The Spanish Flu Hits Home

I’m very sensitive to contagious illness; I have an almost nonfunctioning immune system. Even before the coronavirus, I wore masks on my limited outings and washed my hands often, telling people who were sick to come see me when well. But that’s not the story I want to tell.
At age twelve, my mother was hit by the flu of 1918, but recovered. When the same flu hit even more ferociously in 1919, she was the only one well in the home, due to her immunity. Her parents, grandparents and the three of her five sibs still living there

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Carpe Diem

I grew up hearing about the flu epidemic of 1918–and knowing how contagious disease can affect a family’s history. My 26-year-old paternal grandfather died in that epidemic; he left behind his 23-year-old wife and my dad, not quite three years old. This tragedy determined the trajectory of the lives of my beloved grandmother and dad; it left a hole in our family tree that no amount of time could ever fill. 

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An Editor’s Invitation: Contagion

We have entered a period of uncertainty and fear as a new coronavirus infects more people and makes its way around the globe and into our midst.
As an undergraduate, I read The Plague by Albert Camus and wondered what it would have been like to have lived in the time of the Black Death.
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Retirement, Hibernation, and Renewal

I retired from a deeply satisfying teaching career just before I turned sixty-five, having always thought I would keep teaching well into my seventies. The decision came in the aftermath of my parents’ illnesses and deaths.

The years between stroke and death for both my mother and father seem, with hindsight,

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The Joy of Getting Older

Whenever I talk about getting older with those who are older than me, I see the same facial expression. I like to describe it as a scowl: a blank stare with a raised eyebrow. Every so often I get the sad droop of a head as it shakes side to side. Sometimes it’s even coupled with a smirk, seemingly saying: “Oh, child, you have no idea!”
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Birthday Card Campaign

My awesome friend, Flo, worked as the RN nurse manager of the Spinal Cord Unit at the Veterans Administration hospital for many years. During that time, she married, raised twins and earned a master’s degree. Then, in 1990, she came to work at my hospital, and we’ve been friends ever since.

Flo was generous, had a great sense of humor and always saw the best in people. We said she looked at the world through rose-colored glasses.

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Gratitude and Generosity

After fifty-six years of practicing primary internal medicine, I retired in my ninetieth year. The goodbyes and well wishes were only the tip of an iceberg in which my patients and I shared the journey of their illnesses together, and I was honored to serve as a guide in their odyssey.
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I Used to Be Happy about My Birthday

My mother was forty-nine when she died of primary pulmonary hypertension. She was a non-smoker and a non-drinker, but she had a tremendous amount of stress in her life. After being told she could not have a management job because she was a woman, she sued her employer for discrimination. These were the days of the “women’s liberation movement.”
My mother won her lawsuit, but she died before it was settled. I blame the stress of the lawsuit on her illness and untimely death. 
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Medical Manners

“So, how much do you love the new knee I gave you?” he asked as he walked into the exam room. I stared at the doctor in disbelief. This was his introduction at my first post-op visit after knee replacement surgery? My husband had been an orthopedic surgeon himself, and I’m quite sure that, in his thirty years of practice, he never said that to a patient.

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A Night at the Symphony

The light from the stage spilled out over the audience and illuminated the faces of my companions. I was there with my Dad, 94, and his friend of many years Dilys, 93. We were settling in after intermission. As the music started, I could feel each of them sit up a little straighter, alert to the familiar Mozart. I wondered how many times each had heard this symphony. I glanced at the two of them, their faces rapt in full attention. Their eyes gleamed and each of them smiled slightly. Bliss! I felt a rush of happiness to be

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Old People

 I grew up hating old people. As a young child, I was engulfed in a sea of gray hair and wrinkles and had no playmates. Mama was forty-one when I was born; Daddy was forty-five. My siblings and cousins were older than me by at least eleven years. None of our neighbors had children. The people we visited were all in my parents’ age group or older.
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Accepting the Inevitable

Simon and Garfunkel said it best: “How terribly strange to be seventy.” When I turned seventy in 2017, I felt old for the first time in my life. Nothing external changed except for a few more wrinkles and gray hairs; I kept my part-time teaching job, continued to usher at theatres, and kept up my reading marathon. However, internally, I felt mortal; most of the chapters in my life have ended, and only a few chapters and the epilogue remain.

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