Posts Tagged Feel-Good Story

OUT OF THE LOOP!

Although we had our power back on, following Hurricane Irma, within 36 hours, we just began access to TV, our landline and WiFi about NOON today.   So, I hope to have my blog back in action, possibly today, or perhaps tomorrow.  The WiFi is extremely slow, however, since everyone must be trying to get back at the same time.

In the interim, I wish to share this Feel-Good Story, from the Huffington Post.

**********

The Week My Husband Left And My House Was Burgled I Secured A Grant To Begin The Project That Became BRCA1
14/09/2017 17:19 | Updated 2 days ago

Dr Mary-Claire King
American Cancer Society Professor at the University of Washington in Seattle
life less ordinary banner

The week of April Fools’ Day of 1981 began badly. That Sunday night my husband told me he was leaving me. He had fallen in love with one of his graduate students, and they were headed back to the tropics the next day.

I was completely devastated. It was totally unexpected. 33 years later, I still don’t know what to say about it. I was just beside myself.

He gave me a new vacuum cleaner to soften the blow.

It was the middle of spring quarter at Berkeley, so the next morning I had my class, as usual. And I had to either teach it or explain why not. It was far easier to teach, so I dropped off our daughter, Emily – who was five and three-quarters at the time – at kindergarten, along with her faithful Aussie, her Australian shepherd, who went everywhere with her. I headed down to school and taught my class.

As I was leaving, my department chairman caught up with me. He said, “Come into my office.”

I said, “Fine.” (I had hoped to escape.)

I went into his office, and he said, “I wanted to tell you, I’ve just learned you’ve been awarded tenure.” And of course I burst into tears.

Now, this department chairman, bless him, was a gentleman a full generation older than me. He had three grown sons. He had no daughters. He had certainly never had a young woman assistant professor in his charge before.

And he took my shoulders, and he stepped back, and he said, “No one’s ever reacted like that before.” He said, “Sit down, sit down. What’s the matter?”

I said, “It’s not the tenure. It’s that my husband told me last night he was leaving me.”

He looked at me, opened the drawer of his desk, pulled out a huge bottle of Jack Daniels, poured me a half a glass of it, and said, “Drink this. You’ll feel better.” It was 9:30 on Monday morning. So I did – and I did. I made it through the day, got sober, and around 3:30 headed back up the hill to pick up Emily from school. She hopped in the car with Ernie, her dog, and we drove home.

We got home, walked up the stairs, opened the house… and it was absolute chaos.

Someone had broken in. Everything was completely trashed. In retrospect what must have happened was that my then husband had often worked at home, and whoever had been casing the neighbourhood must have left our house aside because he was often there. But that day, of course, he hadn’t been there, so we were vulnerable, and we were robbed.

So I called 911, and a young Berkeley police officer came up and went through the house. Of course, I had no idea what had been taken and what hadn’t, because my husband had taken many things with him on Sunday night. I wasn’t sure what should still be there or not. I explained that to Officer Rodriguez, and he said, “As you figure it out, make a list.”

Then he went upstairs with Emily. They opened the door of her room, and it was eighteen inches deep of just chaos. The bed had been pulled apart, curtains pulled down, drawers all dumped out. Emily -five and three-quarters – looked at Officer Rodriguez and said, “I can’t tell if the burglars were in here or not.” And Officer Rodriguez, to his eternal credit, did not crack a smile. He handed her his card and said, “Young lady, if you discover that anything is missing, please give me a call.”

So now it’s Monday night. I was scheduled later that week to give a presentation in Washington, D.C., to the National Institutes of Health. The way this worked in those days was, if you were a young professor, applying for the first time for a large grant, you were quite frequently asked to come to the NIH and give what was called a “reverse site visit.” You’d explain what you planned to do, and then it would be decided if you were going to be granted quite a substantial amount of money over five years.

It was terribly important. I had not done this before. It was brand-new. It was going to be my first large grant on my own. The plan had been for Emily to stay with her dad and for my mom to come out, arriving the next day – Tuesday – to help out. That had seemed, at the time, like a great plan.

My mom, who was living in Chicago, obviously didn’t know anything about the events of the previous 24 hours, so I thought, I’ll just wait and explain it to her when she gets here. It seemed far better than calling her at what, by now, was quite late in Chicago because of all the business with the burglary and the police and all that.

