Why Not To Be A Doctor Or Spock –  A Prose Poem

When as a 36 year old doctor I had severe chronic back pain, Dr John Sarno took me on a journey of recalling all my childhood’s pain. The rain of old memory, cured my back pain by allowing my life’ new memory to peacefully reign. You’ll understand sooner or later, perhaps in this story.

baby-1178539_1920Remembering birth was tough, but time before it was easy. Life in the 1700’s was magnificent but that came from past life regression and this story is not about that journey, but the one after my current birth, not before. I never did manage to remember this more recent birth, perhaps because I really don’t care to or maybe can’t. I do recall however being about age one. It’s not that interesting other than for its wordless description. So I will save you a long recital by telling you it was about cycles. I recall the cycles of the sun behind my crib as day came and went through the window behind where I slept (I slept through most of it). The next interesting thing, perhaps from your viewpoint, was the periodic visitation of floating faces that made cooing noises. I knew they were “nice” as I could feel their happy thoughts. When I could stay awake, seeing them was entertaining.  By the next year, I now knew they were “people” and that with gifts of food or lack of care their visits seemed to bring joy or fear.

When I was about three sitting on the basement floor, I watched my sister assemble a puzzle and for the first time really knew disappointment. I insisted on trying but when I could not do it my mother laughed; it was the first time I ever felt abashed. I did not understand that my sister being nearly twice my age had an advantage. How I “viewed”my mother’s laugh shaped who I am forever – competitive, but mostly with myself. Mom was very creative and to this I was native. There was little TV, just building creative toys and dreams for me.

In kindergarten, the teacher told us to put on reindeer hats and parade in a circle to music and entertain our parents. I refused her, asking why I should do this?  She just got mad thinking that I dared need a reason! From then on I looked at her with derision for her very poor emotional decision. This event that day made me a father to Spock,  emotion free as a rock; though I suspect he was conceived in my mother’s laugh.  We were one and the same with just my name. 

In high school and college, sex I had to acknowledge; but joy for me was being so high on the curve that everyone else would fail. Calculus, Chemistry, Biology all the sciences, her laugh long ago determined how far I would go to leave them all in the dust. 

doctor-2337835_1920Fifty years later having joyfully invented a branch of Holistic Medicine, my patient’s pain had become dark rain. A body cooked long round the spit of the sun finally begins to fail, it ceases to run. My patients grew, old my joy grew cold, for even years after I could still hear her laughter.  It was time to leave!  After 45 years I’d earned that reprieve.

Here in Florida I met a lady who’d been my best friend 40 years ago when I had been painfully divorced.  Her eyes were failing and her surgeons flailing. I volunteered my services for a guided tour that the doctor, not Spock, should have known to abhor. Surgeons well selected, care well directed. But, years of life predicted age could not be interdicted.  Now I remember the reason to retire, watching life end inspires no great desire.


But being a friend before life’s end is a gift of value that laughter can’t devalue.  As I sit here this morning enjoying the sun, I’m glad that from other’s pain, I chose not to run.  I cannot stop the end of life but with love and caring there is great opportunity for preparing.  

For much of my life I’m again married to a wife, who had been to many daring to be selflessly caring. Now I’m inspired, to be so desired, life’s too short to stay retired. Care given to a friend does spiritually help them mend. Her laughter faded in the ever after. 


