Saturday, November 25, 2006

A Brief history, Nancy and her Progeny

One Sunday morning, in the spring of 1985, I visited the Seneca Valley Unitarian Fellowship in Montgomery Village, Maryland. As I surveyed the scene, my eyes focused on the attractive woman asking visitors to sign the guest book. I made a mental note to learn more about her (Nancy Vaughn Thompson, as it turns out).
During the following week, we met again (not entirely by chance) at a fellowship newcomers party. As we chatted it up a bit, I learned that my step-children were on the same local swim team as her daughters (Malinda and Caroline).
Well, one thing led to another; we went to Kentucky to meet her folks, and to Texas to meet mine. The reception at both places was positive and, shortly thereafter, we decided to get married. It was a home wedding, with the Rev. Rudy Nemser, long time friend of the groom, presiding. Aware of my history, Rudy guaranteed a lasting marriage because, "You finally got someone to do the ceremony correctly!"
When I first arrived on the scene, Caroline and Malinda were in high school. They were, and still are, beautiful and smart. They have families of their own, now. We'll learn more about these exemplary people in this space in the very near future.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Is this an original thought or did I steal it?

During a recent trip to see my doctor, I mused about pain. It occurred to me that if asked about my level of pain, I might well respond, "If pain were good, I'd have an embarrassment of riches". OK, it's not hilarious but then that's not my point.
I believe I came up with that thought on my own. But I could have read it in a book or heard it on TV. So how does one know? This enigma presents itself quite often when I'm writing and raises several questions.
If an amusing or witty thought occurs to me, and I am unsure about its originality, am I obliged to enclose it in quotes, italicize it, or in some other way signify this uncertainty? Exactly what constitutes an original or unique thought?
In a recent post about Parkinson's often devastating impact on motion and movement, I referred to my fine motor skills as my "not-so-fine-motor "skills. I think this qualifies as both amusing and original, although most of the phrase is in common usage.
Other thoughts about Parkinson's and its effects: I used to be "all thumbs"; those were the good old days. Memory was always my strong suit; now it's a wild card.
In any event, those are thoughts which I believed to be original, at the time I wrote them (but I wouldn't have bet my life on it). If you have an opinion on this topic, or an example, please leave a comment.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Please get your car out of our dining room!

Some years ago, when returning home, I saw a group of police cars and emergency vehicles at the edge of my development. I was turned away and told to find another route. As I neared our townhouse from the opposite direction, an officer approached and asked for my street address. When I responded, he said, "I'm afraid I have some bad news for you, sir."
Yes, someone had crashed into the rear of our home. I remember being relieved that I wasn't home when it happened. I went inside to survey the damage. The driver, thankfully, was not critically injured and was on his way to the hospital. Most of the car, however, was in our dining room; the front bumper perched on my desk, and the rear one hovering over our patio.
The car had been on an unlikely journey. When the driver passed out, his car swerved across a grassy island and two lanes going in the opposite direction. It then started up a hill, knocked down a couple of small trees in the process. The car then started downhill, between two large trees, and ployed into our townhouse. During this little jaunt, the driver's foot remained, as they say, with "the metal to the pedal". After crashing through the back wall, the car pushed the dining room table against the opposite wall, took out most of the wall between the kitchen and the living room, bounced the piano a few feet from its original position, and came to a halt with its bumper resting on my desk.
Coincidentally, one of our neighbors heard the commotion, rushed over, sized up the situation, crawled into dining room, opened the car door and turned off the ignition. If there was a hero in this little scenario, it was surely this gentleman. An eye witness reported he scarcely believed his eyes as the car crossed two lanes of traffic, become airborne and narrowly missed him on the sidewalk. Still another neighbor heard the crash, thought it was a bomb, and rushed her kids to the basement.
Eventually, our little drama attracted the attention of the media. As I stood at the center of this turmoil, besieged by emergency responders, lawyers, contractors and other interested parties, a lady TV reporter approached me. She asked for an interview. I replied that since this was obviously an "open house", fire away! Nancy arrived just in time to share the limelight. Our interview was shown on local TV later that evening. For a newspaper account of the accident, click here.

