Tag Archives: Joanna Solkoff

My younger child Amelia, English teacher living in Spain (and amateur roller derby star) is engaged to be married

January 17, 2017 is an appropriate date to announce the engagement of Amelia Altalena Solkoff to Javier Blanco.

The date marks the 1925 birthday of Amelia’s late paternal grandmother Miriam Pell Schmerler zt”l who was close to Amelia and her sister Joanna.

Amelia teaches English in Pontevedra, Spain (on the Portuguese border) where she is also an enthusiastic member of the local roller derby and rugby teams. With the exception of brief visits to the United States, Amelia has lived in Spain for three years, previously residing in Pamplona as well as spending a summer working on farms in the Basque region and the Canary Islands.

Amelia Solkoff displays her engagement ring which Javier Blanco puts on her finger following (according to male chauvinist tradition) Javier request that I give him my daughter's hand in marriage. (Readers are requested to explain why it is her "hand " Javier requested rather than her left elbow or her right big toe.)
Amelia Solkoff displays her engagement ring which Javier Blanco puts on her finger following (according to male chauvinist tradition) Javier’s request that I give him my daughter’s hand in marriage. (Readers are requested to explain why it is her “hand ” Javier requested rather than her left elbow or her right big toe.)

Javier Blanco is a sergeant in the Spanish army. The couple met in Javier’s hometown of Pontevedra where his mother and brother reside. Javier and Amelia currently live in Toledo.

The couple plan to marry in Pontevedra or nearby during the summer of 2016. The closest airport is Vigo, the fastest growing town in Spain. [Editorial note: Plans schmans. The couple married in Chapel Hill, North Carolina on August 6th. They honeymooned in Jamaica.]

Extensive additions, revisions, and amplification of Amelia and Javier’s engagement and marriage will appear on this site. Suffice it to say Amelia’s mother Diana Bass, sister Joanna, Joanna’s husband Jade and I are delighted.

I was present at the birth of both my daughters. I watched them grow up, receive an education, become employed and generally suck up a large portion of my energy (a process which continues to this day). Watching my daughters marry (when images of their birth continually flash through my mind) is a startling reality.

Especially mystifying to me are my daughters’ attraction to military men, each of whom I approve.

My primary hero is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. whose practice of non-violent resistance I have held up as an example to my daughters. I received conscientious objector status from my draft board during the Vietnam War which was an evil war. Perhaps, I have a recessive military gene. Go figure.

Javier plans to obtain a library card before getting married.

–30–

 

 

 

 

 

December motto plus optional isolation

CanceroustumorsurroundingrightkidneyDr. Jeniffer Simon, a caring and experienced urologist, Geissinger Medical Center, State College PA showed me on her computer this image–a cancerous tumor surrounding my right kidney, referring me to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. “Unless you have surgery quickly, you will be dead in 10 years.” The date: April 5, 2013, 4 P.M. We hugged; I cried.

The order of this posting (typically presented in a hodgepodge of disorder):

  1. Motto
  2. Paraplegia and the recollection of previous cancers
  3. The last part of cancer therapy
  4. Optional isolation
  5. Joanna’s wedding
  6. This I believe

Motto

Make haste slowly is the motto.

Gold coin Emperor Augustus (63 BC to 14 AD) minted to display the symbol for his motto: "Make haste slowly."
Gold coin Emperor Augustus (63 BC to 14 AD) minted to display the symbol for his motto: “Make haste slowly.”

I first came across this seemingly contradictory expression when trying to learn Latin: Festina lente.

Unless one is in a situation such as mine, Make haste slowly appears to make no sense.

Speed and slow are opposites.

The last part of cancer therapy

My situation comes at the end of a difficult time.

The time began in April when I was diagnosed with kidney cancer and reached medical optimism after I left my home in State College, PA where the expertise to save my life did not exist.

This is my first "step" in getting to New York.
My first “step” in getting to New York.

I was referred to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City—a five hour car ride away. On August 8th, Dr. Paul Russo removed the cancerous tumor, saved my right kidney, and essentially prevented me from dying of kidney cancer. It was a gift of 10 years.

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In The Canary Murder Case by S.S. Van Dine, Philo Vance—almost certainly the most obnoxious snob in the history of detective literature—is helping his friend the district attorney solve a difficult murder. The district attorney says, “’Well, well! So the case is settled! Now if you’ll but indicate which is the guilty one, I’ll arrest him at once, and return to my other duties.’”

“’You’re always in such haste,’ Vance lamented. “Why leap and run? The wisdom of the world’s philosophers is against it. Festina lente, says Caesar; or, as Rufus has it, Festinatio tarde est. And the Koran says quite frankly that haste is of the Devil. Shakespeare was constantly lamenting speed. ‘He tires that spurs too fast betimes.’”

Still from the 1929 film version of The Canary Murder Case
Still from the 1929 film version, The Canary Murder Case

Vance, whose name in 1927 became synonymous with private detective, goes on to quote Moliere, Chaucer and the Bible on the subject.

My energy level is sufficiently low and my acuity high enough I understand Vance’s point without citing the additional paragraph.

Paraplegia 

For the past 20 years, I have been a paraplegic unable even slowly “to leap and run.” Paradoxically, in high school I received a letter sweater for running 2 ½ miles regularly during cross-country competitions. My best record was clocked running two miles in less than 12 minutes, hardly the Olympics, but good enough for Cheltenham High School  in Wyncotte, PA.

Yes, I would like to leap and run. There are a lot of things I would like to do that I cannot.

What I want to do is live life to the full and in the process make a contribution along the path I have committed myself.

I certainly have done a lot of living in the past 20 years as a paraplegic. In one of my three trips across the United States from sea to shining sea, I took my battery-powered scooter and drove it around the rim of the Grand Canyon.

In California, I watched my elder daughter Joanna train a horse to jump a fence. As I watched, the horse did something amazing. After going over the fence for the first time, the horse did a double-take, shaking its head as if to say, “I do not believe I did that.” Joanna’s smile of accomplishment…

In Santa Cruz, one glorious day, Amelia my younger daughter and I boarded a ship and watched whales frolicking.

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Isadora Duncan
Isadora Duncan

For a while, I chose the Isadora Duncan School of Dance rather than rehabilitation–both dance and physical rehabilitation have become an essential part of my doxology.

The brilliant physical therapist Alicia J. Spence at State College's Phoenix Rehab begins; it is time for me to return to her.
The brilliant physical therapist Alicia J. Spence at State College’s Phoenix Rehab begins; it is time for me to return to her.

In the Silicon Valley, I wrote a technical manual for KLA-Tancor on inspecting silicon wafers for defects. Often, I scrubbed down, putting on a white gown and hat; wheeling into the clean room where my readers would be using the documentation.

The recollection of previous cancers

After radiation treatment for cancer, I fathered my two children, published three books, and loved and was loved in return.

