Some Thoughts Entering Memorial Day Weekend

If you’ve ever read or not read a wonderful novel called Cutting for Stone, its author, Abraham Verghese, has said, “Any day above ground is a good day.” I agree.

Leukemia can strike an unborn fetus. I remember staying in our college infirmary in 1966 and told I had a white blood cell count of 20,000. The next morning they told me I had mono. I was relieved knowing I was not leukemic. Children and the elderly are more illness prone than the remainder of the population. At 73 I get it. I appreciate my good fortune most of the time.

As to our health, relationships or work, even the rough days and circumstances can contain the seeds of growth. Sometimes in the midst of difficulty those seeds are very hard to find.

When my spouse first told me I was arrogant, I didn’t know what the term meant. Nor did I look it up. But when God took a hold of my life in 1985 it became the center of my concerns. Changing direction was the key to resolving some painful difficulties in our relationship.

Enjoy your good day and opportunities for growth. Let’s remember this weekend those thousands who have gone below ground for almost 250 years to give us a sweet land of opportunity.

The King of Clay Returns to Full Flight

Uncle Tony recently said Rafa was an injured man playing tennis. Nadal, uncharacteristically, kept losing in the semis of the red clay court season. Many thought his body at almost 33 had suffered one too many injuries.

Rafa had one last chance before Roland Garros to win his first title of the year. That was in Rome. Then something happened. He beat his semis-slayer in Madrid, Tsitsipas. But his recent nemesis stood waiting in the final, Djokovic (Nole).

Rafa started strong and “bageled” Nole in the first set (6-0). The second set was up and down for both. In the end it was Djokovic 6-4.

In the third set Rafa began to dominate. He returned to using his strength fully on defense. His over-sized arms could produce fierce forehands down the line stretching at full tilt. That shot would quickly change defense to offense. His powerful lower body allowed fully stretched, defensive, one-handed, backhand blocks on the dead run. Those blocks unlike many other pros went quite deep to the center of Nole’s court. Finally, Nadal had few unforced errors.

This was clearly his day. He drove unrelentingly to victory 6-1 in the 3rd and deciding set. The “Beast” or more accurately the “Bull” is back!

Reasons to Believe

“God exists not only outside of nature but outside of time. God precedes time and will outlive time.” David Prager, The Rational Bible.

I am in the midst of reading this commentary on Genesis. The quotation by the author above reminds one that God can hear the prayers of every person on earth at the same time. He exists outside of time making that a reasonable assumption. To those who couldn’t wrap their minds around that concept, hopefully this helps.

To those who want a better grasp of Genesis, this book is a clear, well-considered, approach to that illuminating book.

H. Robert Rubin, MD, Amazon best selling memoirist and author of Look Backward Angel and How Did I Get Through This? available on Amazon.

Tsitsipas Tennis’ New Mover and Shaker

A 20 year old with this much courage and this much talent has not exploded upon men’s tennis since June of 2006. His name was Rafa in 2006. His name is Stefanos in 2019.

Stefanos Tsitsipas in his very short tennis career had beaten Djokovic and Federer, but never, that other phenom, Raphael Nadal. Then this past Saturday one was reminded of how Magic Johnson showed the basketball world a man his size could move very well. On Saturday Tsitsipas showed his movement and footwork at 6 ft. 4 inches to the tennis world. It was illumimating, in the last nightime match of the evening.

He faced Rafa in the Spanish capital, Madrid, with thousands of fans routing for the Spaniard, the King of Clay who hailed from Mallorca. Stefanos won a very close 1st set He was overpowered in the second. But, he came back unexpectedly in the third to defeat the great Mallorcan.

The indestructible trio at the top has been humbled at major as well as masters events and by one so young. If he stays healthy the tennis world seems poised to see another great champion who has no visible weakness in his tennis skills. Wishing him well, bravo Stefanos!

Tears of Joy

“Joy comes when your heart is in another. Joy comes after years of changing diapers, driving to practice, worrying at night, dancing in the kitchen, playing in the yard and just sitting quietly together watching TV. Joy is the present that life gives you as you give away your gifts.” So said David Brooks in his NYT essay “The Difference between Joy and Happiness.”

