Monday, June 27, 2016

Foster Alumni: By a Beautiful Lake, They Find Food, Fun, Friends, Freedom -- And So Much More!


Above is a group photo  at the first annual Family Fun Day on Sunday, June 26 sponsored by the Massachusetts Network of Foster Care Alumni. It was held at the beautiful lakeside Oxford, Mass. cottage of Ruby Pollock, who grew up in foster care as did her four siblings, including me.

In those days, when foster kids aging out of state care were released to the streets, such a gathering was unthinkable. So for the 60 or so former foster  kids there, along with family, and friends,  the day was a dream come true! 


Following are some photos from that great day:


Grace Koshinsky, left above, leads the Massachusetts Network of Foster Care Alumni (MassNFCA) and performed wonders in making Family Fun Day happen. She arranged for funding, volunteers, food, wrist bands, a lifeguard, games, boat rides, and a raffle (which I won, a $100 gift certificate at Wall Mart).

She even got tennis rackets for alums to play tennis on a neighbor's court. It was all free for alums. Here, listening to one alum, you can see in her eyes that her whole heart is there for him and his story. She knows how he feels. As a child in Ohio she herself was a foster child for 4 years from age 6 to 10.

Always with an eye for real estate value, Ruby managed to buy a rundown lakeside cottage 35 years ago. Over the years she has redone the kitchen, roof,  plumbing, expanded the beach area, had a new patio built (feeding me as I built it and all the walls you see in following photos).

Summers Ruby and I often sit out looking at the water and marveling that a couple of former foster kids are sitting out there drinking coffee and taken in all that natural beauty. Not a house. Not a road. Not a store. Not a sound except for the squawking of an occasional hunting hawk. Here are a few photos of alums, friends, and family enjoying it all.


Below, a couple of alums conduct an acrobatic balancing contest for an audience of kids -- who didn't seem to know what to make of it.  In the background, Ruby's daughter Linda takes alums on a tour of the lake in her mom's boat. Not used to such treatment, the alums rode wide-eyed, soaking up the natural beauty all around them.





Did everybody have a great time?  Well, check out this closing photo below. It shows my baby brother Reggie and my wife Barbara trying to make me jealous-- it worked!-- while brother Vic's wife Marianne waves her arms like a wild woman. Reggie's wife Jeanette, in the middle, enjoys the show. This kind of goofing around, joking, laughing went on throughout the  day.




Thanks, Ruby.  Thanks, Grace. Thank you volunteers for all your hard work.  And to all you foster care alums, let me -- as one who spent his childhood in foster care -- say this to you:

You are just as good as anybody out there. What's more, considering what you have gone through, you ... you... YOU may be a stronger and better person than most.  Got that?

You have?  Good for you!

P.P.S. For info on my ebooks, click here.


Friday, June 17, 2016

Dr. Dennis Burke: How My Longtime Surgeon Is Making Me a Bionic Man.




A year ago, on June 7, my longtime surgeon, Dr. Dennis Burke, (then of Mass General and now of Beth Israel in Milton, Mass.),  gave me a new left hip, shown above.  It is the X-ray from my June 15 one-year follow-up appointment with Dr. Burke.

Beautiful, don't you think?

No? What's wrong with you?

Dr. Burke took one look at the X-ray and pronounced my new hip "beautiful."  Of course, I think my new metal hip is not only a thing of beauty but a literal lifesaver.  A year  ago,  I had gone to to Dr. Burke in excruciating pain in my left hip and was having trouble walking much less playing tennis.

I hadn't played tennis for months and missed it terribly. I couldn't be me: playing tennis, building stone walls and walking for miles around neighborhoods, snooping, checking out houses and landscaping, and striking up chats with perfect strangers.

Now, thanks to Dr. Burke and my new left hip, I am back doing it all. I'm playing tennis three or four times a week at the Holden Tennis Club.  What I find even more remarkable is that I am running flat out after tennis balls, hiking for miles, hauling heavy rocks for stone walls, all on both knees replaced by Dr. Burke 14 years ago and my new left hip!

At this latest appointment, Dr. Burke looked at the X-ray of my knees and pronounced them "perfect, just as good as when I put them in." I was not a bit surprised.  They have been so good for so long -- 14 years! -- that I hardly give them a second thought. They're just my knees.  Hey, everybody else has knees, right?

Well, thanks to Dr. Burke, so do I. They just happen to be metal.

I joke with Dr. Burke and my friends that my goal is to be "a bionic man looking down on stupid bone-dependent humans." And, wouldn't you know, my joke is becoming less and less far-fetched.  Pointing to my right hip on the X-rays, Dr. Burke said, "There's early stage arthritis there, though we don't have to do anything right now."

"In other words," I said, "the right hip will eventually have to be replaced. I really am on my way to being a Bionic Man."

Dr. Burke didn't agree or deny. He just smiled.  A surgeon renowned for his outstanding outcomes, he has a demeanor that is easygoing, friendly, and confident but with an utter lack of self-importance.  "You're good for now," he said casually even though speaking of my very way of life. "See you in two or three years. However, if you need to see me sooner, just let me know."