The experience of having cancer twice, first at age 28 then at 42—treatment which burned my spine and made me unable to walk certainly slowed me down. It did not stop me. Nor has the experience of having cancer for the third time at age 65 stopped me.

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“The Roman historian Suetonius… tells that Augustus… thought nothing less becoming in a well-trained leader than haste and rashness, and, accordingly, favorite sayings of his were: ‘More haste, less speed’; ‘Better a safe commander than a bold’; and ‘That is done quickly enough which is done well enough.'”

Wikipedia continues, “Gold coins were minted for Augustus which bore the image of a crab and a butterfly, which was considered to be emblematic of the adage. Other pairings used to illustrate the adage include a hare in a snail shell; a chameleon with a fish; a diamond ring entwined with foliage; and, especially, a dolphin entwined around an anchor. Cosimo I de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany had festina lente as his motto and illustrated it with a tortoise with a sail upon its back.”

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Frequently, I suspect I have not learned from experience.

The same mistakes seem to repeat themselves in predictable order. This is most often the case with loss of energy. So often have I felt my body filled with power and enthusiasm that when the power disappears and getting out of bed becomes a chore, a dark cloud seems to hang over me.

The cloud is not there now.

Recovery from surgery has surprised me by its slow pace.

When I returned from New York in August, the combination of weakness and pain made me grateful to be alone.

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One consequence of my receiving a cancer diagnosis in April of this year is that the telling provoked waves of  affection and attention not merely from those close to home.

A woman whom I had loved intensely in 1972 ( not seen or heard from since) read here on this site an optimistic account of my situation and responded with an e-mail followed by phone calls. We talked about the children we did not have together, the life we did not share, and the strangely odd and encouraging fact that affection untended continues despite the reality that it had its origins so long ago.

Friends appeared with whom I had lost contact for decades. My expectations of how good people could be to me were vastly exceeded by reality. I have emerged from surgery with the feeling of being cherished. Nothing I can say or do can ever repay my gratitude. You know who you are and yet you do not truly appreciate how much you have graced my heart.

Often I feel words used to describe me are wrong, just wrong. I do not think of myself as “brave” or “courageous” or a “fighter.” When I think of myself, which I do often, I try to stop—meditate and in my own fashion pray that the ego will dissolve and I will just continue, pursue the path.

Optional isolation

Late in August, back at my apartment, alone, feeling that strange happiness that comes when intense pain disappears, whoever I am is comfortable to me. By nature I am impatient. By nature, I am persistent. Then, the phrase make haste slowly serves as a comfort. I will do what I need to do when the time comes. I will be grateful for energy and understanding when I cannot do what needs to be done. If the sky falls and I do not have the strength to stop it, the sky falls. Such is life.

Joanna’s wedding

Before I scooted Joanna down the aisle, she drove me to New York for the surgery. My friend  Ben Carlsen drove from State College to New York to bring me back home.
Three months before I scooted Joanna down the aisle, she drove me to New York for the surgery. My friend Ben Carlsen drove from State College to New York to bring me back home.

Going to Joanna’s wedding in October appears now on the second day of December a miraculous event. Weeks before I boarded the plane, I did not believe the energy would return. I persisted. Giving away my elder daughter on a farm in Mebane, North Carolina produced euphoria that brought me through and carried me home on Delta Airlines.

Amelia was my caregiver at  the American Cancer Society's Hope Lodge in NYC where we roomed together before, during, and after my surgery.
Amelia (right) was my caregiver at the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge in NYC where we roomed together before, during, and after my surgery.

At the wedding it was a delight seeing Amelia again in North Carolina a seeming aeon away from New York , saying goodbye before she returned to Spain for her third extended trip.

I loved:

  • Watching my sister Sarah Leah Schmerler dance without inhibition after the intensity of being together at the hospital in New York

sarahatwedding

  • Revisiting my 12 year-old only nephew Asher Simonson with his unexpected moments of humor
  • Seeing his father Robert Simonson who had lugged my mobility devices around the Island of Manhattan
  • My son-in-law Jade Phillips and his firefighting colleagues who, when the festivities were over and the bonfire burned out, literally picked up my exhausted body and flung me into the passenger side of a truck

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Then fatigue. Delight in being alone. Concern I would not finish the work I must finish. Optional isolation. Appearing outside my apartment only occasionally. Seeing as few people as possible. Avoiding crowds, large gatherings, and familiar places where I have been surrounded by affection.

Periodically, I receive calls, visits, e-mails and reports of those who ask with affection and concern “Where’s Joel?”

++++

Life continues.

A dear friend becomes sick. Miles and often even a few blocks I do not have the energy to travel keep me from being where I would otherwise like to be.

I sit in my apartment and wait. A rush of energy and I find myself writing, as I am writing now, without stop, expressing while leaving dishes unwashed, my bed unmade, not yet able to complete rigorous academic writing—not quite able to pull together a large project.

Instead, I follow whim. I have been making You Tube videos—going off to a computer in the patient company of an expert in iMovie editing software, collapsing, returning, making slow steady progress as bills pile up, consistently refusing to think about the money I do not have and the energy I do not have to obtain it.

I have been reading Robert Alter’s The Book of Psalms, his introduction tracing the psalms’ origins back to the Bronze Age over 3,000 years ago, reciting his clear translation, going to the Hebrew, recalling my mother never left the house without a small Hebrew copy of Psalms in her pocketbook, dipping into David Halberstam writing about Elvis Presley, reading a paragraph here and there about architecture, engineering, virtual reality—not doing much for long, but doing and then in fatigue watching by choice vapid Netflix videos for hours.

The last part of cancer therapy

I hope to encourage others like me who are recovering to recognize our temporary limitations and persevere.

Most do not recognize the difficulties involved in recovering from cancer after the disease is gone but the energy has not returned.

[To be inserted here observations about suicide attempts by survivors. This issue I discuss in my book Learning to Live Again, My Triumph over Cancer available on this site http://www.joelsolkoff.com/book-store/books/learning-to-live-again-my-triumph-over-cancer/].

While researching, I came across a footnote in a medical journal article. A young man with the most dangerous stage of Hodgkin’s disease had killed himself after being cured. The autopsy revealed no cancer was present in his body.

Surviving while still recovering can be a hard time unless one is willing to believe in the future. Henry David Thoreau should be an encouragement to those us living in situations such as the one I am now in. Thoreau wrote, “There is one consolation in being sick; and that is the possibility that you may recover to a better state than you were ever in before.”

My life seems to have been lived on the principle that best way to get from here to there is NOT to go in a straight line.

I have been watching You Tubes of Edward R. Murrow, my hero. This one caught my fancy yesterday at 2 in the morning.

