I have been totally engrossed in books, primarily historical novels about World War II and the Holocaust, over the last several years. Surveying the New York Times Books Review section each week, this huge interest, some also would say a near obsession, is shared by the reading public. The Best Seller List has seen titles such as, “The Nightingale,” “The Lilac Girls,” the “Tattooist of Auschwitz” and “All the Light We Cannot See” remain solidly entrenched amongst the top 20 for months, if not years.
My latest “read,” a book entitled, “The Plum Tree” was a wonderful, quick – too quick – read, and most unusual in relating the sorrowful, disgraceful story of WWII as it affected ordinary Germans – Germans who lived amongst, worked with, and even loved the Jews in their midst; the Germans who did try to assist their Jewish neighbors – albeit a minority, and who lived and died attempting to oppose Hitler.
It is with a sad heart I read about the rise of anti-Semitism, especially in the US and France, and the rise of the neo-Nazi, right wing in Germany. Human beings are quite capable of forgetting – in fact, it is indeed – I suspect – a survival mechanism. But, as these books remind us – We should never forget!
At the end of many of the PBS News Hours is a charming five minute segment entitled, “Brief . . . but Spectacular.” Known and unknown individuals present their usually animated discourse on a vast array of topics. Two weeks ago, we had a “brief but spectacular” visit from one son and daughter, the former from Philadelphia and the later from Portland. They were without children, a rare occurrence.
Todd and Kathy dove into a number of “tasks” to assist Bill. (We did take them at their word – “just give us stuff to do”). These tasks were accomplished in record time – allowing a visit to the botanical Gardens, festooned in its spring flowering finery. And no trip to Tucson can be without a trip to Bookmans – what fun. Of course, Mexican food – real Mexican, non-Taco bell, capped the trip. And we “discovered” a little Mexican restaurant, which opened about two years ago, virtually right around the corner. If you haven’t tried “Benny’s Mexican Restaurant,” I’d highly recommend it – As I would the brief, but spectacular weekend we had with our children!
I had the best birthday this past February 22nd! Three major reasons:
- My husband, children and friends – especially my husband.
- I felt okay. That is special as my neurologic disease painfully progresses. This was a wonderful respite.
- And – snow in Tucson! I actually laughed out loud as we ate breakfast and watched the big fat snowflakes falling. Temporarily, oh so temporarily, the roofs and foliage were covered in snow. What a glorious site for a long-time Tucsonan. By evening, all, or virtually all, traces of snow were gone.
But – the following morning the Catalinas were completely clothed in white – and they could be viewed from our Arizona room windows! The sight was almost breathtaking.
I’ve lived in snowy climes – Boston, New York, Chicago, Maryland, St Louis – but it was a rare day that snow brought so much joy — into my life, and I know so many others.
Medicine – and medical learning – is a matter of intense study, learning what is new, and sometimes discarding old incorrect ideas. As a professor of medicine, I practiced medicine, performed clinical research, but my greatest love was to teach. There is a lot of repetition, which is good, in medicine, and I often felt my major job was to remind my students, interns and residents of what they already knew, but perhaps had buried within the deep recesses of their minds. Unwittingly, I fell into the habit of prefacing my “reminders,” i.e. “factoids,” with the phrase, “as you well know.”
Well, it turned out that many felt they did not well know, in fact, they never knew this piece of information. So in jest, at one year-end “graduation” ceremony for the residents, I received a gift – a gift which I cherish to this day – a t-shirt emblazoned with the phrase one the front, “as you well know” and — in the back, “NOT.”
I would be the recipient of other items of appreciation from other years of graduating students and residents – like the tape recorder, to record what I had previously said – when I had interrupted myself from a train of thought (as I interrupt everyone else, incorrigibly) – but the T-shirt remains the pièce de résistance!
Welcome autumn; after a long, hot summer we have earned these mornings of cool, crisp air – doors and windows ajar, the sounds of birds wafting through.
As a child my father would take my brother and me on fall walks to collect the ever-changing colorful leaves from trees, especially maples that adorned New York parks and streets. My mother, on the other hand, never liked fall, as it signified death and dying to her. I have mixed feelings – sharing hers, but relishing the temperatures that tell us that life in the desert is still a life worth living.
Perhaps Albert Camus described the best way to envision fall. He said: “Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.”
Rejoice, fall is here!
Last weekend Tucson received a wondrous gift, the gift of rain. Depending upon your locality, you could have received as “little” at 7/8” (our house), or as “much” as 2 ½” (my editorial assistant’s location on Tucson’s far east side). But, a little or a lot, I just couldn’t repress the happiness the rain bestowed upon my entire being. I have the opposite of “SAD,” seasonal affective disorder. In contrast to my husband, I get depressed by day after day of blazing sun. He argues that sun is necessary for photosynthesis and life. I argue that nothing, no nothing, can survive without water. So perhaps we need both.
The rain reminds me of “rainy day” fun that I had as youngster growing up in New York City – endless games of Monopoly and Scrabble, endless cups of hot chocolate. The same could be said of snow days. Well, those days have come and gone. But who’s to say that we can’t have “sunny day” fun?! The games are still extant (and believe it or not, not only on computers) and well, we can forego the hot chocolate and replace it with lemonade . . . or even, if you can find it – cream soda!
I just finished rereading “A Man Called Ove.” While there is a lot of angst within its pages, there is also a marvelous amount of humor. One chapter had me laughing out loud, in which the main character, an older, rather rigid man, teaches his young Iranian immigrant neighbor how to drive. Oh, what memories this section evoked.
A couple of months before I left for medical school (at the ripe old age of 19), my father decided, for obscure reasons, that I needed to learn to drive and get a drivers license. Our family had only relatively recently purchased its first car – and by the way, my mother was in the hospital in mid-Manhattan. So my father decided that I learn to drive – in mid-Manhattan. I was terrified, but managed miraculously not to inflict any mortal injury on either the vehicle or its occupants. He also decided that I take my driving test in . . . mid-Manhattan. I stumbled, so to speak, passably through it – that is until the final full stop, at which I neither stopped nor fully did so. When the man administering the test informed me that I therefore would fail, I broke out in tears. I informed him that I was leaving NYC shortly, would not have time to retake the test, and, not so incidentally, I would have one unhappy parent awaiting me. The instructor asked me if I planned to return to New York. I replied, not if I could help it. “Really?” he said. “Really!” I replied. “In that case he said, I will pass you.”
And so I went to Chicago, drivers license in hand, and only many years later would have the ability to purchase a car – much less drive it!