Friday, June 18, 2010

When Physicians Cry

I knew it would happen eventually. In the AA community, there is so much empathy and compassion for one another, that there is always support to be found in the rooms. A few weeks ago, I got into a situation, quite without warning, when I was suddenly confronted with the request to "chair" a Saturday morning meeting. Not a big deal, unless your whole focus is on wrestling the myriad, somewhat conflicting emotions and fears regarding disclosure of an illness that many regard to be one of the most horrifying diagnoses around. In my case, I was settling in to a nice seat in the warmth of an AA meeting, when a dear friend, who had no knowledge of my diagnosis of early onset ALZ, asked me to "chair" the meeting. I could have said no, but it would have been awkward. I knew in my heart that I had to disclose, if I was to be a good friend, and a courageous example to my ALZ affected comrades. So I went for it. Disclosure is actually almost always recommended, if you value your sanity. Holding secrets twists the soul and isolates the sufferer. And being a card carrying member of the dementia clan, I figured I owed it to my support group and the ethic of "your only as sick as your secrets." So I went for it, trying to add a bit of levity, and making room for compassion among my friends in the room. Of course it was the right thing to do, and it gave me an unburdening, and a clearing of the air. The most difficult part was the reaction of a dear friend, a physician, himself, who was taken aback and visibly upset at this information. It is hard to watch the healer confront his helplessness. But that is what compassionate people do. They feel. They love. They share and help and add humor to the worst of it all, in spite of it all. I am blessed to be in the company of the loving, and I know that my distraught physician friend will join me in the levity and the humor that heals where no mere salve will do. We know but a little. Love is.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Carel P. Beernink; Teacher extraordinaire

When I was a boy at St. Paul's School, in Brooklandville, Maryland, I studied German (and soccer) under the tutelage of one Carel P. Beernink. Herr Beernink was a member of the Dutch Underground in WWII, and I have always believed that he was an heroic figure, and I am certain that he was active in some dangerous clandestine activity. My take on him was that he had seen and participated in situations that put him in great peril. His demeanor, however, would never lead one to know of these escapades. He, myself, and another idiot, called "Fritz", believe it or not, were the precious cargo of Mrs. Fritz, who was clearly not very observant, and me, very observant, but keeping it to myself, so that Fritz became the butt of many deserved, but somewhat unkind treatments. In any event, to still the inane chatter that often spewed forth from Fritz, Herr Beernink and I, by mutual but unspoken consent, decided that it was most preferable to me (and surely to Herr Beernink) that I would immediately upon entering the car, ask for an installation of the limitless adventures of Captain Seafood (Herr Beernink's device for stilling Fritz and and telling the incredible and sometimes hair-raising real adventures that Herr Beernink endured at the hands of the Nazis.) To show just how cavalier a disciplinarian Herr B was, there came a day when Fritz was more obnoxious than usual. On that day, Fritz decided to kick the back of Herr Beernink's seat, repeatedly, until Herr B jammed on the brakes, opened the door, and left Fritz all alone for the mile or so walk home. Word had it, that his mother was quite thankful. As for me, Herr B and I often reminisced on the occasions that we came into contact with one another, always getting a hearty laugh at just the thought of Captain Seafood, and the idiot Fritz! In later years, we enjoyed World Cup soccer, and he always complimented me on my fine left foot (which really wasn't that great).He has gone on to the great cup match in the sky, and I am indebted to him to this day. Hic finis est.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Eat Green Chile, It'll clean you out!

When I left home to travel the country, "back in the day" as my girls would say, I spent some significant time in New Mexico. I went to work for a man, or should I say, a prince of a man, who taught me many things. First and foremost I learned to shut-up when the men were talking politics, that is, New Mexico politics, but to listen carefully to what was being said. My job was to sell CheckRite, a bad check collection product--and I quickly and effectively realized that the writing was on the wall, in the form of the uncollected checks tacked to the walls behind the lunch counters and dry cleaners' bulletin boards. Whenever I saw one of those spurious checks tacked prominently behind a lunch counter or a dry cleaner, I knew I could score. My handy dandy directory of known bad check writers was the ticket not only to retrieving one's clothing, but for me, it was a ticket to a sale from a merchant who had one too many of those dead-letter checks wafting in the breeze, never to be collected. Once I showed the business owner my directory of deadbeats, I could almost always score a sale...walk in, look for the sometimes crumpled or dog-eared check and show in my directory that this could have been avoided had the merchant invested just a few dollars a month to mitigate the bad check problem before it started. It was a pleasure to commiserate with the owner over just how much money was being lost, so as to demonstrate the wonderful prospect of cutting those deadbeats off at the knees. Why, with my directory of deadbeats, I had the certain confidence that with patient understanding, I could prove immediately the efficacy of this information. Of course, I was not alone. Inez was ruthless in her discussions regarding these uncollected checks, and she converted the hardest of all cases. All business owners should have access to an Inez in the back room. And everyone should at some time in their lives, experience the wonder of the arroyo and the warm , sometimes blast furnace heat of the good, good green chiles, that, as Inez would say, will "clean you out!!!