Sometimes it doesn’t work

But it still mattered

You can’t count on

Any future for success

But success doesn’t lie

In any of your

Accomplishments it lies in

Trying and then failing

Over and over again

Trust me successful isn’t

Awarded to those who

Succeeded the successful ones

The ones hailed as

Such are those who

Were willing to try

The things you wouldn’t

Kindness Serves the Souls of Strangers


“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”    Plato
“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”   – Mark Twain
“Offer kindness without reward knowing that someone will return that which you offered another.”   – Henry Van Dyke
“You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.”   – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I want to thank those of you from around the world that were generous, hopeful, and kind in spirit to send my brother Get Well cards. Thanks to you he received hundreds of cards which surprised him and stunned the hospital.

When asked by nurses “who do you know?” He thought for a moment then said, “Me brudder!”

When I Was A Boy, A Doctor’s Insight Was Law



When I was a child and was literally dragged to Dr. What’s-His-Face for an annual check-up (less a check-up and more a ritualistic cadence of tsk, tsk, tsk’s) as he poked and kneaded and cold-handedly fiddled with my . . . which backs away from coldness . . . and shy’s away from evaluation like a cub scout whose self-built car elicits jeers from his Scout Master (who also happens to be his dad).  The snap of gloves and odor of soap which resembled anti-freeze gave the doctor time to compose his subtle and sensitive conclusion:  “He’s too fat and getting fatter and his fat is hiding his . . . which, for sanitary reasons may require the removal of . . . which was when I buckled my Indian Beaded Belt and disappeared until hours past dusk when a neighbor found me shivering beneath the front porch.

That incident was a painful secret which I’ve carried on my back for fifty years and continues to cause retreat when doctor’s or lover’s reach out.  Such a sad burden to carry because of one unsympathetic phrase from a stranger who had no right being a pediatrician.  I often wondered how he treated his dogs.

My mother’s ignorance and prostrating to figures of authority always meant that any run-in with any adult possessing even a pinch more aacopauthority than her resulted in stern and week-long pain.  Just what exactly did these arrogant and sadistic adults possess that was never crossed?  They had been appointed to their position because of educated insight which was never, ever, EVER questioned..

Which, of course, perpetuated a multi-century tradition which has continued even to this day.  Most doctor offices have a small-framed notice somewhere above their “All services must be paid TODAY!”  reminder which reads something like,  “My profession hasn’t been questioned or challenged in three hundred years, so don’t try to be the first today!”  And in you go to be examined, quizzed, and questioned only to receive a prescription scribed in ancient Egyptian and an “order” for physical therapy.

aaangryguyDo I sound somewhat angry?  Of course I am!  Doctors get paid enormous salaries yet complain about the escalating costs of malpractice insurance.  Malpractice insurance exists because professionals are trusted and believed and paid.  And for this degree of faith we get an educated guess of what might be ailing us.

But this is what I’m REALLY angry about: Two doctor’s at Froedert Hospital assured me my brother Rich did not suffer a stroke based on a CT scan.  It was 48 hours later when I insisted they perform an MRI.  Voila’!  A clot in a vein feeding the occipital lobe (responsible for eyesight).  Because of unconscionable arrogance my brother is legally blind while these two doctors suffer NO consequence.  Upon discharge from Froedert, I was told that Rich was totally blind due to A) The Stroke and B) A severe seizure two days later.  I made decisions based upon the information told to me by staff in the Stroke Unit.  And guess what?  He isn’t blind!  Albeit his eyesight has been significantly compromised, but his field of vision is approximately 17″ in diameter!  And the staff at Froedert?

And the worst example of guesstimating occurred this past weekend when Rich suffered a severe heart attack.  The errors in order of aapuzzleddocappearance: A) Someone at the acute rehab facility removed his DNR bracelet, yet never informed the paramedics that he had a DNR order in effect; B) The paramedics, unaware of the DNR order, couldn’t inform the ER staff;  C) When Rich went into arrest they performed heroic measures to yank him back to life including five minutes of chest compressions resulting in several broken ribs and the insertion of a temporary pacemaker to maintain his heart rate (why didn’t anyone call me while they repeatedly beat Rich?  They called me after!)  D) An ICU doctor called me and informed me that the ER stepped beyond Rich’s wishes and now, NOW I’ve got to decide if and when we reverse their . . . their, what . . . their adrenaline infused jump to action?  And when YOU do decide he will . . . be gone.