Over the past 14 years that I have been seeing him, Dr. Burke and I have gotten to know each other. We're serious when we have to be, such as before and after I go under the knife. In between joint replacements, we joke, laugh, and have a good time.


We are doctor and patient, but also buddies.  Above on the computer screen behind us are  the X-rays of my two knee replacements and my new left hip replacement.  At my request, Dr. Burke put both shots together on the computer screen so they could be in this photo.

Dr. Burke is happy to let me take such a photo even though he is well aware that it will likely be published in this blog, which he says he reads.  However, he did say that he does not read all of every blog. Like most of my readers, he finds the stories too long.

Some people talk too much.  I write too much.  Oh well.

The photo of Dr. Burke and me together was taken by my wife Barbara who, with Dr. Burke's routine approval,  was with me during the  appointment -- one more example of how caring and how different Dr. Burke is.  With Dr. Burke, it's not about him; it's about you and me, the patient.

Finally, below is a photo taken by Dr. Burke in the recovery room immediately after my hip replacement surgery a year ago. I'm giving thumbs up. The surgical staff are all smiles and having a ball. Immediately after major surgery? Yup.


And the surgeon himself taking the photo immediately after performing surgery? Unheard of. But that's my buddy Dr. Burke, a topflight surgeon, a people person, and surely one of a kind.
 
Well, it's getting late and I have to get to bed.  Thanks to Dr. Burke, this three-quarter Bionic Man he has created will  be on the tennis court tomorrow morning at 7:30 running full out like a crazy man.

So long and keep moving.

P.S. For more about my hip replacement, click this link.

P.P.S. For info on my ebooks, click here.













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Thursday, May 05, 2016

Turning 78: Old? No Way! A Great Birthday to Remember Always.

May 2. Not another birthday! 78? OMG! I'm getting ancient!

Just joking about being ancient.  I see myself as a young man in my prime. I tell people that "I have turned 50." Strictly speaking, it's not a lie, since I HAVE turned 50.

But the fact is that I am now 78. There I have said it.  I am regularly older than most of the people in the daily newspaper obits.  Actually, according to the latest federal data, the life expectancy of a white male in the United States is 78.8.

At first glance, that gives me just a few months to live, but the figure is misleading.  Age 78.8 is the life expectancy of a white male born today.  A white male today who has attained the age of 78 in good health as I have, could live many years longer. In other words, generally speaking, the older you are, the older you get.

I brag in this blog that I'm going to make it to age 120.  Wouldn't that be a blast if I actually did? Actually, it is not as unthinkable as it used to be.  I just had a thorough physical by my longtime primary care doctor. He tested everything, heart, lungs, blood, cholesterol, prostate, mobility, etc. and pronounced me in perfect all-around health.

"The complete blood count is perfect," he wrote in his report.

No sign of cancer or of anything else bad.

The only thing he found was that my vitamin D level was "slightly low." It was 26; normal is above 30.  He suggested that I take a daily dose of vitamin D3 to restore it to normal.  I take no medications now and I like that. But vitamin D is important for calcium absorption and bone metabolism so I'm considering taking a daily dose of it to raise my level to normal.  The dose is not medical but fully organic  and natural.

Much credit for my good all-around health certainly goes to the fact that I have had both knees and my left hip replaced. The knees were done separately 13 years ago. The left hip was replaced last June.

Three or four times a week, I now run around the tennis court like a crazy man (which I am of course) and almost daily walk for miles snooping around new neighborhoods. (Haven't been arrested, yet anyway.)

Luckily for me, I have one of the most remarkably skilled and successful surgeons in the U.S., Dr. Dennis Burke formally of Boston Mass General and now of  Milton's Beth Israel.  He has also become a good friend. I'll be seeing him again in June. As usual, we will spend a good bit of time laughing and joking.

Of course, when it comes to keeping me going full speed ahead, Dr. Burke is all business. He is renowned for his regular successful patient outcomes.  Dr. Burke is  an amazing surgeon and person. To read why, click here.

I also have to thank the great physical  therapists at Greendale Physical Therapy on Goldstar Boulevard in Worcester, Mass. A few months ago,  after I came up with awful pain on my right side. It was ortho arthritis. I went to Greendale for help.

Greendale therapists put me through several sessions of stretching exercises that zeroed in on the source of the pain.  To my astonishment and great relief, the pain stopped and I returned to normal. I now do the same exercises after tennis when I am all sweated up.

So thanks to Dr. Burke and Greendale Physical Therapy, I could still be around for many years blogging, playing tennis, stealing rocks for my stone walls, snooping around in other people's lives, and stubbornly refusing to grow up.

In any case, even if I die tomorrow, I can't die young like so many people do.  I will have lived a long, full, and happy life and would in death merely be going on to my next adventure. I'd like to die on the tennis court after hitting a winning point.

"Drag the body off the court and keep playing," I tell my tennis guys.

