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Archive for the month “April, 2014”

Bones and Backs: more than body obsession

When our grandparents were young, they wore shapeless clothes, laboured from dawn to dusk and fell into their soft chairs in the evening. They had little time or concern about how they looked. As a little girl, I recall my little grandmother and white-haired grandfather who arrived late Saturday afternoons to our store for supper. They came by bus. My grandmother was tiny, heavy and dowdy; my grandfather was taller, reserved and aloof.

My poor mother who had slaved all week in and behind our store now was required to cook a meal for her in-laws. She would often tell me how much my Bubby Molly adored her only son, my father, eeking out a few pennies to buy him sardines as a special treat when he was a boy and how she only truly finally accepted my mother once she saw how my mother had reacted to my father’s polio: not abandoning him, as her own mother had admonished her to do.

I don’t recall exactly what we ate on those Saturday nights, although it was likely Friday night leftovers: the remnants of a delicious tomatoey fricassee, and roasted chicken saturated in Heinz sauce. The dinner that stands out in my mind does not concern the food, however, but the actions of my grandfather and a bowl of chicken soup hurtling across the table. It was the one and only time my father actually smacked me across the face because of being goaded on by his father, outraged that I would speak up and perhaps be rude, mocking or disrespectful. Truthfully I do not remember what silly words had sarcastically spun out of my mouth, only the shaming repercussions of that terrible event. Shame, embarrassment, my father’s anger, my grandfather’s satisfaction, my refusal to cry as my cheek burned.

Usually they brought us chocolates and we would thank them dutifully. My grandmother had difficulty breathing and was said to smoke special asthma cigarettes. In my mind’s eye, they appear non-descript, her small and heavy-busted; him with that shock of white hair. They felt distant, and particularly him, judgmental.

Years later, and perhaps because I harboured that memory like a festering wound, when my husband and I gathered Zaida Sam’s last possessions from his dark house on Arlington, I refused to include the waffle-maker in the bundle we were transferring to the Baycrest or Moishe- Zakanam so- referred to in Yiddish,which I assumed meant old folks’ home. He made a plea for its inclusion but I looked sternly at him and refused to give in to his request.

Unlike today when we sit on the floor with our grandkids, joke and jostle with them, both my Bubby Molly and Zaida Sam sat ensconced in the pink brocade chairs in the corner. I think she smiled a bit. She loved my father unconditionally and maybe the first grandchild, my cousin Jon, had held them lovingly transfixed in his heart. I don’t know. Perhaps there were perfunctory kisses with my sister and me, but certainly not a lot of holding or touching.

When we visited their house for a family meal or stopped to took them for an occasional Sunday drive, I can resurrect in my mind a long alleyway of a house, couches that pressed the wall lengthwise, a television at the end, a tiny kitchen behind, very dark, badly lit and the feeling of claustrophobia. Yet welcoming smells did emerge from that kitchen and my aunt Goldi’s stories always included stuffed peppers, pies and the family chocolate cake-whose recipe I never received.

When my mother passed away, I discovered old photos of my grandparents and was amazed that Bubby Molly had once been lithe and lovely, slim and stylish instead of the baggily dressed, audibly breathing, straggled- haired woman I barely knew. In the pictures, she wears large beautiful hats and the narrative that was told was that Zaida Sam had wooed her with a very elaborate confection of a hat that he later tore to pieces before her eyes, he caught in a demonstration of rage. She was known to be modern, a procurer of new fangled things such as washing machines and frigerators, curious, loving and the scourge of her husband’s family Friday night poker games. Her life was hard.

Exercise I imagine consisted of walking to the bus stop en route to work at Tiptop Tailors where both of them sewed and beautifully executed fine cloaks and suits. Likely at the end of the day, they uncoiled their tight bodies that had been fixed to their chairs at their sewing machines hour after hour. This was the story of unions past, not quite the pits of New York or the sweat holes of Bangladesh. Certainly the Union’s desire to free people from the chains of their bosses gave rise to slightly improved situations. One has only to recall The Triangle Shirtwaist Company where 146 deaths and an unknown number of injuries occurred on Saturday, March 25, 1911. It is laughable to think any boss considered their employees needing bodily relief or even a bathroom break, let alone an outlet for stretching tired or sore bodies. Not to mention the sexual harassment foisted on young pretty women afraid to lose their jobs should they refuse the bosses’ attentions.