So the next day, we picked up my mom at San Francisco Airport, and driving back to Berkeley, I explained to her what happened on Sunday. She was very, very upset. She said, “I can’t believe you’ve let this family come apart. I can’t believe this child will grow up without a father” (which was never true and has never been true since).

urbanisme

“How could you do this? How could you not put your family first?” Emily was sitting there in the car.

And, “I just cannot imagine,” she said. “I’m going to go talk to Rob.”

I said, “He’s back in Costa Rica.”

“This just can’t be,” and she became more and more upset. By the time we got home to Berkeley, she was extremely agitated. Emily was terrified. It was clearly not going to work for her to care for Emily.

After a couple of hours, my mom said, “I’m going home. I just can’t imagine that this has happened. You must stay here and take care of your child. How can you even think of running off to the East Coast at a time like this?”

To put it into context now, years later, my father had died not long before, after my mom had nursed him for more than 20 years. Just two months after this visit, my mother was diagnosed with epilepsy. So, in context, her reaction was not as irrational as it seemed in that moment, but at the time, of course, it was devastating. So I said, “Okay. You’re right. I’ll arrange for you to have a ticket to go home tomorrow. We’ll take you out to the airport, and I’ll cancel the trip.”

I called my mentor, who had been my postdoc adviser at UC San Francisco until just a couple of years before. He was already in Washington, D.C., by happenstance at an oncology meeting, and I said, “I’m not going to be able to come,” and I explained briefly what had happened. Of course, he knew me well. And he just listened to all this. He had grown daughters and said, “Look, come.”

I said, “I can’t.”

He said, “Bring Emily. Emily and I know each other. I’ll sit with her while you’re giving your presentation.” He had grandchildren of his own.

He said, “It will be fine.”

I said, “She doesn’t have a ticket.”

He said, “As soon as we hang up the phone, I’m going to call the airline and get her a ticket. Pick up the ticket at the airport tomorrow when you take your mom back. It’ll be on the same flight as yours. Everything will be fine.”
I said, “You sure?”

And he said, “Yes. I have to call the airline now. Good night,” and he hung up. (In those days it was very easy to rearrange tickets.)

I arranged for my mother to have a ticket to go back to Chicago. Her flight was at 10 o’clock in the morning. So we left Berkeley in plenty of time, in principle, to get to San Francisco Airport. But it was one of those days where the Bay Bridge was just totally jammed up. It was a horrible drive across. What should have been a drive of 45 minutes took an hour and 45 minutes. When we finally arrived, my mom’s flight was about to leave in 15 minutes, Emily’s and my flight was going to leave in 45 minutes, and in front of the counter to pick up tickets was a long, long line. And, of course, we had our suitcases. My mom was carrying hers, and she was already fairly frail.

So Emily and my mother and I were standing in the line, and I said, “Mom, can you make it down to your plane on your own?” Bear in mind, there were no checkpoints in those days, but there were, of course, very long corridors.

She said, “No.”

So I said to Emily, “I’m going to need to go with Grandmom down to her plane.”

And my mother shrieked, “You can’t leave that child here alone!” (Fair enough.)

Suddenly this unmistakable voice above and behind me said, “Emily and I will be fine.”

I turned around to the man standing behind us, and I said, “Thank you.”

My mother looked at me and said, “You can’t leave Emily with a total stranger.”

And I said, “Mom, if you can’t trust Joe DiMaggio, who can you trust?”

joe di maggio

Joe DiMaggio, a famous American baseball player, who just like us was standing there, waiting in line – looked at me, looked at my mother, and gave Emily a huge grin. And then he put out his hand and said, “Hi, Emily, I’m Joe.”

Emily shook his hand, and she said, “Hello, Joe, I’m Emily.”

And I said, “Mom, let’s go.”

So my mother and I headed down the hall. We got to the plane, and my mother got on fine. It was probably 25 minutes by the time I got back, and by that time Emily and Joe were all the way up at the front chatting with each other by the counter.

Joe DiMaggio had wrangled Emily’s ticket for her. She was holding it. He was clearly waiting to go to his plane until I got back. I looked at him, and I said, “Thank you very much.” And he said, “My pleasure.”

He headed off down the hall. He turned right. He gave me this huge salute and wave and a tremendous grin and went off to his own plane.

