Yet Another Time I Erred …

Those conversations on long car trips with my friend Rich Kaplan sometimes wandered into discussions of anti-semitism. Rich was very sensitive to words or attitudes that he regarded as anti-semitic, and he did not hold back in expressing his feelings.

Sometimes this made me wonder, because I didn’t interpret what he had heard in the same way he did. I would think at those times, god forbid, that he might be overreacting. To me the Holocaust had been a horrible aberration, the pogroms were artifacts of a distant age. And if a few dim-bulb yahoos continued to use the occasional anti-Jewish slur, why, we lived in the enlightened US of A, after all. Who would listen to them?

Rich saw it differently. To him, anti-semitism was a monster thousands of years old, one that was at that moment merely nibbling at the world, but only biding its time. To him, no instance of a racist comment could go unchallenged lest it encourage the appetite of that creature.

Now it is way too clear that he was right all along. The past several years have seen an increase in anti-semitic events in this country, some of them terribly violent. And the slope of this ugly trend is ever upward.

I can almost hear him telling me as I write: “I told you so, you ignorant f**ckstick!”

(When Rich chose to use profanity, he often employed a rich verbal palette that he created all by himself.)

******

The New York Times ran a piece in the Science section this week about women who want to be both surgeons and mothers, and the conflicts that inevitably arise. The very first paragraph rankled, and I will repeat it here:

As a health care professional, Dr. Erika Rangel is trained to know when things are going wrong. That alarm went off one day in her fourth year of surgical residency. Her son, just 3 months old, had developed a fever. She couldn’t be late for her operating shift, but his day care wouldn’t accept him if he was sick. So she did what desperate mothers do and got inventive: She slipped liquid Tylenol into his bottle, in the hopes of lowering his temperature, and dropped him off.

NYTImes, December 31

Anybody see anything wrong here? First of all, keep in mind that early on in their course, serious diseases and trivial ones are routinely indistinguishable from one another in infants. But this mother tried to conceal her baby’s illness from the day care center staff, thus exposing them and the other children at the center to whatever her child was suffering from.

In the next line the reporter seems to applaud this surgeon-in-training, who “did what desperate mothers do and got inventive.” How about substituting “devious” or “dishonest” for the word inventive?

(As an aside, in this story, we know nothing of the child’s father, who may or may not have been available. But if he was around to potentially help, then this was a case of folie a deux.)

While I have empathy for any parents who try to “balance” jobs and careers, they lose me completely when they roll the dice with their kids’ health or well-being. Being on call to your family so often loses out to being on call for your patients, that having a Plan B which does not require irresponsibility has to be a part of one’s game. Children do get sick. It will happen on a workday. Plan for it.

So where do I get off with making such judgments? From years of being a physician/parent who made just about all the mistakes possible.

******

Who knew I had a soft spot for angels? I was playing a tune for Robin over breakfast one morning this week when I realized something about myself. (Since by definition everything about me is fascinating, I thought I would share it with you all.)

The song was Calling All Angels, by k.d. lang and Jane Siberry. And even as I was talking about it to Robin, I recalled other “angel” songs that were favorites of mine. Did I have a thing for these celestial personages, I wondered?

My conclusion was that I did. Even if I have some problems believing in their existence, it’s obvious that I wish there could be a few of them hanging around, and I take some odd comfort in songs that suggest that it may be true.

Some of those other songs that came to mind:

******

I think I shared this recipe once before, but no matter – I repeat myself daily and have got quite used to it. Robin and I made this Hungarian mushroom soup again last week and … well … it’s just too good for mortals.

Usually you can look at a list of ingredients and have a pretty good idea how it all will taste. But not in this case. This soup is greater than the sum of its parts.

******

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