So you know what, having gone through all the stages of life -- birth, childhood, school, college, U.S. Army, marriage, fatherhood, three years teaching in Africa, a 26-year career in educational publishing,  I feel that I have earned the right to be just be me, with all my quirks and immaturity, and to enjoy life.

(How's that for a long sentence? My 8th grade English teacher, Sister Francis Helen, would rap my knuckles. Sorry Sister. But I thank you for having me read my essays in class. It told me that I could write a grammatical sentence and it led to a long career in publishing. )

And, best of all, one look at my age and people, except for my good wife Barbara of course, generally don't expect a damn thing from me. That is perhaps the greatest gift of a healthy old age; you are who you are and as free as a bird to enjoy life to the fullest.

That's exactly what I did in celebration of my May 2 birthday, thanks to my sons Greg and Jon and my wife Barbara.  Unknown to me, the three of them conspired to give me the most different and happiest birthday of my life.

"Hey Dad," Greg said on the telephone, "Jon and I are traveling North and we're going to meet  at Merrimack College. We thought it would be a chance for the three of us to get together. What do you think?"

"Great," I said immediately.

Greg lives with his wife Kelly in Scranton, Penn. and Jon lives in Berkley, Mass with his wife Laurie and their two kids, Aidan and Nathaniel.  Because of distances,  we can rarely get all of us  together. I jumped at the chance.

At Merrimack I  played ice hockey for four years on a full athletic scholarship.  It would be great to visit the school where I had so many memories.  It was where I met Greg and Jon's mom  at the switchboard in the Student Union where I was the evening telephone operator. It was where I built the foundation for my future good life.

We  were to meet Greg and Jon at Merrimack's hockey rink. Well, when Barbara and I entered the room overlooking the ice hockey rink, I got the shock of my life.  The room was full of people and there was a huge banner, shown below with a Warrior jersey made for me, with my old number, 2, and with my name on the back in big letters.

Here I am below in my new Merrimack jersey with that huge banner:



If my heart had not been in such great shape, I would have dropped dead right there.

Then I noticed some guys sitting together at a table. "They are your old Merrimack teammates," Greg said, "

My mouth flew open.  My eyes nearly popped out of my head.  I went over and, sure enough, they were a table full of my old teammates. Merrimack had sent out invites to my old teammates and these four were able to make it. Several had passed away and others lived too far away to make it.

Greg left me with my old teammates and we sat there talking the old Merrimack hockey days for a good 45 minutes. It's an amazing experiences talking to guys you played college hockey with back in 1962 -- over 50 years ago.



Then came another surprise.  Greg and Jon had hired the rink. Unknown to me, Barbara had brought my skates, Jon provided hockey sticks, and out we went to the rink to skate and pass pucks around.  I had not been on skates in a couple of years but I quickly felt at home. I grew up playing hockey in a hockey town, Stoneham, Mass. I'm as home on skates as I am in shoes. That's me below.



"You looked natural out there," Greg told me.

My grandson Nathaniel challenged me to a race and I beat him.  But I'm glad Greg didn't challenge me to a race because he is a terrific hockey player and he was out there flying.

The day was also a family reunion. In the photo below are from left, Aidan, Greg, me, Jon, and Nathaniel. Because we get together so little, the photo is just precious. The only thing I don't like about it is that both of my sons are taller than me!  GRRRRR!



 
Greg and Jon, I'll never forget this birthday.  It was my best ever.  And with 77 previous birthdays, that is saying something! In fact, I have set up a display in my mancave that I will be looking at just about every day.  Here it is:


So long and keep moving.

For info on my ebooks, click here.


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Sunday, April 03, 2016

Way Back When: My Old 1952-53 Stoneham High Ice Hockey Team Makes It Into the Stoneham High School Athletic Hall of Fame.



Above is a photo of my old Stoneham High championship hockey team from 63 years ago. Seven have passed away. I am number 2 and, at 14, the youngest member of the team. The Stoneham High Athletic Hall of Fame calls the team "Stoneham's most determined and colorful team to ever lace-em-up and take the ice in Blue and White."

Stoneham High Athletic Director David Pignone showed up one day at Brothers Restaurant in Wakefield, Mass where I and a bunch of guy graduates -- girls not invited -- gather once in a while to have a bite and recall old, old times.  He was looking for  hockey players on the 1952-1953 team.

He found several: Butch Knight, Buddy Chambers, Phil Corbett, Gussie Fionda, Bob Matherson, and me, all in the old photo above. David told us that the entire team was going to be inducted into the Stoneham High Athletic Hall of Fame.

I didn't think much of it -- until I realized that this was not only legitimate but a big deal. Honorees would be inducted into  the Stoneham High Athletic Hall of Fame at the huge, luxurious, Montvale Plaza in Stoneham.  The induction took place on Saturday April 2 to a packed audience, below, treated to a delicious meal of salad, beef, roasted potatoes, and yummy desert.


Inductees were called to the podium one by one, praised for their accomplishments, and given a little Hall of Fame trophy to great applause. When our turn came, we all trooped to the front of the banquet hall where our spokesperson, Butch Knight, presided at the podium.

