Monday, August 22, 2016

One More Hero Gone

I don’t usually read the sports section but the New York Times’ final coverage of the Olympics drew me in. There, after all the gold medal stories, was Dr. Donald A. Henderson’s obituary. 

I knew him. I read his book, “Smallpox: The Death of a Disease.” I sat at the table with him in Rotary International’s board room in Evanston, IL and at the Pan American Health Organization’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. 

 It’s entirely possible that most people have never heard of him – have no idea that he led the successful global effort to eradicate smallpox. 

Two years ago another hero died, Dr. Ciro de Quadros, who led the successful effort to eradicate polio from the Americas. Dr. de Quadros was part of the smallpox eradication team – one of the hundreds of heroes whom Dr. Henderson honored with the “Order of the Bifurcated Needle.” [The smallpox vaccine was administered with a two-pronged needle.] 

When Rotary International committed that association to the eradication of polio, Dr. D.A. Henderson was one of the experts consulted. Sometimes he supported the effort (believing it possible), sometimes not (believing it more ‘evangelical than attainable’. And sometimes he changed his mind. 

Always bringing great intellect, common sense, and compassion to his dedication to human health, he was a hero among heroes. 

However tangentially, his life touched mine and I was enriched. And he saved the lives – and the quality of life – for hundreds of thousands of us. 

Thank you, Dr. D.A. Henderson.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Herbie -- The Velvet Glove

My cat Herbie has the softest coat I’ve ever felt on any cat – softer than rabbit fur. And he loves everyone – people he has known forever and total strangers. The doorbell (whether actual or on television) spurs him into action. He greets all visitors with great enthusiasm. If they sit, he sits on their laps and revels in their attention.

And he pays intense attention to me. For years, he has supervised my writing . . . and almost every other activity. (When he is not sleeping)
Herbie will be 16 years old in October and he has kidney disease.
Although the special food I buy from the vet seems to be helping, I know it will only slow the inevitable. Knowing that, I tend to pamper him – making sure he has enough food, enough water, enough love – and a clean litter box.
I’ve long held the theory that cats (or at least my cats) are remarkably similar to two-year-old humans. You know what happens when you pamper a two-year-old? They want more.
Now when I go to bed, Herbie joins me. He walks up to the head of the bed and with gentle pushes of his front paws, rearranges me. He wants the softest pillow. He often gets the softest pillow – there are others for me.

When I’m not there, the pillow becomes his throne.
Herbie – my gentle, loving cat – has become he who must be obeyed – an iron hand in a velvet glove.

Monday, August 1, 2016

New Bed

About a year or so after my mom died, I received a small bequest. At the time I needed two things: a new bed and a new car. Mom’s money made possible both a brand new 1998 Toyota Celica in ‘Renaissance Red’ and a queen-size brass sleigh bed. Both were amazingly sexy. Mom would have been delighted.

A couple of years ago I traded my bright red car, which I had named Esmeralda, for a Subaru Crosstrek in a decorous burgundy. I call it Sam. Snow does not deter its rugged energy. It’s a good looking, practical car. 

Now the skeleton of my great brass bed leans against the west wall of my garage, awaiting a buyer from Craigslist. In its stead, I have a white wooden platform bed. Significantly smaller than its predecessor, the new bed’s headboard is now against the north wall --- where I believe the feng shui is better – and where my brass headboard could not fit because of the slant of my bungalow’s ceiling.

My whole bedroom is open and airy. I like it. Herbie my cat likes it. And the new bed is lower, making ascent/descent easier. It’s a little more boring, more practical. But it’s still a double bed. The likelihood of nocturnal non-feline company for a septuagenarian with overabundant anatomy is not high, but you never know. 

Mom would have been pleased.