This I believe

I believe:

  1. I am alive for a purpose.
  2. The attempt to achieve the purpose, which I choose to call my path in homage to Laozi, serves not only its own end but to unite all that is sacred to me; namely, my children (of course) who are adults and have lives of their own; my sister Sarah and my family, my friends who are family; my love for women (a woman were the right woman in my bed); the need to care for myself, be independent in body and mind, be a good citizen who embraces not only my country but my mother Earth, and the need to be the human being I strive to be who believes in the spirit that gives us life.
Clearly a fictitious image of Laozi. No one knows what he looked like. The story is Laozi appeared at a border crossing. The guard asked him to write a book of wisdom. Laozi wrote The Way, gave it to the guard who allowed him to cross. Laozi disappeared. This story and The Way are the only evidence of his existence.
Clearly a fictitious image of Laozi. No one knows what he looked like. The story is Laozi appeared at a border crossing. The guard asked him to write a book of wisdom. Laozi wrote The Way (The Path), gave it to the guard who allowed him to cross. Laozi disappeared. This story and The Way are the only evidence of his existence.

3. My chosen path is to help the elderly and disabled achieve their potential.

4. Along that path is the virtue of technology which makes it possible for me to go seamlessly from my bed to my kitchen out the door and into the world on scooters like the kind that my dear friend Al Thieme of Amigo Mobility invented which he refers to as Power Operated Vehicle scooters or POV scooters to distinguish them from toys. The technology mobility path includes power chairs and equipment being developed at an astonishingly rapid pace. The consequence of this technology is I do not think of myself as one whose disability prevents me from living life to the full. For individuals with hearing and visual disabilities technology has developed to the point where, for example, an individual blind from birth can drive an automobile specially equipped with laser scanning of the road;  the automobile provides the driver computer-voice simulated operated instructions.

Thank you Wired Magazine: http://www.wired.com/autopia/2009/07/blind-driver-challenge/
Thank you Wired Magazine

Totally blind drivers have passed tests on intentionally difficult driving courses. I believe in my lifetime the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania will issue drivers licenses to individuals who are totally blind but who have proven their ability to drive sophisticated vehicles such as the ones already produced by the Virginia Tech’s Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory.

Amigo manufactures this narrow travel scooter shown here in a tight space in a tiny motel room as I traveled nearly 1,000 miles to my daughter Amelia's college graduation.
Amigo Mobility manufactures this narrow travel scooter shown here in a tight space in a tiny motel room as I traveled nearly 1,000 miles to my daughter Amelia’s college graduation.

5. My path is focused on what the architectural, engineering, and construction community refer to as the built environment. See, for example, my biographical information and published work for e-architect: http://www.e-architect.co.uk/editors/joel-solkoff

6. To rebuild the environment, the promise of virtual reality is real. Virtual reality is a promise my 30 year-old mentor Sonali Kumar introduced to me as I worked with her as a research assistant at Penn State’s Architectural Engineering Department to complete her doctoral dissertation entitled: Experience-based design review of healthcare facilities using interactive virtual prototypes. 

VirtualRollinshower

Sonali apologized when she used me as the model for this avatar. “I am sorry I put so much gray in your hair. You do have a lot of gray in your hair.”

Fashion aside, one of my contributions to Sonali’s animated three-dimensional model of an independent-living-aging-in-place home was the suggestion she replace the original bathtub with a roll in shower. As a paraplegic for whom being clean is vital, I have all too often been trapped in a bathtub–on one occasion it took me 45 minutes to figure out how to get out of the tub finally using my arms to push me out, pulling my legs after me as I landed onto a dirty bathroom floor.

7. Experienced-based design is essential. Experienced-based design is one of a number of academic terms meaning the best way to design an environment is to ask the person who will use it. The example that comes most readily to mind is an article I read about a new hospital in the Philadelphia area. The article complemented the hospital administration for asking patients at the previous facility what changes they would suggest making to the design of the new building to make the hospital more patient-friendly. The patients suggested making it easier to get from bed to bathroom by making the bathroom closer to the bed. The article praised the administration for the reduction in falls as a consequence. [I know. My instant reaction to that was Daaaaaaaaaaaahh.] Asking does matter. Ask experts like me, for example, or my neighbors at Addison Court (an independent living apartment building for the elderly and disabled) whom I arranged to view Sonali’s model wearing 3-D glasses at Dr. John Messner’s Immersive Construction Lab for Construction industry. The consequence is we have the experience to instruct the design of the environment around us so that it is more efficient. The result is not merely an exercise in odd-sounding academic words such as case studies, scenarios, and activities of daily living (ADL); it is also a good idea.

SloanBath

8. Self reliance should be encouraged. Shown here

[Note: Think of I believe in points 8, 9, and beyond as Coming Attractions.]

9. Knowing when to ask for help.

Color coded socks at Mount Nittany Medical Center, State College, PA. These socks indicate patient is at risk of falling.
Color coded socks at Mount Nittany Medical Center, State College, PA. These socks indicate patient is at risk of falling.

To be continued.

Meanwhile, here is Edward R. Murrow  interviewing then former President of the United States Harry S Truman on what Truman believes. http://thisibelieve.org/essay/17058/

President Truman is followed by a bad video of an Alan Jackson song. I like the theme. I like the song.

–Joel Solkoff

Copyright 2013 by Joel Solkoff. All rights reserved.

 

Rodeo has enhanced my life—a cancer therapy digression

I swear out there ain`t where you ought to be / So catch a ride, catch a cab / Don`t you know I miss you bad / But don`t you walk to me / Baby run…. 

–George Strait

This is Taylor Swift singing her favorite George Strait song: Run

Consider the performance a teaser not on the importance of country music. Personally I love Mozart (five instruments or fewer).  I love country; I love what is happening to country music.

Here and now, I am trying to prepare you for my appreciation of the influence rodeo–yes rodeo–has had on my life.

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Consider the following first two paragraphs from a column I published February, 2011:

“The handler applies the fully charged cattle prod to the rear of a bull bred for ferocity. The cowboy—Slim really is his name—holds onto his hat with his left hand. In his right hand are the reigns, two strips of leather held on tightly at first, but capable of falling apart to help the rider jump away from the bucking bull to safety after the regulation eight second ride is complete.

“The maximum score is 100 points; 50 for the rider and 50 for the bull. A mean angry bull is the most desirable because he gives the rider the opportunity to make the most money. This bull is mean. When the bull jumps higher after the cattle prod, Slim smiles with optimism. The gate leading to the ring fails to open. Historically, when the gate sticks, a confined maddened bull has been known to break both legs of a rider. Slim, who attended rodeo schools, is aware of the danger.As a reporter at the World Series of Rodeo at Oklahoma City (before it moved to Los Vegas), I am sitting next to the handlers on the inside wooden planks of the chute. It took considerable effort to get permission to be this close to Slim—close enough to watch his pupils dilate into huge ovals displaying a fear he cannot disguise. The lead handler asks Slim if he would like to wait 20 minutes before beginning the ride. Slim nods him off. The gate opens.

“Sometimes it is prudent to know when to give up.”

