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A Piece of My Mind
September 26, 2001


Author Affiliations

A Piece of My Mind Section Editor: Roxanne K. Young, Associate Editor.

JAMA. 2001;286(12):1420-1421. doi:10.1001/jama.286.12.1420

I am standing in the blaring sunshine of a California June day, but it has never seemed darker. This is my first summer without my brilliant father and nothing looks lovely to me anymore. The crimson plum tree and bougainvilleas—show-offs—vie for my attention like children on a merry-go-round. Shrug. The hummingbirds dance across my visual field. So what. The squirrels try to interest me in a game of tag. No deal.

I am standing in a patch of light in the backyard of the home in which I was raised, blinded by the stark and unremitting emptiness of the present. Past and future seem crystal clear. The former is gussied-up in the laciness of selective memory; the latter looks threadbare—a grim, steady march toward mortality. My physician father was, of course, invincible—to me. Tall, elegant, rapier-witted, emotionally deep. I could see he was old, but his mind never dulled for an instant, even as cancer's vise tightened. His inquisitive style and stunning intellect had intimidated and threatened some. I subsisted on these, coming back to the well again and again to drink greedily of his insights.