C onsidering what we’d gone through in the past year, I couldn’t believe that Mr. Eidels was upset with me. Not just upset, but literally screaming out his pain and frustration.

Mr. Eidels’ son Yossie had experienced a recovery that was truly impressive. It was quite amazing that he was doing as well as he was. Not that I was taking all of the credit and thought I should be getting awards for my work, but I didn’t expect a dressing-down either.

Yossie had a four-year history of schizophrenia and treatment noncompliance before he walked into my office. All I did was recommend a long-acting formulation of his medication to ensure he’d be able to stay on track. Once a month, Yossie would come in and receive his injection. This guaranteed that he didn’t have to remember to take his pills each night.

In short, my recommendations were very elementary and, baruch Hashem, they’d worked. Yossie had stayed out of the hospital for nearly a year now and the memories of getting picked up by the police for trespassing all across his town were becoming a distant memory. He had started working at the local seforim store and was even getting invited out for Shabbos meals again for the first time since he’d returned from his initial hospitalization.

But here we were sitting in my office, and Mr. Eidels seemed to have no shortage of rage. “What do you mean, he’s doing fantastic? You’re the crazy one if you think that’s the case, Dr. Freedman!”

Clearly this was a question of perspective as opposed to a personal attack, so I avoided responding to his frustrated name-calling. “Mr. Eidels, I’m referring to the fact that your son is light-years ahead of where he was last year at this time, when we were first starting to work together.”

“And now you’re thinking that you cured him!”

“I never said anything about curing him,” I told Mr. Eidels as calmly as I could, navigating through the screaming to the place of his raw pain. “Schizophrenia is a chronic disease, and it’s not about curing anyone; it’s about improving their quality of life. This is no different from diabetes or heart disease or any other debilitating illness that needs to be managed. Plus, I’m just a shaliach trying my hardest to provide you with the best advice I can offer — remember, only the Eibishter can bring refuah.”

“So if you can’t cure him, then why am I shelling out all this money to pay you?”

“Do you want to fire me?” I asked Mr. Eidels honestly.

“No!” he yelled exasperatedly and then sank back into his chair, looking suddenly embarrassed.

“Then what would you like to tell me?”

“That he’s not doing fantastic! That he’s still living at home, that he’s got a great kop and he’s sweeping the floors at a Judaica store. That he’s 27, and he’s not married and may never be. This is not what we signed up for!”

Mr. Eidels sat back again and tears began to pour down his cheeks. I handed him some tissues and thought about one of the greatest lessons I’d ever learned as a doctor.

I was in the middle of my third year of medical school and was granted the opportunity to spend an elective week working with an oncologist who happened to be the world’s expert in non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Normally exceedingly busy, this legendary clinician was willing to take a student — but only because I happened to be his son.

I was thrilled to be able to watch my dad work his magic, and my dad was equally proud to see his son wearing the white coat of a young doctor-in-training. But beyond grasping the ropes of cancer diagnosis and how to successfully skip out early once or twice to play a round of golf, I learned the healing art of caring for one’s patients from my father.

It was the way he would look patients in the eye, give them the necessary time to express their hopes and fears, and work tirelessly to let them know he was there for each and every one of them. I will never forget how he took the hand of a middle-aged man diagnosed with cancer and told him with simultaneously crushing honesty and unbridled optimism, “You’re right that there is no cure for this condition, but with the new treatments we have nowadays, I’m hopeful you’ll see more than a few grandchildren.”

So as I sat with Mr. Eidels, I took a deep breath and tried my best to emulate my father’s healing touch. “You’re right that he isn’t cured and that this whole roller-coaster wasn’t what you expected Yossie’s life would look like. And yet his symptoms are controlled and he’s moving forward and growing.”

Mr. Eidels began to speak, but then became quiet as I took his hands in mine. I looked him in the eyes as I continued, “Yossie might be living at home, but at least he’s not living in the hospital. He might not be learning in kollel, but he’s employed and proud to be working every day. And while he’s not married, he’s invited out nearly every Shabbos, and I don’t see why you can’t hope to see grandchildren from him one day.”

Mr. Eidels finally smiled and told me that he was grateful for my words. I told him I was equally grateful that he had decided not to fire me as I watched him leave in a much more tranquil state than when he stormed in.

I sat down in my chair and thought about the best doctor I knew, hoping that I had done him right this afternoon. I thought about my dad and how grateful I was that he wasn’t one of those super-intense doctor dads who would only validate his son when he became the next world’s expert in his specific field. Even when I wanted to be a writer instead of a doctor, I knew I could still count on him for support because he wanted me to grow into the best person I could be, not just his personal nachas machine. I then took a moment to say a tefillah for Mr. Eidels, that he should be as accepting and supportive of his son as my dad has always been of me.

Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 685. Jacob L. Freedman is a psychiatrist and business consultant based in Israel. When he’s not busy with his patients, Dr. Freedman can be found learning Torah in The Old City or hiking the hills outside of Jerusalem. Dr. Freedman can be reached most easily through his website www.drjacoblfreedman.com.