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Mork returns

After an absence of many decades, Mork steps off the #64 Main Street bus in Toronto. Because he told me to expect him, I run down the street to meet him. Then I take him across Kingston Road into Starbucks. After I explain what a latte is, he agrees to drink one. [Note to author: if you’re going to do a Mork and Mindy update, you really need to watch the original.]

Mork looks around at all the people sitting at tables, alone, staring at their smartphones, and wearing earphones. “Why is everyone talking to themselves?”

“That’s our newest telephone,” I explain.

“And why is that girl hitting her phone with her thumbs?”

“She’s texting–sending words to someone. Texting is like sending a letter, but the other person gets it right away.” I show him how it works on my smartphone.

Mork smiles. “Can I borrow your phone?”  He struggles with the little letter for a long time before giving up. I tell him our texts don’t reach Mars anyway.







Twenty percent deductible

When my father developed cancer in the early 1980s, he was a self-employed, upper middle-class architect, subject to the ups and downs of the economic climate. Because health insurance cost so much for him and my mother, both in their sixties, he had chosen the 20 percent deductible option to reduce his premiums.

That was the first of many mistakes that would ultimately lead to his preventable death at age 63. Twenty percent deductible would lead to a $200,000 medical bill at the Sloan Kettering, which he was unable to work off before his death. He died in dialysis at the local hospital in Perth Amboy, NJ, which was covered by Medicare, I assume. My parents never told me why he’d been kicked downstairs to die, but I suspect the reason was financial.

I could go into the gruesome details of his death in a third rate ICU, but that’s not the point of this posting. Throughout my father’s journey in the Sloan, I sat in waiting rooms and listened to many obviously middle-class people talking about bankruptcy and having to sell homes and more. Perhaps because my parents were deeply in denial about my father’s incurable cancer,  they stayed in the house they loved and ignored financial reality.


Immediately after his death in 1987,  my grieving mother was hounded by Sloan for payment in full. I tried to intervene with the phone calls, even reminding them of how the Rockefeller supported institution had a public statement of how they would treat patients regardless of their financial status. It was like talking to a brick wall. Mom sold the house, and also gave the Sloan an inheritance she’d received long after a beloved aunt had died. Mom then moved to an overpriced one-bedroom apartment and lived out her remaining 20 years in poverty, slowly losing her health, her teeth and her sanity.


Yes, I sent her what I, as a single mother supporting two children from a deadbeat husband could afford, but learned  (after she had tried to commit suicide by throwing herself down the stairs) that she’d saved every cent I’d sent her, preferring to rack up a huge credit card debt. (Bank of America gave a senile 88 year old woman a small business card on the basis of a phone call–but that’s another story).


I write this in the hope that none of my American friends, or their families, suffer at the hands of Congressional representatives who may literally get away with murder.





















On Board with My Parents

Seven. I’m just old enough to appreciate and remember my parents’ journeys. So I’ll ghost them as they board their ships. Maybe I’ll even speak to them in their dreams. Not sure if I should let Karen come too. I’d have more fun, but I’ve got a job to do here. She might distract me, or even worse, she’d take over. What the hell, she dominates my dreams and thoughts anyway, might as well include her in the adventure.


Both my mother and father wait at different piers for the boats that will take their families out of Europe to the Dominican Republic, the banana republic ruled by a dictator who will accept Jews, and provide visas for their escape. Mom is fifteen. Dad, sixteen. They would never have met if Mom hadn’t come down with malaria, and left Ciudad Trujillo, which the reader might know as Santo Domingo, for a finca,or health farm, to recuperate. Enter Dad, or maybe first his escaping horse, from my paternal grandparents farm next door. Dad, already the artist, saw her and loved her first with his eyes. He never told me if he captured the horse.

I’ll See You Again

If I stand in the middle of a circle, surrounded by Karen, Uncle Tommy and Dad, I can feel the rush to leave without saying goodbye to my lifelong sister and best friend, and the two men who’ve loved me more than anyone. Karen’s been dying of ovarian cancer for four years, and she’s shrunk down to skin and bones, but I tell her I have to leave. Or was it that I thought she wanted me to leave?
“You’re flying to Bermuda this week.”
“I was wrong–not till the 20th.”
I just assumed I’d be back later that summer; squeeze in another visit. If I’d looked more closely at her face, listened more closely to the hesitation in her voice, I’d have realized she didn’t want me to leave because somehow she knew she’d never see me again. In August she collapsed and never left hospital. 2014. August 8.
The dying know what we don’t want to. Dad knew. We sat on his bed and he held up his arm to show me how chemo and dialysis had destroyed all his veins. Next time I saw him he’d be in ICU, half blue from the stroke. The living always assume we’ll have one more visit, one more day. He died February 8, 1987.
Uncle Tommy knew he was going to be murdered and wanted me to help. I tried. But privacy laws in Canada meant the assassin had more protection than my uncle. Two months later he was dead. May 16, 1989.

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