Emily and I went to Washington, DC. The interview went fine. I got the grant, and that was the beginning of the work that now, 33 years later, has become the story of inherited breast cancer and the beginning of the project that became BRCA1.

marie claire king

This story is cross-posted from The Moth’s latest book for a special edition of HuffPost UK’s Life Less Ordinary blog series. You can buy the book here and listen to Mary-Claire tell her story live here.

Life Less Ordinary is a weekly blog series from HuffPost UK that showcases weird and wonderful life experiences. If you’ve got something extraordinary to share please email ukblogteam@huffingtonpost.com with LLO in the subject line. To read more from the series, visit our dedicated page.

Advertisements

3 Comments

AN ELOQUENT TRIBUTE TO SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN; BUT, IT’S NOT A EULOGY!

By:  Christine M. Flowers, Philadelphia Daily News Columnist

You should never write a eulogy prematurely. My Italian grandmother, a woman who knew the perfect alchemy of evil eye, oil, and forbidden words, was adamant about the bad luck that derived from doing things the wrong way, in the wrong order, to the wrong people. So there is something a little off in writing in praise of a man who has just been diagnosed with brain cancer. Some will think you are only doing it to start the farewells.

But I have written about John McCain in the past, in elegiac tones. The senior senator from Arizona has angered both liberals and conservatives with his decidedly contrarian, middle-of-the road views on everything from immigration to campaign-finance reform to Iraq and national security and, most spectacularly, a vice presidential nominee.

Lately, conservatives who support Donald Trump (or simply oppose Hillary Clinton) have been angered by what they see as McCain’s unwillingness to play for the home team, and they were not at all happy with his less-than-robust endorsement of Trump in last year’s primaries and after the general election. I’ve had knock down drag outs with Trumpsters who defended their man even when he made some truly despicable comments about our country’s most famous POW.
I also criticized Sarah Palin for endorsing the guy who ridiculed the war hero who gave her a ready-made career.

But today, it’s not about the politics. It’s about the man.

John McCain spent five and a half years of his life in captivity in Hanoi. His body was broken in two; he doesn’t have the full use of his arm because of the vicious treatment and lack of medical care. He was deprived of sleep, told lies about his family and countrymen, and kept in solitary confinement.

John McCain was tortured. For that reason alone, his voice was both the most poignant and the most powerful when he spoke out against torture in the context of U.S. treatment of detainees during the war on terror.

The sight of McCain lashing out against his own people and using his own scars as personal witness of the immorality of the abuse of prisoners was chilling, moving, and historic. McCain must have been repulsed by these men at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, people who, even if they had not been convicted of actual crimes, are self-confessed enemies of our country and our democracy. He must despise the hateful philosophies of those who want to destroy our nation, the nation he defended with every lash against his back and broken bone in his body.

And yet, McCain has a character forged in a family with a tradition of military service, in his years at the Naval Academy and as an officer, and in a foreign hell, a landscape that now lives only in photos, film, and the inner recesses of his mind. That character led him to speak out against the unspeakable.

Many times, I’ve heard political critics of the senator say “Yes, he’s a war hero but…” and I have to stop them. There is no dependent clause worthy of that first, important phrase. He’s a war hero. Period. You do not have to agree with his policies and politics — in fact, he fought so you would not be forced into philosophical slavery and compliance. But you have to respect the life of this man. Respect means that you do not belittle his service by tying it in to a petty political disagreement. You can say, “I don’t like his position on immigration,” but you better not reference his years in Hanoi.

John McCain is far from perfect. He cheated on his first wife, who spent long, loyal years waiting for him to come home from North Vietnam. He had some questionable ethical dealings in the late 1980s and early ’90s as part of the savings and loan scandal, and he has often allowed his desire to win an election to supplant his fundamental beliefs. He was once a leading light on immigration reform, but the light dimmed when he saw how violently his conservative base reacted. He is not a shadow-casting giant when it comes to political courage.

But he is a giant of another sort, one so rare in this day and age when battles are waged by snarky pundits on the internet. John McCain bled for us. He was beaten, clad in the dirty pajamas of a prisoner. Yet he refused to break faith with the country whose uniform he proudly wore.

He would have died for us.

But he is alive, and today he is fighting a most personal battle.

This is not a eulogy, but a prayer. Get well, sir. Your country still needs you.