But here's the rest of the story. Several days later, we learned that the driver was Bob, a person Nancy and I had known before our marriage. In a further twist, my second wife Vicki and I had lived on the same block as Bob's family, a couple of decades earlier. It was like a re-union!
Looking back, it wasn't so bad. We actually had some good fortune as a result of the crash, e.g., a new hardwood floor, and a sliding glass door (where the car had left a large hole ). A few short years later, Nancy was lamenting the condition of our kitchen. I suggested that we find someone to drive into the side of our townhouse, and hope for the best.

Monday, November 13, 2006

PD: Give us this day our daily pills

The Person with Parkinson's (PWP), once diagnosed, faces a future of constant, albeit gradual change. What began as a slowing of gait or a slight tremor in one hand, may eventually evolve into loss of mobility or Dyskinesia (e.g., Michael J. Fox). Luckily, these changes occur gradually, and medications can be effective in lessening their severity.
A newly diagnosed PWP may begin treatment by taking a single pill once a day and, over the years, end up popping several pills every 3 or 4 hours. As the disease progresses, and the number and potency of medications increases, it is often difficult to determine if a particular symptom is from the disease or from drug side effects. Suffice to say, answers don't come easy in the fight against Parkinson's, but new drugs and therapies are being developed and tested as we speak (read).
In the spring of 2002, my PD doctor started me out with 1/2 pill of regular Sinemet twice daily. Now, in the fall of 2006, I take two regular Sinemet pills five time per day, one CR (controlled release) Sinemet each evening, and one Comtan five times a day. These are just for Parkinson's Disease. And, of course, there are other medications for several other problems. Suffice to say, managing this regimen can be difficult for anyone; for a PWP, it can seem simply overwhelming.
A brief discussion of the drugs used to treat PD is scheduled to appear soon (that means when I have time to write it).

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Rumsfeld loses support, leaves cabinet

Donald Rumsfeld, in a wide ranging interview, said he realized his time in office was coming to an end when he began losing the support of prominent American Icons. A prime example is the case of Brendan Siltman, a well respected moderate in the Arts world, who was willing to give Rumsfeld the benefit of the doubt until quite recently. Mr. Siltman, shown here to the right of the Defense Secretary, looks as if he was already having serious doubts about his support of Rumsfeld.

Note: The above is pure fabrication. A couple of years ago, Brendan (my grandson) visited the Pentagon as part of school field trip to Washington, D.C. By pure happenstance, Runsfeld posed with the students, and the rest is history. Quite an elaborate coincidence, wouldn't you say?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A brief history - Vicki and the kids

Some of the more perceptive among you may be saying: First David talks about his wife Nancy and then Claude's mother Claudette, and now someone named Vicki. What's going on here? It's simple, I was working undercover for the FBI and had three different identities. Actually, I've been married three times; Vicki became my second wife in the 1970's. When we met, she already had four adorable kids, ages 4 through 7, if memory serves (It's the ages I'm unsure of, not the number of kids).
Although the marriage ended, I think we agree that the kids benefited from our earnest and heartfelt efforts in their behalf for almost a decade. I have tried to remain a part of their lives and their children's lives. When asked how many grandchildren I have, I usually include the kid's kids in the total. All things considered, I think I earned at least a share of them. I'm sure Claude and his family feels the same way about Vicki.
Describing Claude's family was child's play compared to John, Laura, Melisa and Carey's. Indeed, I'll need another blog entry to describe the whole bunch. For now, I only note that the grandchildren are not only attractive, they seem well grounded and smart. I break into a smile when I think of them. I wish I had the energy for treks to see them more often. And my fondest hope is to get everyone together to produce "Pop Pop's family picture".

