in pictures not in words but much to write and now I am free to do that since I completed an essay that took far longer then I had anticipated indistinct, clarity, framing, time, aspiration, ideas, self, momento mori
Flora Arnswalder Caspari with her husband Paul Caspari, MD
I was trying to find a photograph of my grandfather, Paul Caspari MD in his medical coat, seated on the balcony of the family apartment in Berlin across from Sennefelderplatz, could could not locate it among the plethora of pictures that need organizing. Now that I am 70, I have outlived many of my family members. When I was young they were "old"; now that I am old they are young. Paradox of time and age. I never did meet my grandfather; he died before I was born. What I know about him was told to me by my mother. From her I will relate but one aspect of the man. He was a physician who lived for his patients; he lived in a district in Berlin where working class people lived as well as middle income as one denotes the middle class today. But affluent or poor he treated all alike. His practice was limited to Monday-Friday, but he was accessible at all times, be it morning or mid-night. A bell was affixed to the apartment building where he lived with his family and where he had his practice. If someone was in need at special hours, they pulled on this bell and alerted him to the patient downstairs and outside. He was a general practitioner and took on a variety of cases and diseases. I wished I could be mroe specific but I do not have the information. But he was one of Rudolf Virchow's students and wrote his doctoral dissertation in Latin for the great physician-teacher. I mention these details because I would like to contrast him with the physicians of today (a broad generalization of course). One physican I met with to discuss a problem was debating whether she should purchase an Audi or another expensive vehicle for her daughter who was attending high school. This physician, who is respected for her expertise, will no longer take medicare patients because the reimbursement rate is not high enough. So people of low income--and who today is not?-- and who are aged and who need to see an outstanding specialist will no longer be able to afford to "buy this knowledge. And another physician's fees are so high that again a similar story is repeated. But in this case the physician was concerned about the purchase of art. Most enter the profession today for the sake of money alone; the notion of a physician as a healer, not a quack, but one who keeps up with the literature to insure that the patient receives the best care possible has almost disappeared. Why are there so many dermatologist/cosmetic surgeons, a surfeit of them when what is needed is a general practioner and internists who put the pieces back together again. Those doctors are regarded by the upper tier as losers; sound familiar. The same system has degraded the rest of our culture.
Now, let me return to my grandfather Paul, whose name was given to my brother Paul Peter in memory of this excellent person. He died in Berlin during a routine operation, when he suffered a heart attack before I was born on Pearl Harbor Day, 7 December, 1941. He witnessed the rise of Nazism and knew what was happening. Yet he chose to return to Berlin after a brief visit to the United States. He felt that it was his duty to care for those who needed his help. Fortunately he did not live to see what actually occurred. But his commitment to health care was primary; it was his calling. The next comment can easily be guessed, but I will forgo making it. Anyone with some wit can fill in the thought. I am posting therefore pictures posted on other occasions, on other days when the Jahrzeit candle was lit in his memory. But I am the last of my family to carry out this act of memory. Neither my brother, my children or my grandchildren have any sense of responsibility. Indeed, the customs of Jewish heritage are performed for outward show and not from the heart, if indeed the heritage of their forebears is even recalled.
a few leaves hold on, but their brethren have lost their grip and have fallen to earth, honey colored still, golden still but faded and their fate is unknown except before them other have disappeared from on high to the ground, to earth to mother earth and what remains is the structure of the trees, their twists and turns, their circles and their aspirations to heights that will never be reached or if attained will be but a moment, a gasp in time. but if man leaves the trees alone, then more will follow if guided by the hand of agriculture, the art of sustenance and of growth
I have posted pictures of this tree previously (located in Tenafly Commons near the pond and next the monstrous skate board "park"), but the unexpected blossoms in late November testify to its heroic efforts in the face adversity. most of the tree was barren, its leaves had dropped except for a few tiny orange daubs, leaves that were like silent bells moving int he wind. This tree may not last through the winter. With care and pruning it might have a chance, but growths have appeared on one limb and others are certain to follow. Of course with careful tendering the tree might still have many years but that is unlikely. So we will lose this miraculous tree; Tenafly (New Jersey 07670) does not have another one like it. And all the other cherry trees are dying too, except for a few new ones. They are not hardy stock and their life span will be brief; perhaps ten years at best. But the tree with the blossoms that appear even in winter when snow strikes is a wonder. Too bad no one else appears to notice or to care.
As the driver went north on Park Avenue, a bright yellow leaf fell onto the car's hood. The driver was returning from a visit to a physician and felt the leaf. How strange. It smote her chest but it was on the hood that the brightness fell and it was swept away by the car's motion, yet strangely it was felt as a blow to her left chest and the pain caused tears to run down her cheek.
Manhattan, NYC, Broadway, 109th Street looking north Tenafly, New Jersey, looking east, November 1, 2011
storms, wind storms, hurricanes, lightning, and almost all meteorological phenomena almost invariably cause power failures in the suburbs. no heat and no light for days (still counting in Bergen County since the 31 October, 2011 storm. yet the power companies, the utilities, rake in huge profits. too costly they argue to place the lines underground. but we are living in the 21st century, yet our streets in the suburbs and in rural areas resemble the nineteenth century. why are so many European countries, for instance The Netherlands, Belgium, France, England, to name only a few, free of these anachronisms? why should customers pay the incredibly high rates charged for power services when the grids always fail, the lines collapse, the posts keel over. it is time for a change and that change should be now.
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