Jogging, stretching, massages lay far in the future, we only imagining how exhausted, tight and twisted their bodies felt. Maybe the Italians understood better that an evening promenade around the town square would ease the endurance of a long day’s arduous work, especially of sitting unmoving for long long hours. Research now shows that getting up from your desk and strolling even the length of the office frees your mind to be more creative. But then, no one was much interested in the creativity of drones wrapped around their machines, doing piece work.

My parents also never spoke of their bodies or appearances as anything but the mules that drove the work load, although my mother had her hair done once a week, sprayed and lacquered. My father laughed at men who styled their hair, ones who did not visit actual barbers, believing it an offense to one’s manhood. But she always looked nice and my father would compliment her. She dressed very practically, rarely in pants until she was older, reveling in the freedom from stockings and garter belts. Yet, even prostrate, practically comatose in his final hospital days, my father’s eyes would follow my mother around the room, approvingly savouring her freshly washed demeanour.

Once she had bursitis- likely pulling her shoulder when she, a mere 100 pounds, carried my father’s heavy equipment or televisions in from the car as he possessed no power in his legs. For the most part, neither of them complained of aches and pains. My father had experienced such searing pain as he succumbed to polio at Riverdale hospital that he confided that he willed the pain into the night table. It was excruciating. He dragged one foot ahead of the other, Sisyphusian, his life’s philosophy unspoken but emphatically conveyed to my sister and myself: keep on going.

Physical effort was difficult for someone in his condition. He resented being labeled crippled, much preferring the term “ handicapped’ as a golfer might be, but not a handsome man like himself who stood a proud 6 feet.

Once when my husband and I took him to the CNE (Canadian National Exhibition), he asked us to wait while he visited the men’s room. It seemed as if he was taking a very long time. Only then did we notice that he had had to climb up three flights of steep stairs and then back down again. Not much different than scaling Manchu Picchu for able-bodies persons. He did not complain, doggedly accepting while resenting this was the fate cast him. Fortunately? there were side rails so he could drag the heavy crutches along with him. No broken down curbs or accessibility washrooms back then. But I absorbed his living mantra: put one foot in front of the other and keep on going.

Having fallen out of bed the first night home from the isolation hospital and needing to be hoisted back, he told my mother he wished he would have died. Somehow the two of them trudged on. Much later, he would somehow get himself to Sunnybrook’s pool where a contraption lowered and raised him into the pool there. He did love swimming where at least he could stand free and without his hated supports. He’d laugh as he swam with the grandkids in the small pool he had designed for their house years later, calling out to the grandkids as he managed to chase them :that he was the big fish or shark. They laughed and played along. He was happy.

Still that generation, by and large,did not indulge their bodily concerns. My parents understood that life was hard and told themselves: get on with it- in rain, and snow and slippery surfaces, bodies sore, painful and throbbing. No matter the obstacles.I suppose in the past, people merely accepted the physical pain, plodded on and felt it was their due to suffer as generations before appeared to have also persisted in silence, with perhaps a small, wealthy handful, visiting chiropractors and knowing how to soothe that uncomfortable knee, painful shoulder or that more than troublesome pinch in the hip joint.

Today you rarely meet someone without an issue that revolves around their body, usually a back complaint. I have three herniated discs, no doubt incurred by an uneven gait and a wild ride down the Truckee River in Lake Tahoe, Nevada. So I personally know the torments of back pain. Recently I encountered a dentist whose twisted stance over his patients for so many years has resulted in a back that must be shot up with epidurals and will eventually result in surgical procedures. He too comes regularly to Pilates classes. Ah, the relief.

I cringe to remember myself instructing at Vic Tanney’s in the 60’s where I put people on a vibrating belt that jiggled their fat. I knew nothing about physiology of the body or kinasthetics. I was a pretty girl in a sparkly tunic, smiling and encouraging unhealthy people to stay with their program. After work, I would visit Sutton Place’s coffee shop for a chocolate soda.

In many ways, although I’ld bet my grandparents and parents would disagree, things are better and improved today. An awareness of our aches and pains has sparked an industry of real sportsclubs, massage therapists, acupuncturists,caring Pilates and osteopathic professionals who through education and course have learned how to treat or at least ameliorate the ravages of the work day. Classes are part of our routines and we miss them when a class or appointment needs to be cancelled.