An earlier inductee, he was given his first pair of skates by the legendary Stoneham High coach Doc Gordon.  At 6.3 and 225 pounds and with immense power, Butch set scoring records.  A two-time G.B.I All-Star, Butch is a legend in high school hockey. Doc Gordon said that  "he makes all the right moves at the right times."

In the group photo of the Stoneham High 1952-53 team at the beginning of this story, Butch is number 10 at the bottom far right. The photo below shows what Butch looks like today. He's the giant.  I'm holding the 52-53 team photo between Bob Matherson, left, and Buddy Chambers.



Butch was a natural athlete and super competitive. As a  lineman in football, he  was a veritable stone wall protecting quarterback Johnny Lawrence from rushing opponents and opening up holes for running backs. As a defenseman  in ice hockey, he slapped shots like rockets. The Record American wrote that Butch had the "hardest slapshot in schoolboy hockey."

Butch went on to play both football and hockey at Boston University. He didn't stop there. He went on to play professional  football with the Boston Patriots for one year.


Let me now go two more truly great Stoneham High athletes at the Athletic Hall of Fame ceremony, Buddy Chambers, left, and Johnny Lawrence,  pictured below. Though Johnny was not a hockey player, he was a three-sport star in football(quarterback), basketball (forward), and baseball (catcher).


Buddy  and I lived near Dikes Pond in Stoneham where I learned to skate.  It was also where I witnessed Buddy's incredible stick handling skills. He could perform wonders with a puck; you see it, then you don't. I can't tell you how many times at Dikes he faked me out of my jock. The Boston Globe described him as "the Bob Cousy of schoolboy hockey."

In defeating Arlington 2-1 for the championship, Buddy took a centering pass in the closing minutes from Dick Heerter and stick-handled his way to the Arlington net. Faking the goalie out, "the Bob Cousy of schoolboy hockey" flipped the puck over the outstretched arm of the Arlington goalie.

The packed Boston Garden crowd erupted.   Stoneham was the G.B.I. champion!

Back to Johnny Lawrence. Not only was he a three-sport star, he was also easygoing, soft-spoken, and had a quick sense of humor. All the girls wanted him. He was easily the school's most popular all around athlete, though not with me.

Still struggling to find myself, I was jealous of Johnny. I have since gotten over it. At least I think so. Okay, maybe not.

In this blog exactly five years ago, I described Johnny as follows:

Guys at Stoneham High wanted to be like Johnny Lawrence. He was a three-sport star: football quarterback, basketball guard, and baseball catcher. He was also King of the Carnival Ball, with his Queen, Joan San Angelo. Together, they were voted Class Pair. In addition, Johnny got Best Natured, Best All Around, Most Popular, Class Athlete, and Class Sweetheart.

For more about Johnny and to get a sense of the 1950's at Stoneham High, click on this earlier story .


So long and keep moving.

Comments welcome. Send to: pollock.george@gmail.com. For info on my background and books, click here.

John Bracciotti wrote... 
 
Hi GP, Really enjoyed reading your account of the HOF induction. I said to myself I hope GP pauses and reflects on his life accomplishments , outstanding. Playing varsity for his high school team at 14 years old and no one in his life to take pleasure of the moment. I am blessed to have you as my friend. God bless you GP, John

NOTE:  My latest novel is Something Tells Her.  Go to Amazon. 





Jane is abandoned at birth and then placed in ever-changing, uncaring,  and often abusive foster homes. At age 12, her latest foster father makes a sexual advance on her and, with something telling her this is not right, she runs out the door. On the street, alone, no family, nobody, not even a last name, how is she going to survive? 

Other E-Books by George Pollock

"State Kid: Hero of Literacy" is fiction based on his real-life experiences growing up in foster homes; "Last Laughs," is the true story of how five foster kids (he and four younger siblings) found their way in life and each other. "Killers: Surprises in a Maximum Security Prison," is the story of his being locked up for 23 hours with killers in a maximum security prison; "I, Cadaver" is about his postmortem adventures and mischief in the anatomy lab at UMass Medical School. “A Beautiful Story” demonstrates the art and process of creative writing as a 16-year-old boy goes all out to write a story that literally saves his life.






 
 


Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Secret of True Love and a Great Marriage -- Credit Scores.

What? You read right. Credit Scores.

Want real compatibility, true love, and long-term happiness with the right partner? Want a relationship that is...is...SEXY?

Repeat: Credit Scores.

I know what you are thinking: He's lost it, finally, poor guy. Somebody's got to get him help.

Well, I would have thought the same thing if I had not picked up the Feb.13-14 weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal. On page 2 of this professional, highly-respected newspaper was a story by Jo Craven Mcginty with the headline "Looking for Love? Start With Credit Scores."

Ms. Mcginty quoted from an extensive study by Jessica Hayes of the  Fed's Consumer Finance Department in which Ms. Hayes wrote: "People who have higher credit scores are more likely to form committed relationships and stay with a partner longer."