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Later in this posting I will explain how I came to be sitting on the edge of the bull shoot watching the electric prod holder pressing his instrument against the mean bull’s huge hide and watching the fear in the bull riders eyes when he realized he was trapped with a maddened bull with the door to escape locked? What did I learn from that?

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Orientation note: I know I am missing something here. It feels as if I lost my car keys and am frantically rummaging through my stuff looking for the keys. Of course, what I am looking for here is some context.

Why is Joel [I am now going back and forth first to third person in describing myself clearly split in some way] writing about rodeo?

He just had cancer.

Doesn’t Joel have better things to do but type away words and words and words about the time he covered the World Series of Rodeo for a solid week of

  • Bull riding
  • Bronco riding
  • Roping
  • Barrel racing
  • Fervid pro-rodeo rhetoric
  • Groupies up from Dallas just waiting
  • a near-fight in the Gusher Club when the World Series Champion of Rodeo five years in a row nearly punched me for lifting the Champion’s $560 hat off the chair I wanted to sit on. It was a close call. “Never, ever touch my hat,” he said convincingly.

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Here is the Prologue Joel [that’s me] failed to provide on his way of introducing his rodeo theme.

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I have been thinking about my life. Next month I will be 66:

  • What have I accomplished?

  • What is left to be done?

For me the key to surviving cancer was the knowledge that I could not die because there was work to be done. The first cancer would not let me die because I had a book to finish under contract and my publisher would kill me if I defaulted. Nor would I have been alive to conceive my elder daughter Joanna.

If I died after the second cancer, I would not have had the opportunity to watch Joanna grow until next month when she will marry.

I am especially delighted that she is marrying Jade.

If I had died from the second cancer, I would not have been alive to conceive my younger daughter Amelia Altalena.

Amelia and I will see each other at the wedding after the cancer awfulness became successful surgery to remove the death threat of kidney cancer–an operation less than a month ago from which I am slowly getting better. Slowly.

Certainly, expert medical treatment and good odds were essential. I had the best medical care available during a period when advances were occurring rapidly and I was as close to those advances as possible.

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It is late during a very long day during which I made arrangements to attend Joanna’s wedding outside a horse barn in Mebane, North Carolina. I have been writing this posting automatically in the middle of serious stuff I am dealing with. For example, I have not yet recovered fully from major surgery and my mind does not have the attention span it once had. I find I am writing several things at the same time, saving the document, going away for a while.

When I went away for a while this morning, I saw George Strait play Amerilla.

I thought of the rodeo and what it meant to me. Sadly, I cannot leave you with more lessons learned and appreciation of rodeo, not to mention my life. I will return to rodeo. Do not you worry. I have a bad reputation for straying from the beaten path.

You can depend on it.

–30–

Joel Solkoff

Copyright 2013 by Joel Solkoff. All rights reserved.

Here  is the first stanza from George Strait song Amarillo, the best cowboy song ever written.

Amarillo By Mornin’ / Up from San Antone / Everything that I got / Is just what I’ve got on ./ When that sun is high in that Texas sky, /  I’ll be buckin’ at the county fair.”

The danger of “living wills”–a post surgical analysis

Of all my many preparations for surgery–including signing up for Premium Spotify [worth it]–creating a valid Living Will exercised far too much time.

I can and may list the valid rationale for having a Living Will, which here in Pennsylvania is called officially a Durable Power of Attorney.

Durable means (as lovers of the English language are encouraged to deplore) limited.

The person selected to execute my living will can only take care of my health care decisions–decisions I have listed in advance (see below) and which She, as it turns out, may only make following my explicit instructions (see below) and is not allowed to vary from my instructions at all.

My agent does not have authority to act for me for any other purpose unrelated to my health care. All of my agent’s actions under this power during any period when I am unable to make or communicate health care decisions have the same effect on my heirs, devisees and personal representatives as if I were competent and acting for myself.

To tell the truth, I would much rather watch a Shania Twain video than go through the gut-wrenching process of picking the person who will turn off the plug if I emerge from surgery a rutabaga.

Here is the video I would rather see than execute a Living Will.

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The problem with going into surgery which I knew would be successful (and indeed the surgery was successful) was encountering flak from a variety of sources.

One of these sources was my elder daughter  Joanna, who has two honor degrees in nursing and is convinced–perhaps rightly so–that she knows everything.

Joanna insisted that she be the one to pull the plug.

photo 2

In April I had had the foresight to executed a previous Living Will at my hospital bed, but once out of bed and back and forth to New York for reasons I will not explain (or may) I had to change the document.

For one thing, the April Living Will made the assumption that it was unfair to ask my daughters to perform such a task; my friends would spare them the guilt of pulling the plug. This assumption was wrong and in a way I cannot quite describe demeaning to them.

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In preparing for August surgery at Memorial Sloan-Kettering with the Living Will, I thought I was just going through the motions.

Then. Joanna said, “[Expletive deleted] I am a nurse. If anyone should pull the plug it should be me. Anyway, I would not be pulling the plug. I would be telling someone else to pull the plug.”

Meanwhile, my friend Pinhas had complained that in April he had been made second in line to pull the plug and wanted to be first; plus, my April number one batter up was afraid she did not have the medical knowledge.

Finally, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center required (actually requested–it is optional) an updated Living Will plus other relevant documentation I will bother you with.

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My wishes. Clearly, some of my wishes did not matter at all. Others did, but not now–meaning not before August 8th and my kidney operation.

The primary reason I was filling out a Living Will was because I wanted to please the Administrators at the hospital where I was about to have surgery. If they saw that I was a responsible enough citizen to fill out the expletive deleted form, they would decide I was a right guy, guaranteeing some slack later when I behaved poorly–as I did.

I really and truly did not want anyone to take the document seriously. It was one of a list of items on my clipboard, the least important, and one that took up attention from more important things (which I will list for you eventually, but can be summed up with this video from Bessie Smith) :

Here is a salient excerpt from the Pennsylvania Living Will form, which is a lot simpler to fill out than you might expect:

I direct that my health care providers and others involved in my care provide, withhold, or withdraw treatment in accordance with my directions below:

  1. If I have an incurable and irreversible (terminal) condition that will result in my death within a relatively short time, I direct that:
    • I be removed from any artificial life support or any additional life-prolonging treatment. ______ my initials
    • I not be artificially administered food and water, realizing this may hasten my death. ______ my initials
    • I not be provided any comfort, care and relief from pain, including any pain reduction medication, if the effect would be to prolong my life. ______ my initials 
  1. If I am diagnosed as being in an irreversible coma and, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, I will not regain consciousness, I direct that:
    • I be removed from any artificial life support or any additional life-prolonging treatment. ______ my initials
    • I not be artificially administered food and water, realizing this may hasten my death. ______ my initials
    • I not be provided any comfort, care and relief from pain , including any pain reduction medication, if the effect would be to prolong my life. ______ my initials 
  1. If I am diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state and, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, I will not regain consciousness, I direct that:
    • I be removed from any artificial life support or any additional life-prolonging treatment. ______ my initials
    • I not be artificially administered food and water, realizing this may hasten my death. ______ my initials
    • I not be provided any comfort, care and relief from pain, including any pain reduction medication, if the effect would be to prolong my life. ______ my initials 

Regarding item 1, I answered: “I be removed from any artificial life support or any additional life-prolonging treatment

Item 2, I answered: “I not be artificially administered food and water, realizing this may hasten my death.”