Feelings, Friends, Fancy And Love

deathofafriend I wonder if as you reach your late 60’s you start to think more about “feelings” and less from your head?  My second optician, who was a friend for 35 years, and 10 years younger than me, just died of cancer tonight.  I knew it was coming but it is still surrealistic. I am pondering lots more, as I become more conscious of my age and the loss of friends, if I made good decisions? I did in being his friend and am thankful he was mine.
     We all make decisions where our head overrules our heart and I wonder if that is the best we can do?  I have always believed it but began to doubt it 20 or 30 years later. Not that I know that the alternative was better. I just wondered,  what if?
I am experimenting with communicating, in writing, more from my heart and less from my head.  It has made me think a lot more about the touching emails, I have received over the years from friends,  both men and women.  I wrote an essay on feelings,  as experienced by a long married man, seeing his wife leaving for a 5 day trip to Fla  to do some work at their vacation home. It was an attempt at more feelings and less intellectualism but it ended up being both.  I thought it was an honest projection of what it might be like and what the implications are.  I have been divorced once and married now twice so I have learned something, I hope.
A week after writing the essay,  I was thinking about an email from an old college girl friend (45 years ago) who said dating in the 60'sshe was trying to share more of her feelings with old friends but not ready to do so yet.  Then thinking about her email comment,  I looked at the one picture I have of her, at that age, and tried to recall if she looked like that.  On my computer,  I tried to enhance it to look more like what my memory struggled to recall.  It took about 20 minutes and then I went to sleep, unsatisfied with my foggy memory and the still somewhat unfamiliar photo.
I had a lot of interesting dreams that night. I saw, symbolically,  the relationship I had with this pretty red haired lady, and an  “old girl friend” that I had dated a bit before meeting my wife.  There was a third one too but, I cannot recall who the third one was as it was a dream state. As a result of these symbolic images, I now better understand my feelings for all of them, in the past and now in the present.
Despite what some people claim,  I find that it is hard to believe that, years later,  you don’t still love the people you have truly loved.  I suspect that deep in my heart I still love them as much as I did then.  What is interesting is that I can be truly be happy for them being with the partners they chose,  which I could not have felt for them years ago.  It is now like being their brother rather than a lover.  Would you not be happy for your sister if she married someone perfect for her? Well, that is my experience or so I think it is.
There is also the lady I left a year before I met my wife.  It is fascinating to me that I made the right intellectual decision leaving her.  But like my college girl friend, she was my best friend in a time when I needed a special friend.  I talked to her by phone a few times months ago and I tried to learn why she looks at life so differently than I do. That was of course why I left her. I mention her in my previous essay above as she was the lady who was in real estate. She did not believe in marriage commitments and I did and still do.
I think I have always been a bit of a “boring” intellectual, who finds work, books, and time alone to learn, great fun while people were more of a  challenge, as few shared my  interests. I have gotten better however from a diversion in life spent selling products almost door to door, for 5 years. I learned to “be” more relatable and even enjoy almost anyone I meet, at least for short time spans.
  memoriesIt is an interesting time in my life, a time to try to understand “relationships.”  I am sure I will not ever understand relationships but I will understand more about them. I have never valued money greatly. I did not know until recently what I really valued.  You cannot take money with you,  but I believe you can take memories you are proud of and happy with.  I will joyously celebrate that wealth which I have acquired.

Your Soul Or Your “Replay” Button!

It was about 15 years ago, in a near blizzard, that my wife, I and our two small puppies (my wife’s children) were driving down Rt 22 south toward Pawling NY.  The digital dashboard on my Cadillac Deville began to pantomime the car’s slow death by no-gas.  I had seen this coming but each gas station I passed had closed early because of the storm.  Suddenly an “idiot light”, I had never seen,  shouted  loudly from my, now neon,  flashing dashboard.  It said,  ‘Short Range” over and over!   It was describing the end of the numerical countdown snowstormthat had sped my heart up.  The upcoming gas station was closed and my braking to see the sign started my car sliding. I quickly recovered and began frantically praying as we headed towards Pawling.  I knew God could hear one prayer as well as a thousand repetitions but I needed a mantra to calm my growing apprehensions.

My headlights had become cones of illuminated snow as I saw the signs for a  gas station in Patterson, that had a brightly lit sign.  I pulled in to the vacant pumps, pressed the gas release button on my dash and hopped out gleefully to fill my tank.

As I approached the car with the fuel gun in hand, I noted that the fueling door was closed!  I thumbed the button in the car repeatedly but the door stayed shut.  Just then I noted the lights being turned out in the station office and my heart again began to race.  I tried prying the door open with my finger and a silver quarter from my pocket to no avail.  A teenager came out of the station to tell me what I knew, the station was closing.  I asked for help and he said, he did not know how to help.  He then told me his mom was picking him up in a few  minutes and I had to complete my purchase now!

