Deborah Copaken Kogan

A Family Affair: The author, right, with her father, Richard D. Copaken, and her younger sister, Jennifer, at Flamenco Beach, Culebra, Puerto Rico, c. 1975.

The Plumber, the Lawyer and the Carpenter

A few days after my father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, Harold the plumber came to fix my parents’ toilet. Mom told Harold about the cancer. Harold told Dad that surely it was Jesus who had sent him to fix the toilet, to help my father get right with him before he died. Dad didn’t have the heart to tell Harold that he was a Jew and an agnostic and that, furthermore, he was certain he’d be one of the small percentage of people diagnosed with stage-four pancreatic cancer who would survive, because that’s the kind of person he was: an odds-beater.