My Stories

November 10, 2015

Joy: Physical

I was challenged recently by an article I was reading to identity what, over the years, had contributed to my moments of joy. Somewhat to my surprise, just because I had never thought of it before, what came up instantly and at the top of the list was physical activity, beginning with tennis but over the years including bicycle riding, skating, swimming, running, hiking, walking, and working out.

January 26, 2015

Eviction — The Worst Day of My Life

I already knew we were living on the other side of the tracks and the other side of the river. I also knew we were in the next to last house on the road leading out of town. I knew we rented the house, it was not ours. And I knew we had no viable drinking water, we had to go to the neighbors for that. I knew all that at seven years of age, so I certainly knew when we came home that one afternoon to find the sheriff there to evict us from the house that we had reached more than the end of the road.

December 3, 2014

 Letting Go of the Myth of Loss

My entire life, and I reached 73 years of age this year, I have grieved the loss of my father when I was young and felt a lifelong sense of abandonment.

November 28, 2014

Becoming a Master of Education

It actually began with a required behavioral science course in my senior year at Harvard. I chose the one with B.F. Skinner, the operant conditioning man, the stimulus response man, the system based on positive reinforcement.

November 27, 2014

Dr. Barchilon—Interpreter of Stories

I realized when I was talking with a friend the other day that this man, from my medical school days, was still influencing me 45 years later. He was in no small part responsible for me wanting to launch this blog as well as contributing importantly to its content.

November 20, 2014

My Doctor—Dr. Price

Indeed he was, and I know from personal experience what an extraordinary family physician he was. I knew him initially only from his showing up regularly at the B & B Pharmacy in Brush, Colorado, but November of my senior year in high school that all changed when my mother got sick. I remember that November morning when we met him downtown, and he took off with Mother for the train.

Oh Sh_t!

Those were my last conscious words before I woke up 25 minutes later in the back of an ambulance, strapped to a guerney and looking up at the ceiling. The attendant confirmed I was in trouble by asking me to name the day of the week. Not a clue, but I did remember my grandson had been with me, and I immediately asked where he was.

The attendant reassured me he was in the cab with the driver, and they had called his parents to let them know what had happened, and that we would be headed to the Sky Ridge emergency room. Problem is they got the name wrong. They told the parents it was Hunter, my grandson’s name, who had the accident. So his parents were immensely relieved when, after they had rushed to the emergency room, they found out it was grandpa, not Hunter who was injured.

The fun continued, since I was still a little loopy. When the physician came in and introduced himself as Dr. Wilson, I introduced myself as Dr. Slater, which I am, or was, or something like that. He carefully removed my ring from the finger of my injured hand, noting it was a Harvard class ring. So when the results of the CAT scan came back, he said with all due respect, you’ll be pleased to know that your Harvard brain appears to be intact and without visible injury.

The other irony was that just 30 days before my son was in that same emergency room. I had gotten a call one Saturday afternoon from his wife saying she was on the way to the emergency room because my son David was there with acute appendicitis. As I walked in I said to him, something’s wrong with this picture, it is the 40 year old and not the 70 year old, me, who is in the emergency room, but not to worry because an appendectomy was one of the two operations I did get to perform in medical school and could handle it. He declined my offer.

Even after we got home I was still feeling less than grounded so I had my son take a picture of me that I could send it to my daughter Julie. She had been asking for a current picture of me, and I could think of no better representation than me at that moment, all bloody and patched up. I think I did wake up somewhat later and declined to send that rather shocking picture to her.

I found out some interesting things afterward. My grandson and I had been on a couple of bike rides before, and I think it was our third outing together. I had dreamed of these days, getting out and riding our bikes together, so I was not about to decline when I showed up that day, a no school day for him, and he said he wanted to go on a bike ride, to go the route through the neighborhood which his Dad had introduced him to over the weekend.

Sounded good, but there was a problem. Since I did not know ahead of time that we were going biking I had neither my bike nor my helmet. No problem on the bike, his Father’s bike was in the garage and I could use it. But when I asked where his father’s helmet was, I discovered there was none. The father who made his son wear a helmet for everything, of course, owned no helmet of his own. I always wear a bicycle helmet, but I thought it would be OK, we were just going riding in the neighborhood, and in fact were only 10 minutes from the house when I went over the handlebar and did a face plant on the sidewalk.

As I was told the story afterward, my grandson had been maybe 100 yards ahead of me when I fell, and by the time he looked back and discovered I had had an accident, three cars had already stopped to help. The other good fortune was that the fire station and ambulance were less than 5 minutes up the road from where I had hit the sidewalk.

