Tony Gwynn, We Remember You

Tony Gwynn died way too early four years ago. San Diegans will never forget him. His loyalty to us was uncommon as he was never “free agented” away from our ball club.

One outstanding San Diegan and one great hitter! Tony was a humble, decent man who read most pitchers like a book in large print. That frustrated group included Greg Maddux and the Yankee pitchers whose team swept us in the 1998 World Series, while Tony batted .500 against them.

David Cone said he knew all he had to know about Tony when the season in which Mr. Padre batted .394 was shortened by history’s only Major League Baseball strike. He said despite losing an excellent chance at being the first .400 hitter in over 50 years Tony NEVER complained.

H. Robert Rubin, lifetime sports fan and memoirist who authored Look Backward Angel, an e-book that has spent time on the Amazon best sellers list in its genre.

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Going Deep

Regretfully we lost Anthony Bourdain to suicide at only 61. He has been referred to in various posthumous articles as a “bad boy” and as someone with smarts, wit and cool. Many people find it difficult to understand how a tall, good looking, famous, wealthy man with that trio of qualities would do himself in.

Apparently he was depressed. Four out of five of you will never suffer with depression. In my mid-20s I suffered through several clinical depressions. I can assure you they were, hands down, the worst ordeals in my 73 years. My emotions were flat. My days for weeks were filled with hopelessness. I frequently wanted to be someone else. I considered suicide but never made an attempt to end my life.

I was in medical school at the time. With one exception my friends and professors seemed oblivious to my plight. I recall one prof in the depths of my miseries who actually insulted me publically humiliating me.

Perhaps many of us could be listening more wholeheartedly to our loved ones and friends. Perchance we could get past what glistens on the surface and go deep. Maybe we could risk addressing with some not so inclined the potential benefits of behavioral therapy.

Mine was helpful and my depression lifted after each ordeal. Since my 20s the ailment has not returned. At a minimum to those who struggle with depression there is a National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 800-273-8255.

 

Too the lovely family members and close friends who have tried to assuage even “an ounce” of the problem sensitively, thank you regardless of the outcome. Brilliant, sensitive, behavioral therapists with meds available through physicians have their own tragic history of patients lost to suicide. Guilt is the “gift that keeps on giving.” Don’t be burdened with false guilt.

As the great poet/pastor John Donne suggested, we are all connected, NoManisanIsland. If nothing else, God willing, this tragedy can encourage many more to sensitively connect with others.

H. Robert Rubin, memoirist and author of Look Backward Angel, an e-book available on Amazon. How Did I Get Through This? is set for publication on Amazon in 2018.

Doubt

My confidence in tasks of manual dexterity as result of both my nature and lack of nurture from Harold (my father), have been a problem for me. In college and medical school I couldn’t wait to get out of the lab, a place where I had to measure, weigh and be dexterous.

Then in about 1969 I was on a hospital medical floor with a group of interns, residents and medical students. The attending physician/professor entered a patient’s room and we dutifully followed him. I believe, he gave us the patient’s history, none of which I recall today.

He then asked each of us following his physical examination of the patient to assess the size of the patient’s spleen, a blood cell filled organ by the stomach that is palpable through the skin in the presence of pathology or in very trim people. Some people found nothing. Others palpated what they believed to be spleen. I was doubtful and not sure what I felt.

As we left the patient’s room one of the attending physician’s underlings said, “This is what I love about medicine.” The sarcasm sure worked on me as I became even more directed towards pathology. It is a specialty that still rarely requires the palpation of a patient. I remember this story as though it happened yesterday. It retains as much power as it had then.

H. Robert Rubin, memoirist and author of Look Backward Angel, an e-book on Amazon (access below) and How Did I Get Through This? to be published on Amazon this year

 

 

Animosity

In November of 1955, when I was ten years old our family moved from Dayton, Ohio to Miami, Florida. I believe Mom flew and my siblings, John and Wendy, and I drove with Dad (Harold). The car was a peach, 1955 Plymouth sedan. While on the road Harold asked us to throw all the “non-essentials” out the window and that included a full sized umbrella. With any luck at all the drivers that followed on that roadway survived unblemished.

