Memory, and retail

Today is my parents’ 61st wedding anniversary. But many crucial variables have been altered since that date. The anniversary falls in midwinter instead of midsummer (they married in the southern hemisphere), and one party to the partnership is now underground.

Still, it is a day to observe, and for my mother, to remember. The stories told about that day, and the photos, have become so much a part of family lore I can almost believe I was there. The reception, made infinitely more crowded because my journalist grandfather, feeling that he hadn’t been allowed to invite enough of his circle, printed up more invitations without bothering to tell anyone. The food ran out, and my great uncle was making sandwiches in the garage. The guitar used as a prop in photos. All the young men eager to be photographed with my beautiful aunt V. The photographer, who departed before midnight because he had a party to get to, leaving my father his camera.

Yesterday Mom and I took advantage of the good weather and visited the cemetery. As we arrived we saw a pair of geese walking around not far from Pa’s grave. We replaced the stones that had toppled off the top. We drove up the hill to visit my grandparents, and I also left a stone for the mother of a friend who was killed in a car crash when we were in eighth grade, because I recently discovered she is a neighbor of my grandparents.

And then, as is my custom whenever I visit Pa at the cemetery, we went to IKEA, which isn’t far away. Pa was a Swedophile in cinema, automobiles, and home furnishings, and the IKEA catalog always had pride of place in his home. He fully bought into their corporate ethos, and was their target demographic. He renovated three kitchens with their products, the last two perhaps the final great feats of engineering he accomplished before his gifts began to fail him.

I needed exactly one thing from IKEA yesterday, a frame for a print I want to hang in my new office. And Mom needed a cutting board. But you know how these things go. We started filling a cart. We checked out. And then we hit the food section, because Mom was coming for Shabbat dinner and we didn’t have anything for dessert. We bought an apple cake, also in homage to my dad, who appreciated the one on offer at the IKEA café.

How to mark this anniversary, then? I found a poem by Yehuda Amichai which may do the trick. Happy anniversary, Mom and Pa. ❤️

Anniversary of Love

Yehuda Amichai, translated by Assia Gutmann

Anniversary of love. A hymn from the forties.
Letters like banners waving in the wind
or folded in a cupboard. Bound up in our bundles.

“I live among orange groves,
Ramatayim or Givat Haim,
I live near the water tower.
I draw from it great strength and great love,
you will understand in years to come.”

The stalk releases its smell when you break it,
leaves release their smell when you rub them
thinly between your fingers. So will our love be,
you will understand in years to come.

You will cross great distances,
but you were never in the distance between my eyes
and you never will be. You will understand.
You will be in places with no orange groves,
you will forget this love
as you forgot the child’s voice
you once had. You will under­stand in years to come.


I knew it was coming. Because of many extenuating circumstances, the day slipped by almost unnoticed. But I have arrived. I’m solidly in my fifties now. As I told a friend this morning, “I love the number 51. It’s so stealthy. Seems like it’s prime, but it isn’t. Kind of like me these days.” Har, har.

Ushering in this particular year means that the coming calendar year brings a significant milestone for me: in April, it will be ten years since my initial melanoma diagnosis. When I was diagnosed, in 2013, things were maybe looking better for patients, but it was still a very grim reality to face. As I progressed into lung metastases (2014) and the brain thing (2015), things got better and better in terms of the medicine. And they got better and better for me. I’m insanely lucky to still be alive, but it’s not an accident. It seems that the medicine is doing (or did do) precisely what was intended. I’m just waiting around for my type of response to treatment to catch up to everyone else.

I’m working in a medical school library now. It’s very exciting to think that the Next Big Thing in treatment could come from the mind of one of the students I’ll be working with. I haven’t yet settled on what I might want to say at work about my dealings with cancer. Anyone with the curiosity to do so can easily find their way to my blog, of course. But if I bring this up in my work context I need it to be for a reason, I need it to have some kind of educational value or be some way that medical practitioners in training can learn about working with their future patients. I’ll have to think about all that.

Off to work. Day 1 of the rest of my life.
I have a cube.
Keychain my brother made for me in shop. I mostly have used it for work keys. Now I have work keys.
My first interlibrary loan request. I can honestly say I contributed to this paper, because I am one of the patients they’re writing about. (Dr. K, Dr. P, and Nurse Practitioner K are coauthors.)

There is a whole lot else going on but for now I’m going to wrap this up. My birthday dinner was co-opted for another purpose, so we’re having it tomorrow. I can say one thing: having a job is the best antidepressant I can think of. My self-esteem is no longer scraping bottom because I am not employed. I am not moping around the house. My commute is reasonable, I’m reading again while I’m on the train, and I’m getting more steps in every day. 51 is a quiet joy — at least for now.