2 Comments

WHO CARES FOR THE DEAD AT NORMANDY (Re-sent from June 5, 2014)

Last night, as I was turning-off my computer, I noticed that one of my visitors had read the following post, from the eve of the 70th Anniversary of the Normandy Invasion.  That Landing turned the tide in World War II.   Afterward, the Allies, on both sides of the Atlantic, worked so hard to create an everlasting Alliance, which has promoted Peace through Economic Cooperation ever since.

I wish that Donald Trump, and like-minded demagogues, across the Atlantic, would visit Normandy, sit on that bench (mentioned in the poetic Reuters article) and reflect on what might have been–if the Allies had lost that War!

***********

Many of the Western Leaders will gather at Normandy, France this Friday to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the Landings, by American, British and Canadian Forces, on June 6, 1944. Those Landings–at a considerable loss of Young Lives–turned the tide in World War II. The Survivors from that Fateful Day–at least those who can still travel–will be there, as well. Since they are now in their 90s, however, this will probably be their last chance to commemorate that Day–and honor their fallen comrades.

The linked article, by Alexandria Sage, from Reuters, provides a touching description of what goes on at the several Cemeteries (American, British and Canadian), day-in, and day-out. Although this article is specific to the American Cemetery, the same care and devotion is given the burial places of the other Allied Heroes, as well.  Be sure to read this most touching, poetic story:   http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/05/30/us-d-day-cemetery-idUSKBN0EA1CH20140530,

As I read Ms. Sage’s article, it makes me think of those splendid words from President Abraham Lincoln’s speech at Gettysburg, Pa., some eighty years before, when he said: “…The World will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but can never forget what they did here…” The story of the successive generations of French who have cared for the Gravesides is quite enthralling, and reflects the love and devotion which they provide.

, , , ,

Leave a comment

THE ONLY PLACE IN JERUSALEM WHERE AN ARAB WITH A KNIFE MAKES THE JEWS SMILE

Over the last several decades, it seems that we are always in some variation of “These Troubled Times”; but, this Op-Ed will surely make you smile.

Linked from the Miami Herald, by Uri Dromi:  http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/op-ed/article109039097.html

1 Comment

THE MAGIC OF CHERRY BLOSSOMS

In 1912, Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo gave 3,000 cherry blossom trees to (assumedly, the Mayor of) Washington, D.C, as a symbol of friendship between the two countries.  As the cherry blossoms have continued to blossom, as have the dogwood trees that Washington sent to Tokyo, the friendship between the two countries–however strained in time of the two World Wars–continues to this day.  The aesthetic beauty has of the trees, in both countries, remains but a beautiful symbol of that lasting relationship.

The cherry blossom trees have become a primary tourist attraction in Washington, D. C, especially around the Washington Mall.  Every April, the City holds the Cherry Blossom Festival.  If you are ever in the D, C. area, around this time of year, make a special effort to visit the area around the Tidal Basin.  You’ll never regret it!

I encourage you to view the linked advertisement from the NY Times, which was paid for by the Embassy of Japan, entitled “The Magic of Cherry Blossoms: Honoring the Friendship of Two Nations”: http://paidpost.nytimes.com/embassy-of-japan/the-gift-of-cherry-blossoms-honoring-the-friendship-of-two-nations.html?WT.mc_id=2016-March-NYTNative_ArticleMod-Japan-0318-0417&WT.mc_ev=click?action=click&module=Marginalia&region=Marginalia&pgtype=article&version=PaidPostDriver

 

 

, ,

Leave a comment

THERE TRULY ARE STILL SOME REALLY BIG HEARTS IN THE NFL

Recently, there have been two horrendous episodes of domestic violence on the part of star players in the National Football League.  One was by a player who knocked his (then) Fiancee (and now his Wife) out on a casino elevator, and had to literally drag her to their room.  The other case was of another player who physically beat his four-year old son, leaving various bruises and scars.  He has  allegedly also physically abused another son, as well.

There are some concerns, on the part of the corporate sponsors and the general public, as to how badly both of the two Teams handled these distressing events.  More importantly, there are suggestions that the NFL–and even the League Commissioner–covered-up these offenses, until they became public knowledge.  I believe that there are other cases of such violence that have just not been made public.  I guess that anything goes in the pursuit of Money.