For nine hours I held firm to Rich’s wish: DNR. And I would honor his wish just like I’ve always honored him. And I aastoplightwouldn’t allow my own emotion, hope, or desire to shake my resolve. I spent nine hours picking up strength like a child picks dandelions. And upon my arrival at his room in the ICU he was semi-conscious, breathing on his own, and occasionally howling in pain as he coughed with broken ribs. The equivalent of The Cuban Missile Crisis was over and Rich, contrary to what the ICU doctor emphatically informed me, was alive, on his own, without my intervention. And even though he’d crossed that line, he’d come back, I think, just so we could laugh at the old, standard jokes as though it was the first time we’d heard them!

And those doctors? The heroic and uninformed professional, and the cardiac-specialized professional made two BIG mistakes and continue to work without consequence for their egregious and painful errors. Alas, that three hundred year old tradition continues.


The Brain Breakdown


A psychiatrist offered this analogy:

Your brain is like a computer which has a fixed amount of memory.

When your brain is occupied trying to process depression there’s a fixed amount available to use to process other activities, say memory or long division.  Eventually, as you heal, more memory is made available to concentration or routines or interest in life or, in my case, facing the ashen landscape called life to which a debilitating, manic, and, calamitous event crippled my job, my family, and my spouse.



My One and Only Rolex

Fifteen years ago I developed an obsession for Rolex watches which eclipsed practically every other interest or desire.  Its greatest impact was felt by my spouse: He was hostage to my unyielding resistance to any gift that wasn’t a Rolex.

Eventually Nick’s patience and resolve buckled beneath the burden of my expectation.  One Christmas he handed me an easily overlooked brown paper bag.  As I took it from him I felt a significant heft; I heard a steel bracelet shift at the bottom; I spied a bezel and Oyster case peeking out from an afterthought of concealment.  I slowly lifted the folds of vaguely familiar tissue paper which revealed the indubitable shape and renowned style of the classic stainless steel Rolex.  He said he’d been looking for one (for almost a year) when the week before a dealer called to say that a customer recently presented a used (and much older) Rolex as a trade-in and it’s “as-is” retail price is with-in Nick’s price range.  He purchased a Rolex manufactured in 1958 (the year of my birth) and it wasn’t until this year did I learn the historical significance of this watch.

A month later I found myself overheating in a Puerto Vallarta hot tub.  I dragged my lobster-red body to the swimming pool and jumped in.  Upon surfacing I heard Nick ask for time. While wiping away the stinging chlorinated water I noticed that there was moisture condensing on the inside surface of the watch crystal.

The Rolex watch is often perceived as an extravagant luxury and status symbol outshining its fundamental purpose: telling time.  But Rolex, SA (manufacturer) has played a significant role in the history of the wristwatch.  Rolex, SA can lay claim to being first at: automatically changing date on face; show two time zones at the same time (GMT Master (designed by request of Pan Am pilots); automatically changing day-and-date on face; earning “chronometer” designation (meaning that it’s mechanical movement is extremely accurate and consistent that it can be used to navigate ships.  But the fundamental and most notable characteristic (which it achieved first in 1926 and again in 1953) is being waterproof (1926); not water resistant; waterproof to a depth of 330 feet BSL (1953).

Obviously Nick’s gift had forfeited that foremost characteristic.

I was greatly disappointed that the Rolex Nick had worked so diligently to uncover had been compromised by irony: its fundamental purpose (time keeping) was also its assassin (time passing, i.e. years of use).   I took the infirm watch to the only certified Rolex repair center in North America (at the time) and was saddened by their conclusion: it would cost more to rebuild than the price Nick paid.  A friend gave me the phone number of a reseller in Georgia that represented Rolex watches on consignment.  Overnight I received three brand new stainless steel Rolexes from which to choose.

When I slid on the first, then the second, and finally the third I had exactly the same reaction: These Rolexes had lost their mystique, their meaning, their value; these were simply very expensive watches.  (And frankly, my time isn’t that valuable!) 

The watch given to me by Nick was, in my opinion, the only true Rolex because it was the one he generously gave me.  I wanted that Rolex; and I wanted that Rolex to function like any other Rolex.  So I returned to the Rolex repair center and placed it in their expert hands.  Six months later it was returned to me in pristine condition.  It is now thoroughly serviced every three years to keep it in working order.

So why did I share this with you?

You may get what you ask for in life, and while it may not be exactly what you wanted, you were very fortunate to have received it.  It may be imperfect, or damaged, or used.  But it is less about what you’ve been given, and much more about how you hold it, what it means to you, and how you care for it.