I explained my situation, the wife, dogs, blizzard and warning light but his eyes were blank as if he had not heard me.  His ride pulled up slowly from the other direction and he said, ‘I have to close now!”  I repeated my concern and asked that he wait and help but his eyes remained nearly unfocused as if staring at a TV set. As I tried to pull some emergency release in the trunk.  the lights around me dimmed as he locked the ??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????station door.  As if I was not there, he climbed into his warm awaiting car and drove off leaving us to become a ghostly memory fading in the heavy snow.  It then occurred to me, he had probably pushed the replay button in his mind and so our insignificant danger was reset and his mind’s conscience cleared.

I never got the door open and just had to pray my mantra all the way home. Fortunately the Cadillac designers had programmed a margin of error into the warning and we made it home, up the small mountain in Patterson NY.

The next day I called the owner of the station, whom I had never met. I explained my experience in that frightening stormy night. To my surprise I heard Dale Carnegie’s unknown brother express his concern and desire to compensate me any way possible for my challenge at his station.  He further explained how he would speak to the new hire and see that he understood what he had done so casually.  I then received a gift card in compensation by mail with a hand written note.  This was clearly a man I wanted to meet.  Despite the soulless child who closed the door in my face here was the antithesis in warm human form.  I did return to this gas station and get to know the owner.  I absolutely had to meet someone who could show so much warmth and concern for a stranger over nothing more than a cooper phone wire.  It turned out we are friends many years later.

Your soul or your replay button, could be a digital devils demand.  However there is a way to escape, books!  How do books prevent the death of a soul?  Think for a moment. When the new generation communicates by smart phone, computer, tablet, text, email or “face time”  how different is the experience from a video rotarygame?  How easily can the boundaries between the physical world and the imaginary one become blurred? When the young man left us so casually that evening, it occurred to me that he had simply pressed “REPLAY” in his mind and left without a concern for us.  Had he read books,  like Dale Carnegie’s, become involved in community service groups like Rotary, as the gas station owner was,  his “replay” button would have vanished, boundaries would be clear and the pain of others real.

In an era of replay buttons on every social media other than face to face communications, a book,  Dale Carnegie’s  “How To Win Friends and Influence People”  and a community service membership  card should be required of every growing child.   Not after they have committed a crime as a way of re-education and restitution but as part of the school curriculum when they are beginning to read to learn, in 3rd grade! Humanity can be great if we have a connection to our soul; but,  if it this connection is served by the “replay” button,  it may never be regained again.


What If We All Did This?

Yesterday I was talking on the cell to my daughter who lives in Fla.  She always seems to be going shopping to a food store when I call her.  This time she claimed she was not, but it was not 100% accurate.   I found out she was going to a dollar store where she could find lots of great buys on inexpensive canned, meat, chicken and veggies.Foodbox2

She and her husband, like most Americans,  have been hurt by the economy but they have not in anyway forgotten about how fortunate they are to be economically Okay. Between the two of them they have at least 6 different jobs or businesses they are running to be Okay but they never complain.  Instead they go every month to stores like this particular store and buy food that is canned and not perishable at great sales prices.  Then they pack them up in bags and keep them in their cars.  When they see a person who looks needy,  has a sign “willing to work for food,”  etc. they stop and give them a gift of food.  If  it is a person with children they give them several.

Many of us go on our way each day worrying about ourselves and our families.  It is easy to forget about what is out of sight. I was very proud of my daughter for having a plan of action to not forget, a plan of action that she has carried out for a long time, a plan of giving back for God’s gifts.

What I was most proud of her for,  was her ethics, compassion and effort.  If the CEO’s of  most of corporate America had an ounce of her humanity in their souls, America would not be where it is.  If congressmen cared about people as she does, rather than their “fat” lifetime benefits and re-election, we would not be where we are today.  We would be where we were when my dad and your dad won world war II by caring enough to march into a hail of gunfire on Normandy.  They did this to free the world and protect us all from the tyrants that now are disguised as American Leaders.  No wonder Americans polled would rather have cockroaches in their house then congressmen.StatueLiberty

I have traveled around America when I was in sales for 5 years of my life.  America has great people, many who like my daughter care about others.  We do have hope for a recovery and a future. We just need to call in Orkin to get the vermin out of Washington, banks and corporations.  Then we can find people with souls, hearts and the connection to each other that inspired France to give us the lady of the harbor.