Ms. Hayes, with the help of two other Fed researchers, came to this startling conclusion after sifting through the credit histories of 12 million U.S. consumers, identifying romantic partners, and then tracking their unions over a 15-year period.

Bottom line in Ms. Hayes' words: "Credit scores can be a sign of trust and how you deal with responsibility. That can carry over to romantic relationships, especially committed relationships."

None of this surprises Niem Green who runs a website, www.creditscoredating.com. The website matches couples based on their credit worthiness and has 57,000 active members.

Believe it or not, but the highly respected  New York Times has also acknowledged the large and growing influence of credit scores as a major factor in dating, romance, and marriages. The Times  told the story of Jessica La Shawn, a 31-year-old flight attendant from Chicago, and her experience with a first date.

She described him as tall, from a religious family, raised by grandparents as she had been, worked in finance, and "even had great teeth." In a restaurant on their first date she nibbled on strawberry shortcake and the two chatted. Thoughts of love, romance, and even more overtook her.

Then he asked, "What is your credit score?"

"It was as if the music had stopped," Jessica said. But the young man did feel badly about hurting her feelings. He emailed her that the problem wasn't her. It was her credit score.

Bottom line: in this modern world, credit scores, which incorporate outstanding debt and payment history, has become an all-important number in romance, love, marriage -- and life. Today, one's credit score is routinely critical, not only in male/female relationships, but also in determining home loans, qualifying for a job, and whether one is perceived as a responsible adult.

Alexa von Tobel, chief executive of Learnvest.com, a financial planning firm, says that people are more interested in credit scores than ever before. The Times quoted her as saying, "It is the only grade that matters after you graduate."

More and more people, from the young starting out in life to retirees, no longer fear credit score mention, but accept it as today's reality and even as a good thing. Now many people looking for love, young and old, trot out credit scores on the first date.

Low score: Bye, bye.

High score: Ooh, Sexy!

Nowhere are credit scores worshiped more than at banks. Banks are very wary, to say the least, of making loans to people with low credit scores, 660 and below. At least 750 is okay. The best scores range from 800 to 850.

Now I suppose you want to know my score and that of my wife of 18 years, Barbara. Read on. Maybe I'll tell you. Maybe I won't.

To be honest, over my entire life -- I will be 78 in a couple of months -- I have not given my credit standing a second thought. Over the years, during my first marriage and then as a longtime single man, I bought, lived in, sold and had mortgages on four different homes. I quickly, easily, and routinely got home and car loans. No one ever stamped a credit score on my forehead.

Back to today. Barbara and I recently decided to apply for a home equity line of credit to help pay for a new kitchen in our home that Barbara, on her own, purchased 28 years ago. We have lived together in the home for the 18 years of our marriage. The kitchen badly needs updating, not having anything major done done with it  since its purchase.

It would be the last of several major improvements: new living room, new bedroom, new bathrooms, new deck, new roof; all done and paid for. A new kitchen has been a dream of Barbara's for years. Even though we realized a new kitchen would cost a fortune, we decided to do it. "You deserve a new kitchen," I told my good wife, and of course she agreed. 

So we went down to TD Bank where we have had a longtime checking account and filled out all the many forms, laying out our financial life histories. Our house was paid off. Our two cars were paid for. We had no debt. Etc. Etc. Etc.

In a few weeks, we got a call that we were approved. We went to the bank where we were met with big smiles from the female managers who had worked with us.

I joked with them. Forget making eyes at me, I'm married. Got that?

They laughed. Here we were playing around and having fun in a bank. Imagine that!

We learned that our credit scores, furnished by the Credit Reporting Agency Experian, were excellent. Barbara's was 807 and mine was 787.

Barbara's credit score better than mine? Humiliating! Guess I have to live with it.

Work on our new kitchen will start in Spring.

P.S. To my wife Barbara: My dear, I just want to tell you that I find your credit score, ooh, ooh, so incredibly SEXY!

So long and keep moving.



NOTE:  My latest novel is Something Tells Her.  Go to Amazon. 




Jane is abandoned at birth and then placed in ever-changing, uncaring,  and often abusive foster homes. At age 12, her latest foster father makes a sexual advance on her and, with something telling her this is not right, she runs out the door. On the street, alone, no family, nobody, not even a last name, how is she going to survive? 

Other E-Books by George Pollock

"State Kid: Hero of Literacy" is fiction based on his real-life experiences growing up in foster homes; "Last Laughs," is the true story of how five foster kids (he and four younger siblings) found their way in life and each other. "Killers: Surprises in a Maximum Security Prison," is the story of his being locked up for 23 hours with killers in a maximum security prison; "I, Cadaver" is about his postmortem adventures and mischief in the anatomy lab at UMass Medical School. “A Beautiful Story” demonstrates the art and process of creative writing as a 16-year-old boy goes all out to write a story that literally saves his life.



 









Saturday, October 24, 2015

Tennis Fall: And One Interesting Trip to the Emergency Room!


Me with three pretty girls -- whoa, how sweet is that?  

I had just taken a wicked fall on the tennis court at the Greendale Y in Worcester -- and was on a stretcher about to be taken by ambulance to the UMass emergency room. My wife Barbara was on her way to meet me there.