Item 3. I answered: “I be removed from any artificial life support or any additional life-prolonging treatment.”

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Time for another video:

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The PA Living Will form states what I told the form I wanted. Period. See:

“My agent’s powers include, but are not limited to:

“Full power to consent, refuse consent, or withdraw consent to all medical, surgical, hospital and related health care treatments and procedures on my behalf, according to my wishes as stated in this document…”

Other language makes clear: My Agent has no choice but to pull the plug because that is my wish as stated in this document.

The fact that none of my would be agents realized that they had no power at all to effect my major decisions was of no concern to them. What was of concern to them was my welfare. They love me. They want what is best for me. Instead, I had to spend time explaining this expletive deleted stuff to them and the more I explained the more frightened  they became until, naturally, a discussion began about my funeral. [I do not want a funeral; I want a Democrat elected governor of Pennsylvania next year.]

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Perhaps a photograph unrelated to anything might prove useful here:

fish

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Naturally, the situation became complicated. Naturally, for me. Naturally, for the situation.

I was preparing for an operation in New York on August 8th. Why was I worrying about a durable power of attorney in Pennsylvania when the operation was happening in New York AND Memorial Sloan Kettering requested I provide a valid New York State form?

Not the same form, of course. That would be too easy. The New York State form is entitled, “A Health Care Proxy.” The proxy delegates someone to be my health care agent: “In the event I have been been determined to be incapable of providing informed consent for medical treatment and surgical diagnostic procedures.”

Enter a useful attorney whom we will call Hadley V. Baxendale, a moniker he likes. Hadley had three recommendations:

1. Since I live in Pennsylvania and have been hospitalized several times in this Commonwealth, a valid PA Living Will is a good idea.

2. The New York form is limited in stating explicitly the powers an agent can have. Link the two documents for New York so the New York agent is required to follow the more detailed directives in the PA form–having the two notarized together which I did at the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge where I temporarily stayed before and after the surgery. I handed that two-in one document in on Surgery Day to someone entirely covered in white who said, “Thank you. I will put it in your folder.”

3. Hadley said, “There is room in the PA form for additional instructions. Let me begin by asking you the following questions.” I minded answering each question. The Aristotelian/Talmudic logic behind legal–especially good legal–thinking drives me crazy. So, I had to answer how much of a vegetable I was willing to be before I was willing to have someone pull the plug. What percentage of postoperative disability I was willing to take. And other tranquil questions designed to put me in the mood for surgery.

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Time for another song.

http://youtu.be/QwIYrx6Bqe0

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The upshot was that because they were actually present and available my younger daughter Amelia and my sister Sarah Schmerler were designated NY Health Care Agents for me.

Amelia first. Sarah if Amelia were unavailable.

Both spent my operation time weeping at the old Whitney Museum just before Renzo Piano creates his magic and builds a New Piano Whitney. I have seen a photograph of the two together waiting in front of a sign explaining Piano’s future vision, but can not find the photo. Alas.

This is unfortunate because I could then explain that while each were waiting with their iPhone ringers on in case a major medical decision was required in their capacity as my Agents, Dr. Russo figured out how to close the wound all by himself.

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One more song and then a conclusion (I hope). Brief (I hope).

http://youtu.be/uOQwdRMTKEk

 Certainly, having a Living Will is an excellent idea. It is not an excellent idea when you are going into the hospital and have an excellent chance of survival. Then, having intense discussions about your wishes if you are incapacitated beyond redemption takes on an unfortunate side trip past where you want to be and what you want to talk about with your loved ones.

Here is a photo of my sister Sarah getting in shape to be my alternate Health Proxy. Did the enormous time involved in, for example, notarizing the Pennsylvania document in PA and two days later notarizing the New York document (with notarized PA) document attached and also notarized–gathering two witnesses each time. My appreciation to my Rep. in the Pennsylvania House Scott Conklin for making his office available for that purpose. [The Democrats could win the governorship with the right team. Conklin ran for lieutenant governor in the last election and lost. I hoping that he will run as a running mate with Allyson Schwartz and win.] {Whoops. I got off subject.}

A non-partisan thanks to Lorrainne Katt, Manager of the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge where I lived with Amelia, my daughter, as my caregiver. Lorraine in short order assembled a notary, another witness and signed the document herself.

sarahclimbs

This is Amelia several months ago drinking happily in Spain.

Ameliadrinks

Amelia arrived in New York on Monday evening in time for the rules instruction at Hope Lodge where she took up residence as my health care provider that evening. The next day we…The following day, a meeting with Dr. Paul Russo, my surgeon, a wonderful physical therapist, and an intense examination to make sure I would not die under the knife–intense.

Then…Thursday brought the surgery. Would never have discussing all the paperwork have helped me through time that followed the operation. Absolutely.

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Another unrelated photo courtesy of the Morgan Library and Museum:

Mozart

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A man’s gotta do what a man’s got to do.

I am thinking of me in this role. Filling out a Living Will is certainly a grown up thing to do. It is not a good idea to leave family and loved ones guessing about one’s intentions. The best way to do it is when there are no health issues involved. At nearly 66 years old, I should have been grown up enough to fill out the farm during a pacific time when asking family and loved members their thoughts did not bring out the intense emotion this exercise did.

Perhaps, the lesson of the angst of the Living Will taught me how to be a grown up. Perhaps.

–Joel Solkoff

Copyright © 2013 by Joel Solkoff. All rights reserved.

Before Arlo Guthrie sings all the words to Alice’s Restaurant, I would like to thank Law Depot www,lawdepot.com This online service provides forms that fit the requirements of the PA Living Will form and NY’s Health Care Agent form. Each can be easily modified or modified only to include names and addresses. A great service.

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July 24 Update: Joanna’s wedding in N. C. horse barn –Volume I, Issue 2.5

Jade andJoanna

On a personal note: I was diagnosed as having kidney cancer in April. Three weeks from today I have an operation to remove the risk at Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

The Big Apple.

PIANO 2000-2007.The New York Times Building web“The New York Times Building”, 2000-2007, as: “© Renzo Piano Building Workshop. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery. Photography by Denancé Michel.”

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Then, I have to recover from the surgery. Then, it is off to Equestrian North Carolina to give away the bride. Here she is after she first arrived and cleaned up. Now I have to give her away? Where did the time go?