There was no interstate to follow during that cold November drive. As a result we went through the Kentucky and Tennessee hills spotting numerous hillbillies as well as what I was later to understand were moonshine stills.

Without warning, in the Deep South, I saw water fountains that said “Colored only” and bathrooms with the same term. Years later I learned those bathrooms were soiled beyond belief relative to the White rest rooms.

***

One collegiate quarter, after finals, in the mid-60s, I was driving to Miami and entered a county in South Georgia. I was stopped by an officer who quickly discovered I was not only driving, I believe, with a taillight out, but in addition my registration was expired. He said with two infractions he had to put me in jail unless and until I could provide bail.

I soon discovered what was meant by the term bail bondsman and managed to avoid being put behind bars. I have believed to this day had my last name NOT been Rubin, this incarceration threat never would have occurred.

***

As a resident in pathology in both Atlanta and Augusta, Georgia I continued to see remnants of racial animosity. I worked first at Emory University in Grady Memorial Hospital in downtown Atlanta. I didn’t discover till years later that just a few short years before I arrived there this public hospital had been segregated.

In my apartment complex at that time, 1971-1972, I befriended a news photographer for ABC. One day he told me that he had been sent to Mississippi during the worst of the racial tension in the 60s, He said during that time he met the bravest man he had ever met, Medgar Evers. Medgar, of course, had been martyred fighting for the cause of racial freedom.

Finally in Augusta in 1974 and 1975 I lived in a cookhouse with bedrooms on a former, antebellum plantation. The owner was a physician who gave residents at the medical center a cut rate which I believe was $90/month for the house rental. He and his family lived in the main house and its basement had narrow, rectangular windows with bars that had kept the male slaves confined at night. Seeing this vestige of slavery each day was a constant reminder of the anguished life of the American slaves.

Martin Luther King fought this animus against his people. He was at his most persuasive in his negotiation with a committee led by Chicago’s Mayor Daley. The meeting concerned the committee’s alarm over a planned civil rights march. The meeting is described in Bearing the Cross by David J Garrow which I’ve reviewed on another post on my blog.(https://examplewordpresscom62751.wordpress.com/2018/04/19/bearing-the-cross-by-david-k-garrow-a-definitive-biography-of-mlk-a-book-review/)

With faith and touched by the Holy Spirit ( Counselor of the Trinity), from my view, he said: “Now, gentlemen, you know we don’t have much. We don’t have much money. We don’t really have much education, and we don’t have political power. We have only our bodies and you are asking us to give up the one thing we have when you say, ‘Don’t march.’ We want to be visible. We are not trying to overthrow you; we’re trying to get in.”

As to the pain of not getting in, it was never more visible to me than one Sunday in medical school when an African American underclassman took me to his church. A very, elderly, Black woman at the service felt overwhelmed by her pain, stood up and began to not sing, but wail. She moved all four limbs ever more forcefully. The pain of being trod under foot for decades was evident, I believe, to all of us. We felt her pain. It was as though she sang the blues and the melody echoed across the rafters. It’s been nearly 50 years, but I will NEVER forget her anguish.

H. Robert Rubin, memoirist and author of Look Backward Angel, an e-book on Amazon and How Did I Get Through This? to be published on Amazon this year

1977

A few years after my brief, first marriage ended in divorce, I met my spouse of over 40 years in Baltimore. She was an art student at the Maryland Institute College of Art. It was the spring of 1977. I met her parents on our second date. I took her to dinner several times. She certainly grew on me steadily.

In the midst of that relationship I traveled alone to Washington, D.C. I looked up a distinguished, well-known attorney who I was told was a relative in Washington.  He described to me the tragedy of having recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

He was only 60 years old. I was 32. He explained to me the difficulties with his ten-year old son as a result of his memory loss. It was a distressing conversation.