Buying Flowers For Mother’s Day

It was 5:35 pm on the Saturday night, just before Mother’s day. Being a mother, it was especially important to me that every local mom get a loving note and flowers from our store. As usual, the lines of young adults and high school children at our cash register had been unending since early this morning.  This was despite the fact that today had been an unusually hot day for May.  We had misted the flowers and watered the plants twice today, but  by this evening  many were drooping and looking as tired as we were.  It was probably the busiest day before Mother’s Day, that we had ever had at the the Garden Center.  I had one mothersdaything on my mind, a quick ride home to a gin and tonic, my half read novel and sharing the couch with my dog,  Mitzy. Planning this quick departure to unknot my stomach,  I had let my  glassy eyed staff leave 10 minutes ago.  I had just reached for the light switch,  when I heard frantic pounding on my front glass door.  Walking to the frosted glass door, I could see the image of a teenage boy’s hand and nose pressed to the door trying to see in.   I really did not want to open the door but something inside made me do it.

I opened the door  just enough to let him speak but also let him know we were closed.  I was tried of  listening to people tell me how the ribbons or bows were not the colors they had ordered…until I showed them the sample they had left and the ones we had used which matched flawlessly.  I did not want to hear even one more story.

The young man was about 16 years old, with big brown puppy dog eyes and a forlorn expression.  He said, “I need to get some flowers for my mom and grandma!  Can you please help me?”

It had been a long day, so my patience was more than at end.  I looked him right in the eyes and vented much of my tension from the day loudly saying, “Our store is closed. You waited till the end of the day to consider buying some flowers for the mother and grandmother who have spent their lives raising you!  This was the best you could do? Run out at the end of the day to find something that might be left  over as your afterthought to all they have given you!  How dare you treat them with such disregard!  Some day they will be gone and you will not have an opportunity to thank them for all they have sacrificed for you. Come in here now and I will find something for you!  He was now a bit bent over by the heat of my attack and his big eyes seemed much smaller.  However he followed instructions as I flipped on the front room lights. I said, “Young man,  how much money do you have to spend?  He reached in his pocket and came up with some bills and change and dropped every last cent he had on the counter, meekly arranging them in order to try and mollify my furor.   I went behind the counter and grabbed a few bunches of  prearranged flowers  and wrapped them in some pretty green floral paper.  I handed him two cards and a pen as I wrote a receipt and gave him a few coins change.  He was quite  happy to  look away from my stern expression  and fill out the cards.  He was gone a few moments later.

Time flies and a year had past.  It was 9:00 am the day just before Mother’s day.  I opened the front door and my staff was ready to greet the crowds that had already started to fill our parking lot.  As I walked behind the counter to get some bags, I felt a strong tap on my arm.  I looked over to see a young man with big brown puppy dog eyes looking at me.  He smiled and said, “Do you remember me?”

I said, “I am sorry but I cannot say that I do.”    He said, “Last year you helped me understand how important my parents are to me, when you let me to get some flowers for them just after you closed. This year I wanted to be the first in line, so I could get them something really special.  Thank you for having cared enough to stay late last year and help me!


The story is fictional but the experience true as shared by a patient who was a florist near my office for many years.   Thanks Rosemary!

Proud To Be An American

Last year during Christmas, when we were in the third year of our struggles with recession.  I went to put money into the Salvation Army Kettle, at a local supermarket,  and could barely stuff in the bills because it was so full!  I was proud of my community and the people who make America great,  all of us “little”  people.

Today a few weeks before Christmas,  I was shopping at Hannaford’s  Supermarket,  now in the 4th year of the longest recession I have ever been through.  My community has not been spared in any magical way;  however, the hearts of the people who are my neighbors have not grown cold from winter or the pain of financial drain.  Here is the phone picture I took before leaving:

This wall of food gift boxes is created of the  donations from shoppers who purchased this gift for an

Food Gifts IMG_20121209_144953

unknown family who might need help this season.  There is over $3,000.00 in gifts for needy families and it is just starting to grow!  We have two more weeks before Christmas and many other supermarkets doing the same thing.  I hope to see the whole front window blocked out with gifts of love and charity before Christmas and I bet it will be!  Putnam county is a great place to live!

Janr Ssor