May 10, 2012

Robert D. Rento, MD

Life is funny—the way things unfold, the coincidences that make you wonder if they mean something more, the small lessons that you can miss if you're not looking. People always say that everything happens for a reason, and the more I pay attention to life's little nuances, the more I am beginning to believe it.

I recently shared the book that I wrote with my coworker, Kim. I was hesitant because of content, but eventually figured, if I am serious about getting this thing published in some way, shape, or form, I am going to have to get used to people reading it. I know there's a good quote from Natalie Goldberg that would apply here about being honest with yourself, writing your truth, and ignoring your inner voices...I'll find it, I'll get back to you.

Kim came up to me today and said, "I continued reading your book today and it's funny because your pediatrician is the same one my kids went to. He died recently, did you know that?"

I hadn't.

Dr. Rento was the one that sat my 16-year-old self down on a Sunday morning and asked if I understood what was happening to me.

"I have a brain tumor," I answered.

He was with me and my family throughout the entire procedure and after that. According to his obituary, he died of a brain tumor. My heart broke for him today the way I could tell his did for mine all those years ago.

I sent the information to my father immediately. We were both thrown back 16 years and at a loss for words, but not of emotion. I'm incredibly sad that I didn't know about this sooner to pay him my final respects, my final thank you. But, maybe finding out about this at all was the reason I was supposed to give Kim my book to read. These are the threads that tie us together.

My deepest sympathies go out to the Rento family.

From my book:
Finally, I had stopped thinking. There was just space, as if someone had shut me off entirely. I had no sense of my body, which most importantly, temporarily shut down my pain. 9 a.m. finally came. We headed out to the car. It was a weekend, September 3, 1995, to be exact, and the doctor’s office was empty—closed actually. They were there just for me. We were greeted by a nurse, who, by the look on her face, knew why we were there. I didn’t yet realize that I would receive this uneasy sympathetic look from almost everyone for the next few weeks. Whenever I could forget about it all for two minutes, there was always that look that brought it right back.
            She took us to a small room, where my mother and Mike were already waiting. We all just sat and waited for what they would tell us. My life hung in their words. Did I really want to know? Were they just going to confirm my fears that my life is over? My pediatrician, Dr. Rento, came into the room.       
            “Would you come with me Jennifer?”
            I nodded and stood up.
            “Can I go with her?” my father asked.
            “We need to talk to her and then Mom and Dad can join her with the surgeon.”
            My father looked disappointed. Dr. Rento led me down the hall into a cold and sterile examining room. I climbed up on the table out of habit. He got a folding chair and sat somberly in front of me. He removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes.
            “Do you know what’s wrong?” he asked in a sad, paternal voice. I studied his face. He was maybe in his sixties, the white hair sliding towards the back of his head. I knew he had children. I could see some of my father’s emotions in his face.
            “I have a brain tumor,” I replied with a quivering chin, and lost the few moments that I had when I wasn’t crying.
            “You’re a brave girl,” he said.

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