Sunday, October 28, 2012

Growing Up With a Pathologist For a Father

Dr. Bob and baby Clara

Growing up with a pathologist for a father…

(Ironically enough, he specializes in OB/GYN and Breast Pathology.)

This week I had one of those conversations that makes me realize my perspective on things is slightly warped due to the fact that I was raised by a pathologist and a nurse.

This weekend was my first time being “in charge” of the finish line at a race for the running club, so I had to get my car loaded up with all of the equipment, this involved a trip to the storage facility.  Since I had never been before and did not know everything I was supposed to get, one of the finish line veterans met

That moment when you realize
you are warped and twisted...
me there and helped me get what I needed.  He showed me how to punch the code in when you enter to get the gate to open and how to open and lock everything up. 

When we exited the facility I was surprised that I had to enter the code in to get the gate to open.  I asked why and he said he didn’t know.  My immediate reply was: “well I guess they need to have a time stamp for the cops, you know, to see if you had enough time to dump a dead body in here and get back out.”


Of course if you were dumping a body you would probably know that entering your code in a place that most likely has security cameras all over the place is not going to let you have an alibi of being across the state…but I obviously had not thought the whole plot through.  The statement did remind me that my train of thought may vary slightly from the average person.

My friends listening to my parents
talk while trying to eat...
I have two older brothers and two older sisters and we were all born between 1965-1971 (my mom’s uterus totally hates her).  My parents met at Bethesda Naval Hospital where they were both active duty naval officers, dad as a doctor, mom as a nurse.  They are super conservative for the most part and place a high value on character and presentation.  Growing up we were always dressed perfectly, pressed perfectly, and had damn well better behave perfectly.

When I try to show the wife something cool
What dad would talk with mom about over dinner, beef stroganoff anyone? Sausage?
As adults none of us has much of a filter about what we say and our parents seem to think this is odd.  We always remind them of typical table conversations growing up.  Dad spent the day cutting up dead bodies and came home and talked about his work over dinner.  Tales of removing the tongue properly during an autopsy, or a new skull saw were not unusual table fodder.  Often times a detailed analysis of smell and texture when someone has died in a fire would be the topic of conversation over a nice steak dinner or perhaps the stomach contents of a person who died of a rare form of intestinal cancer over spaghetti would be the main event, either way, for us, this was actually normal.  Sometimes there would be explosions on aircraft carriers or plane crashes and we got in depth lessons on how to identify dead bodies when there are mass casualties, first you separate body parts by sex…toe nail polish=female foot, hairy hand=male (hopefully).  Needless to say my friends HATED eating at our house when dad a busy day.

Breast Cancer Cells
Pretty...but really bizarre
to have on the wall.
Even some of the tchotchkes we had around our house were somewhat odd.  My dad had a collection of kidney stones and gallstones suspended in acrylic resin…curious.  Some of the artwork in our house was simply photographs of ink stained cancer cells, they are actually pretty…but it’s hard to explain what they are to your friends when you're 7 or 8.

One of my first memories from childhood happened when I was about 2 ½, my mother had a doctor’s appointment at Bethesda Naval where dad was working at the time and he was tasked with watching me for the 30 minutes she was at her appointment.

When my mother returned from her appointment no one knew where I was.  They finally found me in a storage closet, I had opened many plastic containers and was playing with their contents…livers, hearts and kidneys, oh my!  The only reason I even remember the incident is because of my mother’s reaction.  Suffice it to say she did not take kindly to finding her perfectly dressed child playing with the internal organs of dead people.


Oh well, as an adult I get to give dad props for helping with JFK’s autopsy (the bullets are ultimately what killed him is what I have learned), but I also was given a detailed analysis of the trajectory of each bullet and how it travelled through his brain…so if I seem warped, it’s only because I am!

What did your parents do?

Did it warp your personality, or just make you a tad quirky?


  1. This post makes me love you even more. :)

    My parents were both science majors, and although there wasn't always gross table talk, I was allowed to ask a lot of gross questions and get real answers.

    1. I love giving my kids real answers although I am not sure how popular some of my responses would be with my peers. Oh well. My children know the scientific names and functions of most of their larger body parts and organs.

      Getting them all set for AP anatomy and physiology.