The Education of Master Miles

By Anthony Kovatch, M.D.

Pediatric Alliance — Arcadia Division

*** This is a short work of fiction — but as Yogi Berra would have said: 90% of fiction is half autobiography (and I think maybe 50% of non-fiction also). ***


I was pounding away on my word processor with the cadence of a machine gun when I realized that the Saturday morning was getting late. It was the three-day Memorial Day weekend and my only daughter was driving in from Virginia with my grandson Miles.

“Drive safely and slowly” (she had a hot foot in her younger days), “but don’t be late for Miles’ conditioning at 4 o’clock. Plus, I won a bronze medal for him at the Mars ‘Band on the Run’ race this morning — third place in my age group!”

“How many were in your age group, Dad?” Bonnie quizzed from habit. “Four or five?”

“Only three!” I declared without hesitancy or shame. I had lost my shame years ago regarding awards that were merely defaults. It was more important now to put to rest the accusation that I feared — that I would fulfill the prophesy of the Harry Chapin song:

“And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin’ home, Dad
I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then
You know we’ll have a good time then”

Bonnie arrived on time and we all enjoyed a good conditioning lesson.

On Sunday morning we all slept in. “Get ready quick, Bonnie! Miles’ music lesson is in only one hour!”

She grumbled but complied. A streak of musical talent had crept its unexpected way into my oldest son’s genes and I had great hopes that Miles bore the same freakish gene.

“I have a Mozart!” I declared. They were ready on time and we all enjoyed a good music lesson.

As they were getting ready to head back to Virginia on Monday (Travis, my daughter’s husband, was waiting patiently for them), I felt compelled to badger them one last time.

“Get packed post haste,” I demanded. “It is almost time for Miles’ sex education class.”

Bonnie agreed. “Let’s get it over with post haste yourself!” She shook her head.

“I love you, Miles, and I can’t wait to see you again — take good care of Mommy and Daddy,” I remarked convincingly. He became very animated. They left on time and we all enjoyed a very good lesson.

As they were pulling out of the driveway, I asked Bonnie: “Again, when is Miles’ birthday?”

“How many times do I have to tell you, Dad? September 20th by dates and September 14th by sonogram!”

“That’s right,” I remembered, “but I still like his name better spelled with a Y.

“SHUT UP, DAD!” she countered. We laughed and they were off.


Robert Frost, the grandfather of American poetry, wrote in “Birches”:

“Earth’s the right place for love: I don’t know where it’s likely to go better.”

We all know that sex and love are not synonymous, but in the broadest sense, when should sex education begin? I have heard that it should start in the cradle. I beg to disagree. Sex education should begin at conception — at the latest.

I knew that my grandson-to-be was the culmination — the aggregation — of a lifetime of love (whatever you the reader perceives that word to mean). As the old Judy Collins’ song goes:

“Tears and fears and feeling proud, to say, ‘I love you’ right out loud.”

I don’t think I could have blurted out those simple words with such ease and conviction to any of my own children, as I did to Master Miles. He was the embodiment of all my dreams for the future — new, more robust dreams than those of my past which had been dismantled by life’s realities and considerations, or had been disfigured by my own greed. And I would try to educate him early on in the cardinal lessons of life and love that we can only learn for ourselves — lessons born from our own mistakes — lessons which his young parents, like myself before them, might be in no position to teach him during his truly formative months and years. Things like forgiveness, thankfulness, acceptance, extreme patience, never breaking a promise, unconditional giving — the real essentials of sex education.

I would be there on his true birthday with my wife — whatever it took. I would try to never let him fail, but if he did, I would be there even faster and longer — whatever it took.

“He turned out the light and went into Jem’s room. He would be there all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning.”

(Scout’s closing promise about her father, Atticus Finch, in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee)



Happy Father’s Day