InfantJMS_DB_me

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Updates

  • Joanna became a registered nurse last week after passing the exam. She is now eligible for employment in the Washington, D.C. area where is looking for a position as a nurse, preferably in an environment where all hell is breaking loose and Joanna is the only clear-thinker in the room.
  • In May Joanna graduated from The School of Nursing, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

joannagraduates

You may note that two of the tassels around Joanna’s neck are for honors achievements. The tassels became trapped in the portable chair mechanism and my daughter–as Jade calls her the “Study Nazi–had difficulty standing up until she became untangled.

Honeymoon scoop. The presumably happy couple will leave the wedding exhausted and board a plane to South Africa where the flight is so long you do not need to ask.

Finally, Capetown.

Capetown

 

Father of the bride, State College, PA, July 24, 2014

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How else to feel other than I am, 
often thinking Flash Gordon soap– 
O how terrible it must be for a young man 
seated before a family and the family thinking 
We never saw him before! He wants our Mary Lou! 
After tea and homemade cookies they ask What do you do for a living? 
Should I tell them? Would they like me then? 
Say All right get married, we’re losing a daughter 
but we’re gaining a son– 
And should I then ask Where’s the bathroom?–from Marriage by Gregory Corso

This Joanna’s Wedding Posting will be very much like plans for the ceremony itself–very jangly.

First, there was the engagement.

Then, impertinent questions for months:

When are you going to get married?

Where are you going to get married?

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Speaking generically, of course, if one were asked Will you marry me? Then, the likely next scenario appears with answers. I am writing this on July 13, 2013 at 10:12 PM at my apartment in State College, PA miles away from where the action is, so the information provided should be subjected to verification if I were you.

One fiance or the other might express the reality of this contract by answering, We are getting married on October 5. Why it took Joanna and Jade over a year to come up with that answer is a subject for another time.

A formal engagement is a legally binding contract. If for example Jade were to break off the engagement [you cad], Joanna could sue him in court and collect justice or a facsimile. At least that is the way it was before World War I–my standard for proper behavior.

Joanna and Jade for some reason did not realize that when they announced their intention to marry each other that the announcement was not good enough. Their mutually expressed position: Who said anything about ceremonies, we just want to appreciate having agreed on a mutually acceptable contract.

Jade was the first to break. When asked, he said about the prospective wedding date, “I don’t know. I have not thought about it.” Of course, Joanna had not thought about it either, but she had the good sense not to say so.

The wedding will take place on October fifth. The ceremony will be performed in a different North Carolina horse barn than originally planed. Save the date postcards have been sent with a photograph of their cat dressed in a tuxedo. For recipients of the postcard, an official Joanna and Jade Wedding site URL  was provided.

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This is the unofficial site. Save this URL on your browser for wedding updates and whiffs of scandal whenever they appear.http://www.joelsolkoff.com/joannas-wedding-in-horse-barn-update/

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What follows is the account of Joanna and Jade’s Engagement Party in September. This must satisfy you for the time being. Right now there are so many details to keep track of that I have yet to recover from a lengthy description on the acceptably of plaid table cloths. I know I have tied the knot myself, but sometimes I have to ask: Why does anyone ever get married?

_____________________________________________________

Does the Party ever end?

Thirty minutes before the Party begins at the patio of the Weathervane at Chapel Hill's famous Southern Seasons

Thirty minutes before the Party begins at the patio of the Weathervane at Chapel Hill’s famous Southern Seasons I am waiting patiently for the Jade and Joanna engagement party.

Weathervane

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Informal press release

The scheduled Engagement Party began last night, September 29th; although the bar closed at 11, the Party still continues.

The following is not correct. Pat is going to be the guest at another North Carolina horse barn in an adjacent county:

Joanna Solkoff and Jade Phillips plan to marry at Pat DeAngeles’ Baywood Farm Equestrian Center, 4263 NC Highway 751, Apex, NC at a date yet to be selected.

 

 

 

Raquel Welch, “Sex Goddess of the 1970s,” and my younger daughter Amelia

March 10, 2013, State College, PA., 7:40 PM. I was asked this afternoon why I nearly went crazy before each of my daughters was born. The lapse of judgment—mentioning Raquel Welch to my 22 year-old daughter this afternoon—is a good example of why I worried about becoming a father.

As anyone who is a parent knows, it does not matter what we say.

What matters is how we behave.

If I behave as a father should behave—instead of telling my daughters what to do and then provide an opposite example—then my poor behavior condemns my status as a Good Father.

Kansascitybomberposter

Hence, regard this confession of the error of my ways (and the circumstances surrounding it) when I made mention of the film Kansas City Bomber to my daughter this morning (over an often clear Skype connection). A movie review of sorts is contained within this plea for forgiveness. Mea culpa.

The stimulus for my poor behavior is the fact that Amelia, who is currently teaching English in rural Spain, is training to be a roller derby contestant.

My daughter Amelia in her Spanish roller derby You Tube debut

Sadly, this video is no longer available.

 You will clearly recognize Amelia at the end of the video. She is haming it up holding up a sign that reads “500″ and then getting knocked off her feet. Just goes to show what a fine woman I raised her to be.

I was directed to this Riedell Skates site this morning when Amelia showed me an impressive pair of Riedell Skates along with much of the impressive protective equipment required to prevent physical damage which can result from falling on concrete. See http://www.roller.riedellskates.com/ProductDetail.aspx?ProductName=SuzyHotrod

I had been reading Amelia’s postings in Spanish on Facebook—Spanish sadly being a language I do not yet speak nor read. The Bing translations are dreadful (compared to Microsoft’s competitors in this emerging software market. (Microsoft, which owns Bing and also owns and does an excellent job with Skype, appears to take little effort to improve; I have asked Bing).

The gist of one such posting was that Amelia complained that the only area of her body for which protection is unavailable is her ass—the idea of strapping a pillow to it had not yet occurred to her.

I had not realized until this morning that Amelia is in training to be a roller derby contestant. Until this morning, the only thing I knew about the subject was a dimly remembered fact that Raquel Welch had been in a roller derby movie widely publicized decades ago which I refused—at the time I was a film snob–to see.

So, the first trigger to the error in judgment was the desire, as a father, who when his daughter mentions a subject on which I am a complete and total ignoramus was to pretend I knew something.

The second trigger was the vivid memory that when I was her age, a graduate of college, on my way to presumably be adult and mature, I became obsessed with an oddball sport—different from Amelia’s, but given my upbringing distinctly unusual.

Unlike many of my friends and contemporaries, my memory of my past is vivid. At 65, I remember distinctly the follies I committed at 22 among them being the failure to wear a helmet while riding horses (for which I had no talent), the insistence I had in riding horses that I knew I could not control; and the frequency with which I fell—risking concussion in one instance. When, on the beach of the Pacific Ocean under an absolutely beautiful horse threatening to stomp me out of existence, I gave up being an equestrian forever (parenthetically, influencing my elder daughter Joanna to become a superb rider and trainer of horses).