Coming attraction : A brief history - Nancy and her progeny

"the bogeyman"

I have tried to make these little chats about Parkinson's light reading. No need to worry loved ones; certainly don't want to betray any self-pity, and if I can't keep my spirits up, who will? But, occasionally, like tonight, when afflicted with some new and novel torture, I give in, ever so slightly, to despair. At these times I tend to view my illness in very personal terms. It's as if there's another person inside me - some evil, malicious monster intent on making my life miserable. I have named him, "The Petulant Stranger Within".
At times like this, I drag myself out of bed, make my way downstairs to my office, and fire up my blog. The hope is that the writing will cause me to become mentally exhausted, drag myself upstairs and fall asleep.
Hopefully, tomorrow will dawn and I will feel better. It's happened so often before; the prospect lightens my mood. And then it hits me. I probably won't even put this in my blog; I wouldn't want to tarnish my reputation as a happy-go-lucky guy.

Note: Normally, when I write something like this, under duress (so to speak), it doesn't end up in my blog. Last night, I accidentally clicked the "Publish" button instead of the "Save as Draft" button. I intended to either re-write it or more likely, delete it this morning. But wait! Am I fearful of revealing something about myself that I wouldn't want others to see? Weakness? Vulnerability? Or am I afraid I'll make someone else depressed? So I asked myself, "Who am I trying to protect?" No one who reads this little snippet will have their lives shattered upon hearing of my pain. Why not just tell it like it is. Life is not all peaches and cream.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Letters to the Editor: are they examples of Free Speech?

I started writing letters to the editor in Montgomery, Alabama during the late 1950's. One needn't have been a genius to understand that a degree of subtlety was required when writing anything which could have possibly been construed as an attack on segregation.
For the most part, my letters met this test, and escaped the attention of those in the city prone to violence. But one particular letter evidently went too far, and I started receiving late night phone calls. The messages ranged from heavy breathing to demands that I get out of town. My employer at the time, Western Electric, was encouraged to fire me. They refused.
In addition to being frightened, I was infuriated. Here was proof that, in a supposedly free country, I was unable to speak my mind without being threatened. I continued to write letters, albeit with what should have been an unnecessary amount of discretion .
After I left Montgomery, some months later, I received a letter which remains one of my prized possessions. It was from Ray Jenkins, managing editor of the Alabama Journal. He commented on a letter I had written and which appeared in the Journal. The subject of the letter was a weekly columnist who was, I felt, intellectually bankrupt.

My letter: Gandhi and Hitler
I wish to comment on the "As I see it" column in last Sunday's Journal. I was surprised, for example, to discover that Mahatma Gandhi was Hitler's right-hand man. It's really amazing how one can re-learn history with the help of an expert like Mr. Mahoney. He points out seemingly insignificant facts which, though a little circumstantial , culminate in a smashing indictment. For example, given the fact that Gandhi and Hitler were both vegetarians, the conclusion that they were fellow conspirators is inescapable.
Little gems of irrefutable logic such as this make my Sunday mornings complete.

Mr Jenkins letter:
Dear Mr. Siltman,
I keep handy in my desk an old yellow clipping headlined, "Ghandi and Hitler." Every time I get despondent, all I have to do is read it and get a lift.
Seriously, if a reader ever knocked me out as effectively as you did my colleague, I'd never write another column.
Ray Jenkins
Managing Editor
Alabama Journal

Thursday, November 02, 2006

A brief history: Claude and his family

The marriage of Claudette and David yielded one son, Claude. Not surprisingly, he was born on Christmas Day (I had been outside the night before, looking for a bright star). Well, that particular scenario didn't work out, but we think he's wonderful, anyway. Claude met and married Monica, a Philadelphia beauty. They produced a boy, Brendan, and a girl, Mary. They are perfect. See if you can tell who is who in the picture on your left. A prize goes to the person who has the highest number of correct guesses.
Lest anyone think I am frivolous in my assessment of Claude and his family - well, "I calls 'em like I sees 'em!" I love them all and I don't care who knows it. Claude pretty much runs the City of Philadelphia, and Monica owns and operates the private school that Brendan and Mary attend. I could go on and on about this wonderful family but I don't want to embarrass them.
Some people claim I go overboard in my admiration of, and fondness for, these marvelous individuals. I have only one thing to say to these negative know nothings, "you're just jealous!"