Today many boomers still do endure; however, many make attempts to find the person or people who will aid in easing the agony of their aches. For me, it was five long years at Pilates to begin to tame those discs that caused me to lie flat on the floor after teaching a full day. Thank goodness no university girl ever put me through the paces that would have further damaged the disks. When I mutter about my back, I sometimes think of my father, his struggle to literally propel one foot before the other and how he and my mother made a life that continued on in spite of all its rigours.

The week of an ordinary boomer: December 2-6, 2013

 

Monday

 

  • It’s my regular oil painting class. When I left work at the College, I began to paint using acrylics so finally decided to experiment with oils. You can begin to understand the deep refraction of light in Vermeer’s paintings in say, The Girl with the Pearl Earrings or Rembrandt’s The Night Watch , that inner glow quality. I’m just mucking about, but except for the spirits that are used to clean or diffuse the paint, I actually prefer oil. At present I’m reading The Art Forger by B.A. Shapero in which the protagonist uses modern but undetectable techniques to reproduce Degas’ After the Bath.
  • Haven’t made any new friends in this class, but at least Celia, the teacher, is very competent and my first interaction with oil has produced some good work, copying Constable’s clouds-which I later use for a collage. Boomers are a funny lot as we, who in my case did teach art, know a little, but not nearly as much as specialists in certain fields so finding a teacher who adds but doesn’t bore you with stuff you all ready know, is tough. However, my passion is really figure drawing; however I intend to return again to TSA ( Toronto School of Art) which is a great place.
  • Grandchildren: received an emergency call that asked if I could pick up grandkids as their mum was sudden sickly and their dad, my handsome son, was in court. So lucky for me, I could. As it was the last night of Channukah and hadn’t been able to get together with the kids this year, I had the awesome experience of the oldest lighting candles. I must admit that I had been heartbroken not to have the little ones here to celebrate, and observe their faces. Lit candles possess that magic and children associate the experience with birthday cakes, candles and presents, hopefully making happy memories. My father once shared that he could not fathom why he loved his grandchildren so much, as they were not his. A person not prone to giving voice to his emotions, he expressed to me, his amazement at the depth of his deep feeling.
  • Others in my generation are often on call for grandkids, not just in emergencies, but doing what I do, on a regular basis: which is having the oldest for fun and supper on Thursdays. I’ve become part of his regular schedule as I pick him up from daycare.. Howard and I adore the grandchildren and all boomers will agree that it is truly a blessing to be given an opportunity to be less driven, and with more time( at least me) to just enjoy our treasures without the stresses that accompany being parents.

 

 

Tuesday

 

  • Unfortunately I discover that an aching tooth has a crack so the tooth, a former victim of root control has to come out. The good news (I hope) besides the whooping cost of extraction, implant and crown is that the periodontist is gentle and works with minimum of providing pain. I’m wondering if the former gold cap( later, I find it is only porcelain so unusable) that was on the bloody tooth can be recycled. Interestingly, boomers teeth before fluoride were full of huge fillings: fillings that were done, in my case, without freezing as my father decreed that freezing was as painful as the dental work so not necessary. Sure thing. NOT. “Now, now, Patsy”, kindly Dr. Mueller would say as he shook his head in disbelief at the craters in my mouth. In any case, a hidden olive pit at an upscale restaurant cracked the tooth that triggered the worst pain ( way beyond childbirth). Oh well, there is no going back.
  • Lunch with a former friend was also quite painless. Although I have known C. for most of my life and introduced her to both of her husbands, I decided on a parting of ways about 5 years ago, but as she sent a note when my mother passed away, I wanted to thank her in person. I thought she was being careful: not too dogmatic. We reconnected on a variety of levels; deteriorating backs; ballet; grandkids; condo thoughts; book groups: all the domain of babyboomers. So we shall see if that goes anywhere. It feels better to end relationships on a better note, if possible.
  • Received an email from a friend in Vienna, another one with whom I had lost touch. We met during our art history days at UofT, but she had to return to Austria with infrequent trips back here. I wonder how her life might have turned out had she stayed: as she was unable to work with her “thesis fathers” and was frustrated by the attitudes towards women in Austria; she was divorced by her husband, but, unlike the ex-friend above, was so positive towards every aspect of life.