So what's with all those happy faces? 

Impressed with how quickly and responsibly the Y first aid staff responded -- inspecting damage, cleaning open wounds, bandaging, checking for concussion, looking to my every need -- I thought a break in all the seriousness would be good for all.

After the two paramedics had loaded me on the stretcher, I put up a halting hand. To the assembled Y first aid staff, I said, "Wait. Here I am going off to the emergency room in an ambulance. Want to make me feel better? How about if you three pretty girls come over here and take a picture with me?"

I held up my cell phone.

Instantly, a male staffer said, "I'll take the picture."

Lu Lu, Danielle, and Christina looked at each other, giggled, and gathered around me. They sent me off to the emergency room with those big, heartfelt smiles you see in the photo above. And you know what? Those smiles did help me feel a lot better because, honestly, I was a little afraid.

So, you're wondering, what happened out there on the court?

First, I spent an hour hitting with my friend Joge from 8 to 9 a.m. Then I stayed out there for doubles. The first doubles set was hard-fought and tight. Bill and I won, but just barely. In the second set, Rich and Dave came roaring back.

They won four straight games and were ahead in the fifth when I, determined to avoid a wipeout, went flying through the air after a short ball -- and crashed head first onto the clay court. My right hand, my racquet hand, was caught between the ground and my falling body. Head, right hand, and both knees took the brunt.

On my face below my right eye was a big ugly red blotch. Blood spurted out of my right thumb from a deep laceration. There were two gashes on the back of my hand, both oozing blood. Both knees were bloodied.

The guys came running to help a fallen fellow player with a towel and bandages. With their help, I got to my feet and sopped up the blood with the towel. They helped me put on bandages.

The guys kept asking if I was okay, how they could help. "Nah, I'm fine," I said, flipping Rich's bloody towel to him. He gave it back to me. "Keep it," he said. "With all that blood, it's no good any more."

Despite hitting the surface so hard, I wasn't knocked out and didn't feel dizzy. Both knees hurt, but I was able to walk on my own. In all the years I have been playing tennis, I have rarely fallen and never ever fell so hard.

Making my way off the court slowly, haltingly, I figured I would be able to make it to my car and drive home and get to a doctor.  But on my way out I had to go by the maintenance office. On the spur of the moment, I stuck my head in and said, "I just took a bad fall on the court. Does the Y have any first aid?"

That's all I had to say. The staff stopped everything. They sat me down and swung into action. They summoned the first aid team who went right to work on me, cleaning, bandaging, doing everything they could for me.

They called Y manager Trevor Williams who came immediately and advised an ambulance. When I agreed, he  made the call and the ambulance and two paramedics were there in what seemed like  minutes.

In no time, I was on the stretcher. After the happy picture above, I was quickly in the ambulance and on my way to the emergency room. While one paramedic drove, the other sat beside my stretcher.  First he asked me a series of questions to see if my brain was still functioning. He didn't say it was or wasn't; he just made notes.

Then he took my vitals, starting with blood pressure. Everything was normal, he said.

"Age?"

"Seventy-five."

He looked surprised. "I wouldn't have thought that."

I took that as a compliment.

Then we were at  UMass Medical Center and the two paramedics, both a couple of kids from my perspective, wheeled me into the emergency room. I got barely a glance and not a second look from anyone. I fit right in. To everybody there, I was just another stricken old guy who may or may not walk out of there.

Being wheeled in, I saw room after room of elderly patients, many hooked up to life-preserving devices. I didn't get a room. They parked my stretcher in the hallway. Laying on it, I signed standard paperwork.

And there I was on a stretcher, alone, a part of the woodwork, taking it all in.



Talk about busy. Phones ringing. Staff rushing here and there. Nonstop calling out. Lightning fast communication. Papers being handed back and forth. A young man in blue stopped by. "Hi, I'm Andrew Cathers," he said. "We're going to get to you soon."

"You're my doctor?"

"Yes." And then, with a smile, he was off.

Barbara arrived and we  found ourselves in the midst of a non-stop drama that is an emergency room. We  had better than front row seats. We were on the stage -- as players.

Another doctor, Dr. Sean Rhyee came by. He was Dr. Cathers' superior, said one of the staff. With the paramedics having already sent descriptions of the wounds, he gave them a quick examination and was off.

It was about 11:30 a.m. and Barbara and I settled in to both watch the show and play our parts. A middle-aged woman was on a stretcher in the hallway, directly facing me no more than ten feet away. Obviously in terrible pain, her eyes full of fear, she regularly let out an exasperated, loud cry.

Who is she? What is her story? I had my phone and could easily take her picture and wanted to, but I didn't. I wanted to respect her privacy. Nor did I take pictures of other patients, except for one, whose identity could not be made out.

There was a sudden commotion farther down the hall. A man who had just been brought in by ambulance was yelling at nurses and trying to hang onto his guitar. His guitar! Emergency room staff and police officers were trying persuade him to give it up. As far as I could tell, the man held onto it.

