Monday, April 25, 2016

Loss of a Longtime Neighbor

Last Tuesday evening I went to Howie’s to see how the smell was coming, and found it had abated enough that I was able to be there the whole evening without distress; the other sangha member who had been particularly affected was also there and also said it seemed much better. It was really nice to see my meditation friends and Howie again. I will have to find some way of being there during CPE at least every two or three weeks, or maybe I can go for the meditation and leave during the break.

My father sent an email late last week with a link to the obituary of our longtime next door neighbor, an award-winning doctor and a pioneer in using ultrasound imaging to diagnose prostate cancer. His middle child of five and oldest son was a suitor of mine when we were seven; he made me a bracelet out of a pounded copper nail. I still have on my right arm two tiny round scars made by the teeth of an enraged gerbil that Fred, Jr., known as Feo, had tossed in the air. He was a smart and kind boy and this act, which infuriated but did not otherwise harm the gerbil, was uncharacteristic.

Feo’s father and my father and several other people ran 12 miles or so together on Sunday mornings for many years. My father writes, “Early on in our running togetherness, I was on the verge of stopping running because of knee pain. When I mentioned this to Fred, he told me to walk away from him while he observed. He told me my feet were over-pronating and recommended arch supports. I subsequently built up the arch supports to force my feet to tilt outward, thereby transforming the arch supports into varus wedges. Fred’s suggestion allowed me to run for decades with no more knee pain.”

My father went on: “Most of my other contact with Fred is fairly recent and occurred mostly at his office. Before I became his patient, somehow or other I mentioned my high PSA readings to him. He suggested that I leave the urologist I had been seeing and let him take care of me. I was hesitant, not wishing to offend the doctor I had been seeing. While I was still hesitating, he made an appointment for me to force the issue. I’m glad he did, since he was one of the world’s leading authorities on prostate cancer and gave me excellent care. The office visits usually ran a bit long due to our reminiscing about current and past neighborhood people and events. After my prostate cancer was diagnosed, Fred invited me to his home one day. After discussing my medical situation in great detail, we spent another hour talking about all kinds of things.”

My father once told me how outstanding Fred’s bedside manner was, how he took my father’s hand and looked into his eyes while offering words of support and encouragement: “He seemed to be genuinely concerned about my health, very warm and caring, far more than any other physician I have ever encountered. Fred’s wife told me that he delayed retirement for so long because he felt so much responsibility for his patients.” He was 84 when he retired, just one year ago.

I always found him in a mood of extreme good cheer and had gotten into the habit of going to say hello to him and his wife each time I visited Ann Arbor, if they happened to be in their back yard. The last time I saw him, they were on their back deck. It was a brilliantly sunny afternoon and he said with a big smile how much he was enjoying the beautiful day. That is a nice last memory.
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