 

Wednesday

 

  • Shopping at Yorkdale as I hadn’t been in quite awhile. Now that I no longer work at Bloor and Church, there is little need to got down there( except for lunch with number #1 daughter or to have my hair coloured). Couldn’t find a specific handcream I wanted, but later discovered it on line, but spent way too much time trying to do the “checkout” to Canada-which it would not do. In spite of being professionally competent at work on computers, there are acts I cannot perform and that makes me furious. People always have said I should be hired by computer companies to make things disappear as I seem to possess this talent. Grrrrr.
  • What I did find shopping for one of my grandsons was The Little Prince, the friendship mantra of my university days, ironically associated with the ex-friend with whom I had lunch. I loved the phrase: What is essential is invisible to the eye- from the book. Back in high school, Forest Hill boys would overlook me, little flash, no money, no country club connections, glasses… Once at university and knowing how to put myself together, my mission was to be dated by as many of those fellows as possible (who did not recognize the former me) and mercilessly dump them, thus taking revenge. I was the same person inside, just composed slightly differently on the outside. Ha.
  • Another emergency call to pick up grandkid #2. Again, lucky I could as this is also a delightful little guy. Put out some play dough, find the old red table and chairs my kids used, make sure I have healthy food available and get an extra desert treat. When his dad, my son, picks him up, I see how exhausted he is; however, excellent press on the inquest he is working on will buoy him up. The inquest involves a child starved to death in his grandparents’ care. One wonders how such an act is possible. And of course, I worry about the PTS on my son. He says he has been stuffing his boys with very rich milkshakes. What a fine man J. is: at work and at home with the boys. I am proud.
  • Saw the documentary at Doc Soup The United States of Amnesia that did a great overview of Gore Vidal’s life. So irreverent, witty and right-on for American politics. Interestingly my husband observed we did not see any emotion on Vidal’s face, even having to depart his incredible home in Ravello, Italy or standing beside the grave of his companion Howard Auster. The interchanges between Vidal and William F. Buckley were brilliant. Again my husband noted that we have no such commentators today, only talk-show hosts. How true.

 

Thursday

 

  • Regular Pilates and dash to figure drawing class. Lately I wait as long as I can before dashing off to class. It is comforting to see all the old ladies there, so vibrant and quietly working. The model was skeletal thin but elegant with pearls. I love to see the bones beneath the skin. She might have been a fashion model and the pink chenille bathrobe she wore during break seemed just right. As I left early- as I always do to get my grandson- my 90 year old friend stopped me and suggested I call her up during the holidays. I laughed to myself- me and a 90 year old palling around.
  • My grandson is my treat on Thursdays. Likely because I had promised him something “interesting”, I got him out of daycare fairly easily. Usually we have to stop at about 3 rooms for teacher hugs. On the boards in the hall, he looked for samples of his work, and I noticed they drawings:” taking a line for a walk”. I explained to him it was artist, Paul Klee who had used that expression and whenever we pick up a pencil and draw or print, we are taking a line for a walk. This idea fascinated his brilliant 5 year old mind and for the rest of the drive to my house, we discoursed on the topic.
  • I had bought a large wooden nutcracker for him to paint and had set out my acrylics for him along with sprinkles and paste. I said, “When you are older, I’ll take you to the Nutcracker ballet.” He explained his class had all ready heard the music and seen it at school! Wowee.I got the feeling he was not terribly impressed at my suggestion; however, when the paint dried and we put a pistachio in The Nutcracker’s mouth, he was in deed impressed.
  • I had bought The Little Prince but had forgotten how elevated the story was so I had to improvise, and alter the language somewhat for him. I was pleased –in spite of my fumbling reading –he remained interested. Then Howard had brought home an amaryllis to plant so they did that together. What a joy he is
  • Sad notes as my number #2 daughter wrote that a friend’s sister-in-law “ has almost ended her journey” and requires storybooks to explain to her 3 year old daughter about death. Daughter #2’s doctoral thesis and her life’s work deal with the aftermath of childhood death. Such terrible sadness for a child: not to just lose your mother, but to never really know her; perhaps deep the child’s brain, there will be a memory of touch, warmth, kindness and mother love. And for the mother, to miss all the growth and development of her child. It is unbearable pain. Howard’s sister also lost their father, also, at age 3. As their mother totters at the edge of dementia at age 91, his sister must be terrified to lose the only real parent she has ever known.
  • Then to hear of Nelson Mandela’s passing and to reflect on what one single person can do.

 

Friday

 

  • Somewhat an iconic week filled with the usual events such as classes, grandparenting, conversing with old friends, dealing with issues of the body, yet extraordinary with news of the death of a beloved young woman and the indestructible Madiba. Stephen Lewis in the Star reminisced about the man and his bride ,Grace Machel. Lewis spoke of how Mandela slumped when she left the room and came back to life when she re-entered. Those human moments when we touch and allow ourselves to be touched by a person: those everyday events that hold such intense meaning. The number of people Mandela has touched is infinite.

