In chapter 4 of Patrimony, Philip Roth’s nonfiction account of his father’s life and struggles with a brain tumor, Roth can’t eat a bowl of pasta or watch the New York Mets play baseball. Roth is too worried about his dad, Herman, to concentrate on what normally bring him pleasure.
To help him out, Roth calls up an old friend, Joanna Clark. Clark’s dad was killed by Germans at the start of World War II, so she knows what it’s like to live without a father.
Roth tells Clark about Herman’s tough situation. He talks about his relationship to Newark and Jewish identity. He tells Clark a funny story about the time his dad was robbed by a young man of color.
After the phone call, Roth and his dad visit another hospital and get a second opinion from an esteemed neurosurgeon named Vallo Benjamin. Benjamin’s optimistic viewpoint causes Herman to trust and like him.
Roth then returns to the Mets. He talks about being in London and calling his dad to find out how the Mets are faring in the playoffs. By the end of the chapter, Roth’s dad decides to get on with his life and not worry so much about the tumor.
At the start of chapter 5, Benjamin returns and Herman returns to thinking about the tumor. He gets a biopsy in order to gather more information about it. As for Roth, he has a somewhat bawdy conversation with a taxi driver. Roth ends up telling him that he’s a psychiatrist in Connecticut. The cabdriver proceeds to articulate why he doesn’t like his mom or his dad.
After the biopsy, Benjamin finds out that the tumor is rare and could be removed in two operations. Benjamin says that if it’s not removed, Herman could start to experience substantial problems within a year.
Roth then brings his dad back to his house, where, during lunch, his dad loses control of his bowels. Roth diligently cleans up the mess and promises not to tell anyone about what happened. Roth then details the anti-Semitism of Metropolitan Life, the insurance company that Herman worked for. Roth also relays anecdotes about his mom and Herman’s current partner, Lil.