My first thought was that he had to be troubled. My second thought was: maybe he is right. Maybe his guitar could give him the strength to overcome what no doctor, no level of medical science medicine could match. Here is the photo:


Now Barbara and I waited to see Dr. Cathers. And waited. The staff brought me lunch: sandwich of chicken, lettuce and tomato, plus tomato soup. An older volunteer, probably years younger than I, came by and gave me a pillow.

A staffer brought me ice for my face. Another staff member asked if I was cold. And when I said I was, he said, "I'll get you something." He quickly came back with two heated blankets. "You should be okay now," he said. "If you need anything else, give me a holler."

I felt like a VIP.

We waited. And waited. But we were far from antsy. Actually, Barbara and I were both entranced by this up-close documentary of the actual saving of lives. And, of course, I was seeing this story and already composing in my head.

Dr. Cathers trotted up and tapped me on the shoulder. As he passed by, he gave me a big surprisingly warm smile saying, "Don't worry. Haven't forgotten you. Be there soon."

"Not a problem," I said to his back. "We're good."

It was clear we had some time on our hands.  So, since I had the time, I decided to make a statement. I would let the UMass Emergency Department know that I was not your typical ancient on his last legs.

"I'm going for a walk," I said to Barbara.

"Okay, I'll be here."

Actually, I had abrasions on both knees and wanted to try them out. I started out slowly, but feeling that nothing was broken, quickly stepped up the pace. Soon I was doing fast-paced laps, one after another, smiling at people, joking that I was out to set a new world record for laps around an emergency room.

I passed the elderly-younger-than-I volunteer several times. Each time, with a big smile, he asked how many laps I had done. Each time I gave him a number and he gave me a thumbs-up. Now emergency room staff were looking up from their work, some shaking their heads with looks that said, "What's that crazy patient doing?"

Simple. I was letting the staff know that I was not there to die. That's not the role I will play here today, thank you. In any case, doing laps was a lot more fun  than just laying there on a stretcher. And as my laps kept going, I was soon making eye contact with staff, attracting smiles, thumbs-ups, and, I have to emphasize, those quizzical looks.

Hey, it's attention. Nobody noticed me laid out a stretcher. Everybody noticed me doing laps.

Finally, at about 1:00 p.m., Dr. Cathers returned. As I lay on my stretcher, he examined my wounds: face abrasion, right thumb laceration, knee abrasions. He and his boss, Dr. Rhyee, had discussed what had to be done. He explained that the main procedure would be several stitches to the lacerated right thumb. The face and knees would need inspection, cleaning, antibiotics, and fresh bandages.

Dr. Cathers led us into an available trauma room where he directed me onto the table. He proceeded to take off bandages and carefully inspect the wounds. He is serious about his work; that becomes quickly evident.

First job: my badly lacerated thumb. Here Dr. Cathers stitches my thumb:


But even as he works intently on me, a warmth and playful sense of humor comes out and we chat. I ask him how old he is.

"Twenty-seven," he said

"Twenty-seven!" I said. "You're a kid! You're too young to be a doctor! I can't call a kid doctor!"

He laughed. "My father was a Marine jet pilot and he wanted me to be the same.  But growing up I wanted to be a doctor. I went to the University of Connecticut-- go Huskies! -- and became a doctor."

"I hope to God you are married or at least engaged."

" Nope, but I have a girlfriend. She's a doctor, too, at the University of Arizona."

"Your girlfriend is a doctor! I don't believe it." If they get married, I wondered which one would be the home-maker. She? He? Both? Hired help? "Well, that's different," I said. "I hope you're going to settle down and get married."

He looked up from stitching my finger and just smiled.

And so it went. After putting six stitches into my thumb, he went to work on my knees and face, pictured here:



Finally, at about 2:30 pm, Dr. Cathers --  I call him Andrew, of course -- is done repairing me.  I want to socialize. But he has patients waiting for him and has to run.

"Tell you what Andrew," I said. "Get up on this table and my wife will take a picture of us together."

Out came that big, warm smile. "Sure," he said. We sat on the table together, put our arms around each other, and Barbara took this photo:



We look like brothers, don't you think?

So long  and keep moving.

For info on my ebooks, click here.
NOTE: Something Tells Her, my new e-book, is now available on Amazon.  

Jane is abandoned as a baby and raised in multiple horrific foster homes. After her latest abuse, a sexual advance from her latest foster parent, she screams "NO!" and runs out the door Twelve years old, on the street, alone, no family, nobody, no money, how can she possibly survive? She can't -- except that Jane  is no ordinary foster kid. She doesn't understand "can't." Read excerpts.





                       Other Amazon E-Books by George Pollock

"State Kid: Hero of Literacy" is fiction based on his real-life experiences growing up in foster homes; "Last Laughs," is the true story of how five foster kids (he and four younger siblings) found their way in life and each other. "Killers: Surprises in a Maximum Security Prison," is the story of his being locked up for 23 hours with killers in a maximum security prison; "I, Cadaver" is about his postmortem adventures and mischief in the anatomy lab at UMass Medical School. “A Beautiful Story” demonstrates the art and process of creative writing as a 16-year-old boy goes all out to write a story that literally saves his life. "Unlove Story," is the true story of a husband -- writing anonymously as "Elvis" -- who is dumped after 38 years of marriage and lets it all out on love, marriage, life, everything. A guy doing this? It's unheard of.

















