What advice is useful and how do I decide how to use it?

Purchasing a kite
Purchasing a kite

My daughter Amelia calls over Skype from her apartment in rural Spain next to the Portuguese border. She is 23. “Look at this,” she says. The webcam displays a bandaged leg, a sprain resulting from playing rugby.

Amelia was born two months early in the D.C. hospital where President Ronald Reagan had been treated for gunshot wounds. Fortunately, Amelia was the second fattest baby in the preemie ward, first lying in her incubator between breast feeding, then one night forgetting to breathe.

[The librarian at the National Press Club helped me look up “sleep apnea” on the New York Times database; the Internet had not yet emerged for popular use.]

The apnea meant that upon hospital discharge for nearly a year Amelia was attached to a heart monitor, a bulky contraption that stopped her mother’s heart and mine whenever a false alarm went off as it did with some regularity.

Last year, I told Amelia I had finally forgiven her for being born early. I am not sure it is true. I am not sure whether I am joking when I say this. Certainly, I will never forget the fear at the time. Did I require advice for the fear? Would I have known what to do with good advice if offered?

There is strong sense of relief I feel now knowing my once premature baby plays rugby. Naturally, there is a part of me that wants to say after the fact, “You idiot don’t you know you can get hurt playing rugby?”


Amelia appears at the end of a video (no longer available) about her roller derby team.


Caution requires I abandon the pretense of spontaneity and nonchalance intended (or more accurately not-intended) to characterize these waiting –for-the-pathologist postings in recognition of a higher power. Sibling rivalry. I expect God created sibling rivalry on the Sixth Day of Creation (Friday), but I wish he had not done so.

Readers to this blog cannot help but notice a photograph of my elder daughter Joanna in her mother’s beautiful wedding dress. [Both my oncologist and psychiatrist attended my wedding to Diana.]

In October, I gave Joanna away in marriage to Jade Phillips riding her down the aisle in the power chair I had rented for the occasion.


The rules require I mention Joanna first before writing about her sister—rules established to provide harmony which each of my daughters break with impunity. Amelia, for example, has been known to issue at the dinner table the cunningly malicious lie, “Of course, I am Daddy’s favorite daughter.”

I have violated the sibling rivalry rules here for a variety of reasons.

  1. Joanna has already given me advice in the form of a ukase: “Dad, I know you won’t die because given all you have survived nothing can kill you.” I reject this advice even though I suspect despite my current pessimistic leanings she may be right. As Helen Reddy said, “My friends call me Cleopatra because I am the queen of Denial.”
  2. Amelia does not give advice. She listens. As I watch her listening to the darkness of my appraisal, I feel bad. Should I lie to avoid pain or tell the truth and thus inflict it?
  3. I require Amelia’s help for my column for e-architect. In my most recent column I wrote: “Future columns will also contain: My daughter Amelia’s quest for a photograph and perhaps even a video of Thom Mayne’s Spanish railroad station under construction near the Portuguese border.”

Thom Mayne’s BIM compliant Cooper Union appears at the end of the video.

So far, fear has paralyzed me from thinking about anything but doom and gloom. I bought a kite recently, but have not released it into the air. My addiction to Netflix videos has stopped giving me pleasure or even momentary distraction. [I highly recommend the Australian television series “Rake.”] What I grandiosely refer to as “my life’s work” namely adequate housing for the elderly and disabled appears to have been tabled.


I will return to architect Thom Mayne’s railroad station another time. Yes,  keep you in suspense except to note or perhaps hope that I am allowing optimism to creep into my consciousness.

Instead, I will end this posting with an answer to the question on advice. The only advice that has any meaning for me must come from within. My friend David Phillips called yesterday expressing frustration that the good advice he is capable of giving me, he had already given me before. I have known David a long time.

We met in 1965 at the bowling alley at Columbia College and over the years he has provided a lot of good advice, some of which I followed. He has also given me bad advice, some of which I followed. His current advice is excellent.

See the Buddhism section of David’s religion autobiography chapter http://www.radbash.com/pdfs/autobiography/018_Religion.pdf.

David expressed frustration that no advice he could offer provided comfort. I replied that for the immediate crisis simply caring is a comfort.

In my next posting:

  • Will, as promised, I answer the question: Is this period of waiting one of special significance where I decide the direction my life will take? [Double question mark.]
  • Will I digress and discuss Amelia’s quest to photograph a railroad station that has not been built yet?
  • William James said, “The reason that we pray is simply because we cannot help praying.” Who knows what will come next?

Amelia was born a year after I completed my second round of radiation treatment. At the conclusion of treatment, the technician gave me the lead shield that had protected my penis and testicles so I could have children. I suspect that somewhere that heavy object is being used as a paperweight.

When Joanna was born six years earlier, before taking her home, her mother and I detoured to the radiation treatment room where I had experienced the worst hell of my existence. I showed off my new baby to the patients waiting for treatment and to the technicians who had saved my life.

–Joel Solkoff

Copyright 2014© by Joel Solkoff. All rights reserved.