There is, however, another situation where Devon Still, a Defensive Tackle for the Cincinnati Bengals, asked to take a day off during the Pre-Season to attend his Daughter’s dance recital, in Delaware.  As he was preparing to take the four year-old  Leah to the Recital, he noticed that she was sick; so, he took her to the Alfred I. DuPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Delaware.  After many tests, Leah was diagnosed as having a neuroblastoma–brain cancer.   She has a 50-50 chance to survive.

As it turns-out, after having his heart set on being a professional football player, Devon Still was cut from the Team.  Marvin Lewis, the Head Coach of the Bengals, was surprised at how calmly he took being dropped from the Team.  Generally, that can mean a detour from a player’s dreams of fame and fortune.  Devon just stated that then he would have more time to spend with his Daughter.  Actually, he had been quite distracted by Leah’s medical condition.

When Coach Lewis learned of why Devon Still didn’t seem too concerned about being cut, he telephoned him and told him that he could join the Bengal’s Practice Squad, which meant retaining his health insurance.  Leah’s cancer operations and treatment were going to cost over $1 Million, so remaining on the Team, in any capacity,  would certainly help.  The linked article from Sports Illustrated is as follows: http://mmqb.si.com/2014/09/16/devon-still-leah-cancer-cincinnati-bengals/.

The Cincinnati Bengals also placed Devon Still’s Football Jersey #75 on sale and promised that 100% of the profits would be donated to the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, to support pediatric cancer research.  Sean Payton, Head Coach of the New Orleans Saints immediately placed a personal order for 100 of the Jerseys, at a cost of $10,000.

There are several other pledge sites which are cited in the article.  I encourage readers to read this very touching, linked story, a really feel-good article.  The story of Devon and Leah Still shows that some people, even aspiring pro athletes certainly do have their priories straight.  Not everyone in Professional Football is like the two horrendous people at the very beginning of this story, or the money-grabbing NFL.

Oh, by the way, Devon Still was activated for the second game of the Bengals season.  In a very short period of time, just 16 plays, he had two sacks and several tackles.  That would have been a great day for a defensive player in an entire game.  To those readers who are unfamiliar with American Football, a Sack is when the opposing quarterback is tackled for a loss.  Hopefully, Devon Still will stay on the actually Team permanently.

, ,

1 Comment

A SHOUT-OUT TO GANDER, NEWFOUNDLAND

On September 11, 2001, Terrorists flew airliners intro both Towers of the World Trade Center, in New York City, the Pentagon, near Washington, D.C., and Passengers forced “Flight 93” to crash land in a rural field in Western Pennsylvania, killing all aboard.  So, there now was a conundrum for International Air Traffic Officials–where to divert incoming flights to?

Luckily, there was somewhat of a solution.  In 1936, construction on an international airport had begun near the remote town of Gander, Newfoundland, Canada.  Now, the town has barely a current population of 10,000; however, it was decided back in 1935 that a potential landing site should be established in Northeast North America in the event that a diversion might be required, such as for medical or mechanical reasons.  An interesting photo of the runway at Gander, on that horrendous date, is linked as follows: http://www.panoramio.com/photo/1258678.

Keep in mind that a town of 9.650 people (then) is not going to be a place to expect numerous hotels, restaurants and other accommodations.  On that day, 38 civilian and four military flights were diverted to Gander International Airport, with more than 6,600 passengers and crew on board–the equivalent of 66% of the Town’s population.  Some interesting facts are linked, as follows, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gander,_Newfoundland_and_Labrador.

It is important to note that Canadian Officials decided that flights would not be allowed to land at major airports in the center of the Country, because  of the concern with terrorism, as well.  Generally, flights that land in Gander are only in the airport for short time periods while: a plane is refueled; a sick passenger is removed to be sent to a hospital or a replacement plane can be sent by the airline in question.  But, their stay in Gander, back in 2001, lasted for six days–until the airspace was reopened and flights were resumed.

I would point-out that a similar situation occurred in Halifax, Nova Scotia; however, that is a much larger city.  There is an interesting book, “The Day the World Came to Town”.  It describes how the Town of Gander responded: people opened their homes to strangers; hospitals, schools, houses of worship took guests in and, virtually, everyone in town made the visitors feel welcome.  Lufthansa subsequently named an Airbus 340 Gander/Halifax.

, ,

Leave a comment