 

As I review this during the week of April before I set it to publish, I reflect on how typical my entrees are; the ordinary and extraordinary, Mandela, sit side by side. This week, Jim Flaherty suddenly passed away too. Life is truly a pair of ducks.

A Ramble on a Pair of Ducks

A Ramble on a Pair of Ducks

“Step on a crack, break your mother’s back”, we used to shout as we sprang over cracks in the sidewalk en route to school. We carried furry and highly- coloured rabbit’s feet for luck or special talisman into exams, seriously pretending we possessed lucky tokens to change or improve our luck.

Even now, as grownups, we have those rituals that will protect us from evil or make our passages safer from downfall: a certain shirt; a necklace: a tiny action figure
saved from childhood. My sister carries my mother’s hairbrush in her purse. Yet, most of us know these are empty traditions that no longer satisfy our childish belief that we can affect and change our fates. Yet, we continue to want to believe fiercely that we can control our lives and that good boys and girls will be successful and Santa will in deed reward us with treats.

I should have known better when I hung a sock and received a lump of coal at Christmas time one year, obviously influenced by the saccharin stories on television and the goopy songs that promised twinkling toys. Perhaps it was my parents’ strange and ironic humour to teach: that a Jewish girl should not expect gifts from a mythic deity, even if he had human whiskers and merry chatty elves in pointy hats.

So it seems that my worldview has tottered between a lusty excitement of something magical and wonderful to downright despair that life kicks you in the butt even when your expectations are pure and you do really try. And even when you are bubbling with joy, a speck of dirt invades your contact lens and makes you cry tears of pain, and causes you to conclude that inevitably things will not turn out as you had passionately hoped.

The Existentialists supported a “sense of disorientation and confusion in the face of an apparently meaningless or absurd world” ( See Robert C. Solomon, Existentialism (McGraw-Hill, 1974, pp. 1–2) and in the 70’s the popular view held that not to choose was also to choose: being stoic did not mean you had not acted. We were overfed Albert Camus’ dark tale of The Stranger in French and English, his aloofness of non-feeling, that his knowledge that he did not belong and his resultant coldness even in the face of his mother’s death culminated perhaps into a post-modern attitude of isolationism. In the face of absurdity and fear of falling, do we not clutch towards superstitions and ways to hold on?

At my first job teaching in the Jane Finch corridor, I recall a gathering in the cramped space of the English office and someone announcing, “It’s a pair of ducks”.

“What”, I queried, even before the need of hearing aids. “ A para-ah- dux, a paradox, a PARADOX”.

Uh-huh, my twenty-one year old mind surmised, sure.

But throughout my life, I have come to realize, that yes, in deed, everything is in deed, a paradox. In other words, there are two, or more likely, many sides to every story or event. Most, not even matching.

As a follower of Post-modernism, I can concur, that celebrating only your own tribe, group, personal religion or preferences may be a great thing for remaining insular and uninvolved in matters beyond your own particular realm; however, at the same time, the present mantra that is preached lauds collaboration, group work, diversity, getting together, empathy of others’ views. How can those two diametrically opposing views co-exist? Impossible? Even absurd?

Similarly in education, child-centred learning, Gardner’s multiple intelligences ( in spite of Sacherin Star’s mislabeling- See earlier blog), seem to sit rather uncomfortably with multiple choice testing that requires kiddies to select one right answer on the standardized tests administered like clockwork at precisely prescribed times of the year.

For me, just providing choice opens an exquisite realm of possibilities that twists and turns on its head that there is ONLY one way of answering a question. Some illogical conclusions might herald validity- at least in my world. I suppose that is the world where dogs can fly and people live happily ever after. I believe there is never only one answer. Even my eldest daughter’s best friend a PH.D in astrophysics who measured the distance between stars speculated on multiple propositions. I’m wondering if her decision to leave science and follow Swing Dancing was caused by the insistence of someone to provide a finite number of miles.

However, I don’t buy that school success and childhood brilliance reside in the camp of multiple choices where only one correct response sounds the bell of genius. I honestly believe in the expression of knowledge in a variety of ways, not pigeonholed by statistics that do disservice to what lifelong learning is and should be.