It is not bad parenting to say, I neglected to take necessary precautions to prevent a concussion. Concussions are dangerous. The moral of my reminiscence Amelia not only appreciated but observed with wonder, “How did you ever survive to be 65?” [And presumably burden our country’s economic future by being both a social security recipient and a Medicare beneficiary—Social Security, Medicare, and housing for the disabled are discussed elsewhere and are indeed the theme of this site (a site one diligent reader observed is “scattershot”—connecting all postings in the site is a planned posting {once I figure out how to do it}; perhaps Raquel Welch is on Medicare and would appreciate a well-positioned grab bar].Raquel_welch_1millionyearsbc

Now for the movie review. The movie, Kansas City Bomber was released in August of 1972 at the same time a white horse stomped me into abandoning horseback riding permanently. The 1970s were a pathetic decade during which undergraduates were jealous of people like me who went to college in the tumultuous 1960s. Some reacted by pretending it was the 1960s still; others wore bell bottomed pants wide belts, ghastly ties or longer skirts; still others became Watergate junkies. By and large the 1970s was a very boring decade.

Raquel Welch was listed as the most desirable woman of the 1970s by Playboy readers. Wikipedia defines Raquel Welch’s profession as “actress and sex symbol.” She was not a good actress. Kansas City Bomber was part of a wave of films about offbeat sports. I had not heard of roller derbies until the movie was released (three months before Richard Nixon won re-election by carrying every state in the Union except Massachusetts).

Having made reference to Kansas City Bomber, I rented it this afternoon on Amazon and with great difficulty (washing many dishes and performing many chores while stopping and starting) reached the conclusion.

Kansas City Bomber is of one of the worst movies ever made. For aficionados of the movie review genre, I hereby make the declaration that if you are worried about my spoiling the plot for you (not that there is anything in the plot that can be ruined), stop reading now.

Clearly Raquel Welch is an attractive woman—far more attractive in still photographs then when she is actually moving. There is, to my point of view, nothing wrong with a father saying that sex between consenting adults can be pleasurable. But, I can never imagine making love to a woman who is chewing gum—which Raquel Welch does constantly throughout the movie and I suspect throughout life. (Now that she is 73, I wish her well, hope she does not have dentures, and hope she continues to enjoy chewing gum.)

The Riedell Skates Company would be advised not to mention the movie in any of its promotional literature. Kansas City Bomber depicts roller derbies as a sport in which the results are fixed, there is little skating and a great deal of fighting. The owner of the primary team for whom Raquel Welch (KC) plays encourages attractive women to fight each other. There is nothing at all erotic about the movie. KC and the owner have an affair, but there is no nudity and the kisses are bland. Bland kisses. At one point, KC is reproved for using the word “hell.” The minimal amount of profanity is so limited the film would probably receive a G rating today.

The most interesting (and shocking to me) scene is when KC, who has two adorable children, roller skates with her daughter during a transition period between beating up women on roller skates. The two skate beautifully on astonishingly smooth concrete given the distressed neighborhood she calls home. The shock, her daughter, age 8, is not wearing a helmet even though the danger of falling on her head is ever-present.

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Forgive me, Amelia, for ever mentioning Kansas City Bomber. Please do not watch it. Continue to watch Bunuel instead.

Dear reader, I will now attempt to make this site less scattered by focusing on the housing problems of disabled and elderly individual (primarily, Baby Boomers like me, whose karmic future may be decided by whether they voted for Raquel Welch as the most desirable woman in the 1970s).

Note: The photographs here are of Raquel Welch and I assume they are in the public domain. If not they will be removed.

For photos of Amelia see: http://www.joelsolkoff.com/digressions/countdown-to-amelias-graduation/

Joel Solkoff, mea culpa

A classic is a book no one reads, Mark Twain said

"I read from Mark Twain's lips one or two of his good stories. He has his own way of thinking, saying and doing everything. I feel the twinkle of his eye in his handshake. Even while he utters his cynical wisdom in an indescribably droll voice, he makes you feel that his heart is a tender Iliad of human sympathy."
“I read from Mark Twain’s lips one or two of his good stories. He has his own way of thinking, saying and doing everything. I feel the twinkle of his eye in his handshake. Even while he utters his cynical wisdom in an indescribably droll voice, he makes you feel that his heart is a tender Iliad of human sympathy.” —Helen Keller

I had pneumonia until three days ago when I was discharged from the hospital.

These days, my health has been doing well:

  • In May, I attended my younger daughter Amelia Altalena’s graduation from college.
  • In June, I spent two weeks in McKeesport, PA seeing how low-cost high-tech housing for elderly and disabled individuals can be made to work.
  • In October, I returned from elder daughter Joanna and future son-in-law Jade Phillips’ Engagement Party.

I am happy in my work and in my life.

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A little illness serves to remind that the way we spend our time matters.

What follows on this site is short installments of Helen Keller‘s 116 page book The Story of my Life.

Here in this season of darkness, when fancy paper containing gifts you will not use are torn away, I have decided to make a token gesture that will brighten your life and change your world view for the better if only you let it.

What follows are selected quotations Helen Keller published in 1903. How Helen Keller’s perspective on the value of life has affected me personally is a subject for another time.

For you, the following may alert you to the fact that a young woman in her Twenties, a woman who could neither see nor hear, opened up the world to another way of viewing reality–a path so radical in its conception and so beneficial to anyone who reads her that life as we know it will never be the same again. That is why The Story of My Life is   appropriately regarded as one of the great books of the 20th Century (and of the century in which I live in now).

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–“I found out the use of a key. One morning I locked my mother up in the pantry, where she was obliged to remain three hours, as the servants were in a detached part of the house. She kept pounding on the door, while I sat outside on the porch steps and laughed with glee as I felt the jar of the pounding.”

–“I was stringing beads of different sizes in symmetrical groups–two large beads, three small ones, and so on. I had made many mistakes, and Miss Sullivan had pointed them out again and again with gentle patience. Finally I noticed a very obvious error in the sequence and for an instant I concentrated my attention on the lesson and tried to think how I should have arranged the beads. Miss Sullivan touched my forehead and spelled with decided emphasis, ‘Think.’ In a flash I knew that the word was the name of the process that was going on in my head. This was my first conscious perception of an abstract idea.”

–“It seems strange to many people that I should be impressed by the wonders and beauties of Niagara. They are always asking: “What does this beauty or that music mean to you? You cannot see the waves rolling up the beach or hear their roar. What do they mean to you?” In the most evident sense they mean everything. I cannot fathom or define their meaning any more than I can fathom or define love or religion or goodness.”

