The Nutcracker Suite.

Notes on fatherhood.
Jan. 17 2008 2:01 PM

Dad Never Again

The Nutcracker Suite.

(Continued from Page 1)

"I promise," he said.

"Have you ever opened that door thinking there was a patient in here and found no one on this table?"

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He laughed. "You mean does anyone ever chicken out?"

"Yes."

"No. Not once," he said. "But it's funny. About one in four—no maybe more like one in three—schedule the operation and never show up."

Yes, I agreed, that was a riot. Then it wasn't: There was a needle in my scrotum. Scrotums were not designed with needles in mind. But this doctor worked quickly. So quickly, in fact, that I couldn't help but suspect he knew he must work quickly, or find himself chasing down the highway after his patients. My hands were now clenched and tearing at the sanitary paper bed spread. "It'll only sting for a minute," he said, "After this, if you experience any really sharp pain, you should tell me."

But there was no more sharp pain: For the next 30 minutes, I felt instead a strange pulling and pinching, along with an occasional, heavy stomach wrenching pushing sensation, as if he was seeing, just for fun, what would happen if you applied 170 pounds of pressure on a single male testicle. A vasectomy feels half the time as if you are being kneaded into a loaf of bread and the other half of the time as if you are being sewn into a quilt. And that is the spirit in which the doctor worked: of a man either baking or knitting. He chatted as he sewed, or baked as he chatted, and after a stretch I realized that I'd become so wholly focused on being ready to shriek at the top of my lungs at the first sharp pain, that I had failed to keep up my end of the conversation.

"Tell me something else," I said, interrupting whatever he was saying.

"What's that?"

"Do you have children?" I asked.

"Yes."

"Do you intend to have more?"

"No."

"Have you had this done to yourself?"

"No," he said, with a slight pause. "I haven't."

"Hypocrite."

He laughed. "You don't know the details," he said. But he was done, and so were we. "OK, you can get dressed," he said. "But be careful." He left the room. I rose from the table, and wobbled. Glued by sweat to my backside, from neck to thigh, was a paper bed sheet that came away only in strips and patches as I picked at it. I stepped into my pants, hobbled to my car, and drove myself home. A hero to my wife. A traitor to my sex. A thoroughly modern American guy.

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