Stoicism

My father’s core quality was stoicism. Not the grim, showy, self-righteous kind but the cheerful, quiet, inward-oriented one that is its own reward. You could amputate his legs with a chainsaw without anaesthesia but if you asked him how he was doing in the process, he’d say, “Amazing! Excellent. So good!” This made it hard to get him medical care because doctors would ask what ailed him, and he’d say, “oh, absolutely nothing! In fact, I’m doing fantastic!” He once had a stroke and at the emergency room still tried to reassure the medical personnel that he was feeling amazing. It didn’t work but only because by that time he was slurring his speech quite badly.

I’m not rending my garments and tearing my hair out because that would be a betrayal of my father. He really really didn’t like people who were victims. I’ve never seen him feel sorry for himself. His whole life, for example, he suffered from scleroderma, which limited his range of movements and made many basic physical operations impossible. But this was never a topic of conversation or a pretext for a pity party.

3 thoughts on “Stoicism

  1. This touched a nerve. One of the reasons men die earlier than women is the misplaced medical stoicism. It causes them not to seek help until things get really bad; to disregard a diagnosis given by a doctor and not do anything about it because they feel fine; to skip yearly checkups with their primary care doctors — because only hypochondriacs and victims make mountains out of molehills.

    This is why my father died suddenly at 59, so I can’t exactly share your enthusiasm for it.

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  2. MT – I am sorry your father passed so young. That is a tragedy. Some men are averse to medical treatment and that seems to come from ego, pride or fear. A close friend lost her husband to pneumonia because he refused to seek medical treatment and died in the shower getting ready to finally go to the hospital.

    I think Clarissa is referring to something different. Is this stoicism a Ukrainian trait or something specific to your father’s character? He sounds very kind and strong and brave.

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    1. I don’t want to make this about me and debated about making my initial comment. I was describing my dad’s behavior during the years before his death. There are more parallels I haven’t mentioned. My dad also really disliked victims (my mom tended to play one). What Clarissa said about the emergency room made me think of my dad’s last hours.

      When you’re having a medical emergency and don’t have a nagging female who likes to play victim force you to get help in a timely manner, being stoic, trying not to inconvenience people, and minimizing your dire state may reward you with an early death. The nagging female is my mother, not Clarissa’s. They had finally separated a few months before my mom’s death and my dad moved out, so I like to joke that at least he died happy. It’s also completely true.

      I am sorry about your father, Clarissa. I know he suffered at the end. I’m glad he witnessed both of his daughters’ happiness – professional success, meeting the right partner (in your case – I simply don’t know your sister’s situation), having children. My dad also saw most of that (I informed him no grandchildren were coming, and he was totally fine with that).

      It was nice to see your sister during your presentation on YouTube and finally put a face to the name.

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