–“In geometry my chief difficulty was that I had always been accustomed to read the propositions in line print, or to have them spelled into my hand; and somehow, although the propositions were right before me, I found the braille confusing, and could not fix clearly in my mind what I was reading. But when I took up algebra I had a harder time still. The signs, which I had so lately learned, and which I thought I knew, perplexed me. Besides, I could not see what I wrote on my typewriter. I had always done my work in braille or in my head. Mr. Keith had relied too much on my ability to solve problems mentally, and had not trained me to write examination papers. Consequently my work was painfully slow, and I had to read the examples over and over before I could form any idea of what I was required to do. Indeed, I am not sure now that I read all the signs correctly. I found it very hard to keep my wits about me.”

–“I began my studies with eagerness. Before me I saw a new world opening in beauty and light, and I felt within me the capacity to know all things. In the wonderland of Mind I should be as free as another. Its people, scenery, manners, joys, tragedies should be living, tangible interpreters of the real world. The lecture-halls seemed filled with the spirit of the great and the wise, and I thought the professors were the embodiment of wisdom. If I have since learned differently, I am not going to tell anybody.

–“But I soon discovered that college was not quite the romantic lyceum I had imagined. Many of the dreams that had delighted my young inexperience became beautifully less and “faded into the light of common day.” Gradually I began to find that there were disadvantages in going to college. The one I felt and still feel most is lack of time. I used to have time to think, to reflect, my mind and I. We would sit together of an evening and listen to the inner melodies of the spirit, which one hears only in leisure moments when the words of some loved poet touch a deep, sweet chord in the soul that until then had been silent. But in college, there is no time to commune with one’s thoughts. One goes to college to learn, it seems, not to think. When one enters the portals of learning, one leaves the dearest pleasures–solitude, books and imagination–outside with the whispering pines. I suppose I ought to find some comfort in the thought that I am laying up treasures for future enjoyment, but I am improvident enough to prefer present joy to hoarding riches against a rainy day.”

–“But the examinations are the chief bugbears of my college life. Although I have faced them many times and cast them down and made them bite the dust, yet they rise again and menace me with pale looks, until like Bob Acres I feel my courage oozing out at my finger ends. The days before these ordeals take place are spent in cramming your mind with mystic formulæ and indigestible dates–unpalatable diets, until you wish that books and science and you were buried in the depths of the sea.”

–“But college is not the universal Athens I thought it was. There one does not meet the great and the wise face to face; one does not even feel their living touch. They are there, it is true; but they seem mummified. We must extract them from the crannied wall of learning and dissect and analyze them before we can be sure that we have a Milton or an Isaiah, and not merely a clever imitation. Many scholars forget, it seems to me, that our enjoyment of the great works of literature depends more upon the depth of our sympathy than upon our understanding. The trouble is that very few of their laborious explanations stick in the memory. The mind drops them as a branch drops its overripe fruit. It is possible to know a flower, root and stem and all, and all the processes of growth, and yet to have no appreciation of the flower fresh bathed in heaven’s dew. Again and again I ask impatiently, “Why concern myself with these explanations and hypotheses?” They fly hither and thither in my thought like blind birds beating the air with ineffectual wings. I do not mean to object to a thorough knowledge of the famous works we read. I object only to the interminable comments and bewildering criticisms that teach but one thing: there are as many opinions as there are men.”

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For extensive bibliographic information on Helen Keller’s Story of My Life: see http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/keller/life/life.html

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Joel Solkoff, December 20, 2012, State College, PA

 

 

 

Joanna, my elder daughter, is engaged to be married

August 14, 2012: Today, my elder daughter Joanna Marie Solkoff became engaged to be married to Jade Kosmos Phillips. Jade proposed on his knees at the mouth of a volcano in Hawaii on Joanna‘s birthday.

 

August 15, 2012: Jade called from Hawaii at 11:35 Eastern Daylight Savings Time. Jade asked for Joanna’s hand in marriage. I said Joanna and he would have a great marriage; he is her anchor windward. [Note 1. Watch Facebook for the formal announcement.] [Note 2. I have been on both sides now: asking and answering. Answering is better.]

August 18, 2012: Facebook notification. Joanna Solkoff is engaged to Jade K. Phillips.

Frequently asked questions:

1 When will the wedding take place? In the Fall of 3013 after Joanna graduates from nursing school.

2. Where will the wedding take place? In a horse barn in Chatham County, NC. A special guest will be Joanna‘s beloved horse George, no longer capable of enduring a rider,  in attendance. The bride plans to wear a wedding gown patterned after a Ginger Rogers outfit in the film Lucky Partners. She will arrive at the ceremony riding side-saddle on Scarlet, the only horse ever to throw her off.

3. How do I obtain driving directions to the wedding at Baywood Farms Equestrian Center in Apex, NC at a date yet to be determined? http://www.mapquest.com/maps?zipcode=27502#a7ca199086f84f6bb05916de

{Caveat lector! A shameless pitch for expenses in getting home from Joanna and Jade’s Engagement Party that still continues after the bar closed at 11 PM on September 29, 2012 at Chapel Hill NC on this link: Caveat lector!}

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[This space is reserved for  biographical sketches of Joanna and  Jade, photographs and additional material.]

 

 

 

 

Footnote 1: Technically there is no Footnote 1.

Footnote 2:

This is the Lucky Partners review Joanna and I published at amazon.com:

5.0 out of 5 stars My daughters and I re-enact this movie on long weekends, August 31, 2012.

“Lucky Partners” is one of a small list of ALL TIME FAVORITE MOVIES. My daughters Joanna, Amelia and I have watched this movie together for decades. I think Amelia was one when she first saw it; Joanna was seven.

Joanna, now 28, just told me she plans to design her wedding gown based on an outfit Ginger Rogers wore in “Lucky Partners.”

I had thought myself capable of writing this review myself. This is an urbane romantic comedy. Joanna says it is a satire on morality within a [cell phone static] within a comedy. As the battery on her phone dies, she starts quoting from the incredibly funny and brilliant lines from “Lucky Partners.” There is, for example, the opening meeting between Ronald Coleman and Ginger Rogers.

Ronald Coleman plays the role of a brilliant artist who aristocratically refuses to continue painting in Ronald-Coleman-incredible-diction. (I will never forget Ronald Coleman, in that incredible scene just before they cut off his head in Charles Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities: “It is a far far better thing I do than I have ever ever done. It is a far far better world I go to than I have ever ever known.” [Boy, I wish I could talk like that.]

Coleman also has eccentric ideas about the institution of matrimony and honeymoons in particular (which he explains to his art dealer who is trying to convince Ronald Coleman to return to painting).

Instead, Coleman then leaves the building, walks down the street and passes the adorable [astonishingly adorable] Ginger Rogers. For no apparent reason, Ronald Coleman wishes Ginger Rogers, a total stranger, “Good luck.” “Did you just wish me luck for no apparent reason?”

As Joanna‘s cell phone dies as she drives home with her fiance Jade Kosmos Phillips, Joanna says, “Did you just wish me luck for no apparent reason?”

Joanna Solkoff and Joel Solkoff