I think of my early learning at West Prep and a grade one teacher ironically named Miss Young in her brown oxfords, metal-rimmed glasses who raked my curly head with her nails, showering such disapproval on me, that even the act of cutting out green leaves in a specific shape and size seized me with terror. To this day, I remember the name “Michael Cooper” who surreptiously came to my rescue. Years later when I strode into an American Express in Denmark and spied him, I raced over to thank him. He looked at me as if I were crazy but even as I write this 6o years later, I viscerally relive the terror of performing that incorrect act : of being wrong. Perhaps if I had kept a rabbit’s foot nearby, stroked it, murmured an occult saying, I would have calmed myself and been able to conquer the simple task required of the class of five year olds.

In contrast to that terror, I also recall a month that my younger daughter spent at Camp Interlochen in Michigan with a real science teacher and her joy. He must have been much like David Suzuki, albeit with whiskers and in khaki shorts for their science was one of discovery: building bird cages, gently separating thrush to come upon duck eggs, scooping handfuls of earth to dislodge worms and ants. Not a matter of rights and wrongs, yes or no, or not just one correct interpretation. A science of exploration and discovery and visible truths, opening up holes in the darkness of the pond.

At my child’s grandson’s daycare several weeks ago, I overhear the ECE respond to the child’s answer by asking “ What is your hypothesis?” and I wanted to say to Rob, “ Yes, yes, YES”. Continue to encourage him to observe, think for himself, come to his conclusions through asking, reflecting, measuring, commanding diverse tools…” I hope he could see my delight in his approach.

So having- as I often do- diverted from my discussion here in my blog, I now return to the plaguing topic of superstitions. And yet, a desire to believe beyond ourselves in something greater or magical sometimes does manage to get us through life’s trials. As we are only tiny specks in the massive cosmos, how can we say we know everything about everything. Which brings me to my hidden query:

With my mother passing away several months ago, the rabbi who attended her burial recommended a book entitled Does the Spirit Survive by Rabbi Eli Spitz. Spitz examines biblical sources, neardeath experiences (NDE), hypnoses, and his own incredible audience with a medium. Interestingly, Spitz relates that there are Jewish groups who did and do believe in reincarnation and he provides authorities who list the stages through which one passes, also demurring that many of the great religions accept reincarnation of the soul. What I appreciate about Spitz is his attitude towards his topic- which is skeptical- but ends in acknowledging that if such beliefs encourage “good deaths” or enable people to overcome fears or neuroses, he is supportive. I feel similarly.

Speak to your friends and inevitably someone you know will recount an event that fulfills such thinking. One friend recently recounted that as she and her neighbor sat talking about the neighbour’s deceased husband, a sudden gust of wind shook the nearby trees and they were blanketed in cloaks of flowers. Perhaps you sneer and mouth the words, “ Coincidence”. For the widow, there were important associations.

My daughter who has researched NDEs had a conversation with a medium who said that my father had contacted her. About 50% of the information was incredibly correct. The medium identified my father had a lower body ailment. She said, “It feels like the lower part of his back and legs were affected. Trouble walking. Dragging feet”. My father had contracted polio at age 28. The medium also stated, “ He is showing me his sternum area, something not right with… the upper part. Liver? “Almost 20 years ago, my father had fallen and torn his spleen, and was wrongly diagnosed, dying of lymphoma.

She said, ”The letter M was surrounding him…” His beloved mother was named Molly, his disliked sister Marion…

Music, I hear Music… Classical music”, she continued.

My father’s work was in perfecting sound and he analyzed classical music.

However, there were many incorrect insights as well, the medium suggesting that “he held a positive attitude, reassuring others about life and its obstacles and hardship.” Not so and from the time he contracted polio ( perhaps earlier, I don’t know), he was bleak, introverted, sarcastic, hard, no fan to gardens or flowers as he suffered from hayfever and asthma.

Still, the reading gives me some pause.

This weekend at Bryn Athyn College Dr. Eben Alexander, academic neurosurgeon for more than 25 years with work that includes Brigham; Women’s and Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston will talk on his own NDE (Near Death Experiences) experiences and his awareness of an Afterlife. His book Proof of Heaven is riveting.

I hope my cynicism is proven wrong and there are things we cannot fathom or understand with our limited human minds: that angels do wrap their gossamer wings around us and every once in a while touch us, heal us and turn lumps of coal into glittering stars. Still the child scowling in disappointment but holding onto the possibilities that make life shine brighter.

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