It brought to mind a day about eight years ago when my family gathered for bedtime prayers with my oldest grandson. In the midst of the prayer my eyes shed tears of joy. We had raised our precious daughter and now she was raising this precious little two year old.

Thirty five years before that I was in essence lonely and single. I met the love of my life. Now the good Lord had blessed us with a precious family of seven to include our wonderful grandsons and son-in-law. It will be eight when my son and his lovely fiance are wed.

On that day in 2012 our hearts were filled with love and our souls were filled with joy. It just doesn’t get any better than this.

H. Robert Rubin, MD, Amazon best selling memoirist and author of Look Backward Angel, How Did I Get Through This? and Please Save the Third Dance for Me

The Wailing Wall

It’s been called the Wailing Wall or the Western Wall. For about 50 years I believed it was the remaining western wall of the 2nd Temple in Jerusalem. The Temple was rebuilt by King Herod in 37 B.C., hundreds of years after the destruction of Solomon’s Temple by Nebuchadnezzar’s forces. However when the Temple was destroyed in its entirety by the Romans in 70 AD, there was not a stone left standing of the building itself. That was the nature of their warfare, nothing left to chance.

This year, in the first two months of April my spouse and I toured Israel. The guide noted that the Wailing Wall was a retaining wall. In other words with the quite, hilly city that is Jerusalem the original Temple building sat on a high hill. It then had a courtyard. At the western end of the courtyard securing the soil on that side of the high hill was what we now call, the Western Wall.

One can call it what you will. One can describe its technicalities. But well beyond the technical nature of the Wall was the experience of this 100% Ashkenazi Jew praying at the Wall. To my right was a man dressed in black, orthodox garb whose hat had a modest brim. To my left was a man in a yarmulke dressed in shorts. It was a somewhat warm, breeze-less day in Jerusalem.

I bent slightly and placed my forehead against the ancient wall in prayer. It was evocative. I felt an indescribable connection to my forebears dating back several millennia. Even more real was my sense of the presence of God in this Holy Place. I am so thankful we made this trip.

A Day in March

It was a beautiful Sunday, likely in the month of March in 1977. Spring was in the air. The fragrance of flowers filtered through the breezes. Baltimore was particularly green that year. I could see that all through the 8th floor window of my home. That day was only felt and inhaled when I stepped out into that invigorating, fresh air.

I did that because the Sunday paper had mentioned an open house that day at the Maryland Institute of Art. It was a fine teaching institution established long before I moved to this city in July of 1975.

Once there I wandered through its buildings along several city blocks of downtown. Finally I came to its main building, an architecturally lauded, beautiful edifice. There was a picturesque wide set of steps to the second floor. Nearly hidden away were the narrow set of steps to the third floor.

I went up those stairs and met a lovely woman in blue overalls that accentuated her penetrating blue eyes. They were full of awareness, humor and tenderness, qualities that I cherish to this day in my spouse of 41 years. Our eyes had met and the world became an entirely different place.

H. Robert Rubin, MD, Amazon best selling memoirist and author of Look Backward Angel and How Did I Get Through This? available on Amazon.

The Power of Family

Dani Shapiro, the compelling memoirist and novelist, said in her memoir, Devotion: “The family of my childhood has become dust.” Likewise that has been true for me for a dozen years.

My mom was the last of my parents to pass away. She was as upbeat as anyone I have ever known. Mom found the goodness in people, particularly those who were blessed to be her children.

My older sister and younger brother have all acknowledged given our difficult father, she was the person who guided us through the stormy North Atlantic that was our adolescence. She was the light at the end of the tunnel.

Of my grandparents her father, Isadore, stood out distinctly. He was very close to Mom, my siblings and me. His unforgettable smile was “several miles” wide. He loved us just as he loved her, with his entire heart. My mother’s eyes would glisten when she spoke about him.

I love a story my sister told me about Isadore. She said that even in mid-century in our Midwest, when she and a friend would go to the movies ”alone,” he would sit in the back of the movie theater well behind them,

He died in 1953. Fifty three years later my mom died. After all these years I still remember her best advice in difficult times. She still lives, thank God, luminously in my heart.

H. Robert Rubin, best selling Amazon memoirist and author of Look Backward Angel, How Did I Get Through This? and Please Save the Third Dance for Me, available on Amazon.