Some years later, when my daughter in law was talking with a friend about my accident, the friend said she was the one who arrived first on the scene and called in the accident. Later I got to thank her for her kindness, and even later, when I was taking my grandson and her son to some event, her son told me he had been in the car at that time and remembered seeing the accident.



Slaters Taters

(with thanks to my sister Joyce Thim for that title)

Our potato chip factory was located in a two car brick garage located in back of a house on a side street in Beloit, Kansas. We entered through the garage door to a warm, both physically and emotionally, space. It was warm when we were working because of the vats of hot oil in which the potato chips cooked, and it was warm emotionally because we were all working together on making potato chips. We worked there as a family, my mother, my father, my 6 year old sister, and 7 year old me.

The process began with potatoes, which we put into some kind of machine with water and a chute and something that skinned or peeled the potatoes, the cold, wet white potatoes. From the bottom of the chute where they were peeled they were somehow transferred to another machine that sliced them thin enough to make a potato chip. These thin slices were then added to the vat of hot oil, a vat about the size of a tympani drum, but without a cover. The oil was really hot, so us kids were kept away from it. The potato slices floated on the surface of the oil while they cooked. Then some kind of long handled net was used to transfer them to the cooling, drying table, where I was stationed. It was my job to salt them and then to bag them, when they were cool and dry, weigh them, and close the bag. I loved that job, I loved tasting the warm, just salted chips. They still make my mouth water, and I can honestly say I have never had a potato chip which tasted as good as those.

The one other thing I remember is going door to door is that small town selling those bags of potato chips. I enjoyed that too, and began a life long love of selling things.

Francis Stories

I had an extraordinary man, Francis, in my life, in my adult life from my mid-forties and into my fifties. He was like a second father to me, and that was important because my own father left when I was 7 and died when I was 17. During the eight years Francis was in my life and offering me his guidance, I collected some great stories capturing his wisdom and advice, stories and wisdom which still reverberate in the recesses of my mind after all these years. I have set many of them down on the next page Francis Stories

The Ring and My Fiftieth Birthday


Harvard RingA couple of weeks ago I noticed that the ring finger on my right hand, which carries my Harvard ring, had developed a big hard knuckle in the middle, and that it was so big I could not get my ring off. I talked about it with A friend and then a week later I put all her suggestions into actions—first thing in the morning, ice water to reduce swelling, soapy water to decrease friction—and then gave it my all. I got it stuck on the joint, but it would not go over it. What I ended up with, was a couple of deep scratches from the process.
Then later that week when I was downtown by the library, I saw an old time jewelry store which said, on the window, that they did jewelry repair. It was right across from my chiropractor’s office, so when I had my next adjustment, I walked over and had them cut off my Harvard ring. They did, but even with that I ended up with a bleeding scratch when I took it off. Their advice was to let the finger heal and the swelling to go down for a couple of weeks before I come back to be measured to see how many sizes they would have to increase the ring with soldering.

All of which set me thinking about the circumstances that led to me acquiring this ring on my 50th birthday. I had always been a little embarrassed, ashamed, or whatever, about acknowledging my graduation from Harvard, because whenever I did mention it people were impressed and responded so. But with my mother’s urging, since it was my 50th, I allowed as how I would finally like to have a Harvard ring, and she along with contributions from my adult children, set about acquiring the ring for me. After she died and I was going through her things,

I discovered in fact she had borne almost the full cost of it herself. So I have worn it from that point onward, for over 22 years.

As I recall all of this I realize there were a couple of other significant events around that birthday. Because of World War II and the ages of everyone, it turns out that two of my cousins and I were all born within less than a twelve month period so that we all turned 50 about the same time. With that in mind my cousins Carline and Ann Quarles and I gathered with our parents, although my cousin Ann Quarles had already lost both her father and her mother, and I had already lost my father, in California for a reunion and birthday celebration. We stayed with my Aunt Gerry and Uncle Carl, who were kind enough to give me their bedroom, which overlooked Monterey Bay. Carline’s younger sister Diane also joined us, and told us of her petit mal seizures which kept her from being able to get a license and drive on her own. Shortly after she told us that, we witnessed her disappear from our psychological presence for a few seconds.

The day I left for my California trip, I discovered some blood in my urine and that continued over the next couple of days. I was thinking that as I was turning 50 I could expect prostate trouble and I feared this was the harbinger. When I returned home, I immediately went to the urologist I had acquired in the fall before when I had a serous bout with kidney stones. After he examined me, I was pleased and relieved to hear him say, the prostrate was normal and it was only kidney stones. Not a surprise, since the earlier IVP had shown 5 of them sitting there in the kidney waiting to begin their descent.

One Response

  1. Sandy
    Sandy October 14, 2014 at 1:43 pm | | Reply

    It was fun rereading these stories this a.m.!

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