A Clipped Wing
Updated: Aug 10
By Rachel Hodas
For the first 39 years of his life, my dad was known as Kenneth. Perhaps it was a mid-life crisis, his affinity for ganja, or his crazy girlfriend (ding!), but thereafter he went by Wing. He was a yuppie hippie and all that implies. He was largely nomadic, followed different gurus and drove both a VW van and a BMW. Constantly smelling of rose and garlic; he wore and decorated with Kente cloth, grew his own food (and marijuana), and was very handsome and fit. He was a pescatarian, a dancer, a bad poet, and a volunteer firefighter. And because he ate spelt and such and was super healthy, he didn’t want to waste his money on paying for health insurance.
Despite family origins in France and Germany, my dad took after the Spanish; olive-skinned, been known to enter an arena with a bull, and a firm belief in the siesta. Napping was his Catholicism; and like any faithful believer, he worshipped daily. Until one day he just couldn’t any longer.
And while his ability to worship had inexplicably left him, filling that void were unshakeable cold/flu-like symptoms. Prior to this he rarely was ill, but now he was constantly fatigued, had a persistent cough, night sweats, etc. I visited him that summer and pleaded with him, ‘You’ve literally napped every day of my entire life and all of a sudden you can’t! And now you can’t shake this cold either?! You really should get checked out!’ He declined; secure in the belief that his « faith » would return.
My father didn’t believe in TMI (‘too much information’). He bared his heart, soul, and body; more than makes many people comfortable. He even wrote a gross poem about getting crabs and published it. So, it should come as no surprise that he shared with me when a new symptom arrived, which he referred to as ‘crotch rot’. Being the sun-kissed ladies man that he was, he thought his intense groin itching was from humid island life or another STD.
The ‘crotch rot’, was followed by a continual steady swelling to eventually gargantuan-sized testicles. At first, perhaps he viewed it as a visual example of his sexual prowess. However, it quickly became quite the burden, literally, and he had to carry them at times in order to walk. He was quite overcome at their growing to the size of a baby’s head and was more than willing, if not eager, to show them to anyone that came over to visit. Even me. “Hey honey, you want to see my balls?” “No I do not dad. They haven’t created bleach yet that’s safe for the eyes. Bobby has confirmed the size.”
And then one morning he woke up and in the mirror there was a man, 9 months pregnant, staring back at him. And the baby was already crowning. Finally it was time to go to the doctor.
At 54 years, my dad was diagnosed end-Stage IV of an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma; it had started in the lymph nodes in his groin. And all of the above were symptoms- inability to nap, cold/flu-like symptoms, cough, intense groin itch, swollen testicles, and swollen/bloated belly. The doctors aren’t sure, but they think it was likely caused by his exposure to pesticides working in irrigation in his younger years. I’m not trying to be alarmist or a hypochondriac or have you fear pregnancy; but sometimes an itch should be more than just scratched.
*none of these elements were exaggerated for the purpose of storytelling. And he did get an STD test.