- Gateway to the Arctic
I signust nine days after Susie and I returned to Santa Fe from Mike's trial. Mike, our oldest. Michael Jr. Twelve days after the jury, majority Inupiat, delivered its verdict. Five weeks ago. [End Page 56]
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[End Page 57]
"All right," Dr. Dejean said, "so we're where we knew we'd be." He swiveled on his stool. Hefted a life-size model of the male urinary tract from his desk. "Straightforward, as I told you last time. Little discomfort afterward, beyond a catheter for a week." With space-age instruments, Dr. Dejean would slice in through my bladder, hollow out my prostate, and suture me up, sex drive intact, for all it was worth anymore. I picked a date a month off, the first available following his mountaineering trip to Argentina.
"Geronimo," I said.
I'll tell you something about sorrow. It welcomes problems of the body. Issues outside thought. Most can be fixed or at least mitigated—or not. The physics of biology. I know. Former dean of a vet college, but I did my time in the trenches. Name a procedure, I've tackled it. Yes, I euthanized, too—sorry, "put to sleep"—dozens, dogs, cats, horses, with sobbing owners of every stripe. Administered endings. That often became beginnings, I grant you that cliché, puppies, kittens, happiness turning on its regenerating axis. I can go there.
Dr. Dejean sees patients on the second floor of the Urology Clinic of Denver, in the section called Turquoise Lake. Each area in the three-story urology complex has a name that I'd say was a parody if I didn't know better: Browns Canyon, Red Rocks. He packs a reassuring résumé: Cleveland Clinic, Brigham and Women's Hospital. Harvard grad. He'd only been in Colorado a month when I first saw him last fall. Didn't even have a business card yet. But he looked confident, competent—how I like to think I looked once—in a life-is-no-match for me kind of way. Hip, I thought: dark hair tight against his head, snug shiny shirt, snug black pants, pointed tan shoes. Round tortoiseshell glasses that amplified his surgeon's eyes. "For a prostate as large as yours," he told me after reviewing my records and performing the requisite one-finger probe, "I think a simple robotic prostatectomy is your only real option."
"I … I can't commit now," I said, "we're … having a family—" I clamped a breath. In that moment, like an optical illusion, I saw a lost Mike in Dr. Dejean. Similar ages. They both angled their heads, tugged an ear when concentrating. Smiled the same tight-lipped smile. "A family crisis."
Mike was then in a joke of a jail 3,000 miles north, 320 miles above the Arctic Circle, had been for just over eight months. With a cracked, domed skylight the only indication of day or night or weather. At the arraignment, [End Page 58] our first flight north, we'd hoped to get him out on bail, but the court declined to lower it from $500,000. We needed it dropped to $100,000 so our ten percent to the bail bondsman would be something we could squeeze out of our retirees' budget. A lawyer friend told us those who make bail receive lighter sentences on average. Studies agreed. But before the judge would rule, he wanted more information about ankle bracelet monitoring, about employment Mike might find, about how he could productively spend his time in this small community he did not know, or even in Fairbanks or Anchorage, should that be granted, about his potential danger to others. Mike refused to be evaluated by a shrink. By anyone. "Pseudoscience," he said. He stayed put.
After that second visit to Dr. Dejean in his Turquoise Lake examining room, I rode the elevator down with a gray-haired, one-legged African American man in a wheelchair. I asked, "How you doing?" and he said, "Great." With a wink. Dimples in his crosshatched cheeks...