Thursday, September 03, 2015

A Kid in Edmonds, Wash.: I Play With the Grandkids and They See Me as Just Another Kid.


Is that a gorgeous looking young couple at right or what? Are they professional models? They are not.

They are our daughter Misha and her husband Ed on vacation at Redondo Beach, California. Barbara and I were at their home in Edmonds, Washington visiting for a month and watching our four grandchildren while they went away for a few days.

I know what you're thinking. Four kids? They look like they're 22 or 23. How could these two kids have four kids? 

Well, they do. The oldest is Mia at 13. The youngest is Talula, at three. In between are Bella, 12 and Max, 8.

I'm not going to tell you how old their mom and dad are because I want to live. But Misha and Ed are NOT kids. Ed is a senior vice president at LA Fitness responsible for dozens of clubs. Misha is an incredibly talented party designer and planner with a popular website,  A Lovely Design.

Why do Misha and Ed look so young? Over the last several months, Ed has dramatically changed his diet and followed a rigorous exercise program, losing about 45 pounds. Misha has also lost weight, but did not have as much to lose as Ed.

"You think you look good?" I said to Ed. "Wait till you see me this time next year."

He doesn't seem worried.

Misha and Ed are both fully grown up, serious adults, as is my good wife Barbara. Me? I go through the motions of being an adult. Been there. Done that.

At my age -- a number I have trouble wrapping my mind around -- and stage of life, having gone through the entire normal life cycle of career (teaching and publishing as a writer and editor), parenthood and doing all that must be done to build a successful life, I regularly and happily act like a child.

The four kids consider me one of them, though Mia at 13 who often watches her three younger siblings, is not sure of what to think of an old man acting like a child. But sometimes I get a laugh from her and that is good enough for me.

Now photos from our month in Edmonds, of my second childhood and of the remarkable lives of grandkids --  filled with art, music, dance and living the creative life to the fullest.

Above is a scene from the musical Shrek at the outdoor Forest Theater in which Mia, Bella and Max had dancing and singing roles. Mia is in the back at dead center, Bella is far left and front, and Max is the little guy in the far right behind Shrek. 

Mia, right, belting out a song in Shrek
Bella, left, dancing it up in Shrek




Misha prepares the star of the play, Jason Gingold, for his role as Shrek.

The star of Shrek with his designer. Misha designed and sewed most of the costumes.











































One day my fellow kids saw me crying. They asked what was wrong. "I'm tired of being bald," I said. "I want some hair."

They swung into action, below.  Mia, right, did my eyes and eyebrows. Then she and Bella, left, gave me a new head of hair.

The new me. What an improvement!
I was so excited with my new hair that I broke into a dance. It was caught on video  by Mia's friend, Darian, right. (The video is the first on the list at right, IMG--2033.MOV)

It's not enough that the kids sing and dance with top-level theater groups like Kitsap Forest Theater. In between these professional-level performances, they put on impromptu shows -- you're not going to believe this -- in the garage.

They even included me in their act, sitting there as an old fool. Max gave me a new head of hair and a top hat. It was a great impromptu performance, with the exception of my role in the audience. I wish we had gotten the garage play on video. Oh well, maybe next time.



Besides singing and dancing, Max is always drawing something. He did a portrait of me, which he holds up below. I told him I loved it and would have it framed and keep it always.

"It's going to be worth a fortune some day," I said to Max.

No fool, Max gave me a look that said, "yeah, sure."



I'll be back home Sept. 11. I'll try my best to be a grown-up adult, but I know it's going to be hard.

So long and keep moving.

P.S. It's been nearly three months since my left hip replacement.  Yesterday I went out and hit for the first time here at the tennis club in Edmonds.  Though I took it easy, not running, I felt great.  I'll be back playing in a matter of days.  Yes!


NOTE:  My latest novel is Something Tells Her.  Go to Amazon. 



Jane is abandoned at birth and then placed in ever-changing, uncaring,  and often abusive foster homes. At age 12, her latest foster father makes a sexual advance on her and, with something telling her this is not right, she runs out the door. On the street, alone, no family, nobody, not even a last name, how is she going to survive? 

Other E-Books by George Pollock

"State Kid: Hero of Literacy" is fiction based on his real-life experiences growing up in foster homes; "Last Laughs," is the true story of how five foster kids (he and four younger siblings) found their way in life and each other. "Killers: Surprises in a Maximum Security Prison," is the story of his being locked up for 23 hours with killers in a maximum security prison; "I, Cadaver" is about his postmortem adventures and mischief in the anatomy lab at UMass Medical School. “A Beautiful Story” demonstrates the art and process of creative writing as a 16-year-old boy goes all out to write a story that literally saves his life.