I told him how serious I was about Kristine, how special she was to me, how unique. I’ve told people since that women I dated frequently helped me to deteriorate while she helped me to grow.

I lost track of that tragic recipient of early Alzheimer’s afterwards. It was a juncture that at once addressed my new, permanent love as well as the disease in my family that would take this relative and both my parents.

The attorney died in April 1983 at 66. The Washington Post obituary simply said he had Alzheimer’s when he died. As to the joys and burdens of those minutes when we met, my aired feelings for Kristine and empathy for him that day, were lasting jolts in my life for the better and for the worse.

My relationship with Kristine continued to grow. She and I were engaged in August.

One of my maternal aunts met Kristine prior to my parents. She was the oldest of the three sisters in my mother’s family. She came up from Florida to Washington, D. C. to give Kristine a lovely family ring. My folks didn’t meet Kristine until just before our December wedding.

My aunt met us for dinner at an excellent Hungarian restaurant called Csikos. A csiko is a Hungarian, mounted herdsman. The restaurant reached back in time to my maternal grandparents who hailed from Hungary. They immigrated to America in the late 19th Century.

Reaching forward to 2028, when hopefully I will be alive and ticking, the New York Times posted an article about the 2028 Summer Olympics on 8/1/17. Mike McPhate wrote about the agreement to stage the games in L.A. Some Los Angeles reporters working for the Times were asked for a potential sport that L.A. could add to the Olympics. One suggestion caught my eye. “Food truck drag racing on Silver Lake Boulevard.”

Returning to the fall of 1977, I was eager to move to California, a dream of mine since I was a kid. That all materialized swiftly as I obtained a medical examiner’s post in Ventura, California. I was to begin in January of 1978. Kristine by the grace of God was graduating in December.  Right up until the last day of 1977, when we arrived in Ventura, it was a year that teemed with blessings.

At our wedding one week before Christmas, Liz, one of my sister’s two children, saw Kris in her Greek wreath and beautiful dress as a heroine. She told her this only recently. Kristine has always been and will always be my heroine.

H. Robert Rubin, memoirist and author of Look Backward Angel, an e-book on Amazon and How Did I Get Through This? to be published on Amazon this year

Haste

I was practicing surgical pathology 35 years ago. I would wait for the day’s surgical specimens, including biopsies, so that most of them could then be processed overnight. Each specimen jar had a label with the patient’s name. First I would place the tissue specimens in small, metal cassettes with identifying specimen numbers. Then overnight a device would embed the surgical tissue in paraffin wax. Once in a paraffin block the tissue was finely cut, placed on a slide and finally stained for diagnostic purposes by a technologist.

On one particular day I was in a rush to leave the hospital. I went to obtain the specimens myself from the operating suite instead of waiting for a courier. I believe I first found the jars on a large, flat, metal container. I picked it up and began to walk briskly to the lab.

I rushed along the hospital floor, slipped and the jars of specimens tumbled to the floor. I heard the sound of shattering glass. I was almost faint thinking that tissue specimens may have scattered without specific, patient identification. Trembling, I looked down at the floor to assess the damage.

Only one specimen bottle had broken open. It was not human tissue. It consisted of metal hardware removed from a patient that only required naked eye, visual inspection. The sole broken bottle’s label identified the patient’s name. I am absolutely certain those falling jars were cradled in the hands of at least one angel. Thank God for His grace for those precious patients and me.

***

Haste has been a source of dissonance in my life. It runs counter to meaningful relationships.

The importance of slowing down in love was expressed by John Steinbeck in a letter on 11/10/58 to his son Thom, who had fallen in love while at boarding school. “And don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens — The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.”

(https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2012/01/john-steinbeck-on-falling-in-love-a-1958-letter/251375/)

Per Max Ehrman in his famous poem, Desiderata, “Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.” (http://mwkworks.com/desiderata.html). I so need a tempo in harmony with the Lord, in the music that is my life.

H. Robert Rubin, memoirist and author of Look Backward Angel, an e-book on Amazon (access below) and How Did I Get Through This? to be published on Amazon this year