eve. I bet your dad is proud too, now that he knows you're still doing that strange hobby of yours.

  15. @Anonymous2, thanks! Sometimes, I have a heart. Like if I've had a good night's sleep. On my last shift, the night doctor said, "What's wrong with you? You look tired!"

  16. @Jeff, thanks, man. High praise from you and Eve.


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