Digression: Father’s Day 2019: Remembering Harry.

My dad was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma the week after Father’s Day in 2000.  I’d left for Australia just before Mother’s Day and returned two weeks later, and around that time he had been complaining of back pain and put his hand down on his back, near his kidneys — my mother was worried as she always is about everything.  Their internist at the time said it was orthopedic and ordered six week of physical therapy.  My mom went to her Osteopath, who is also a DO — he put his hand on my dad and said: “It’s not orthopedic.”  And sent them for an x-ray.

We had the annual Father’s Day cookout in our yard, chaos as usual.  On Monday when they went back to the Osteopath’s office, everyone said: “Oh did you have a good Father’s Day?”  Then they were told there was a cloud.  The protruding belly my mum thought was my dad’s weakness for sweets was actually the lymphoma wrapped down and around and pushing out.  My dad had to have a surgical biopsy because of the location to confirm the lymphoma and what type it was.  On my mum’s birthday, while the tall ships sailed into the harbor, we got those results, that it was b-cell Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, intermediate moving and my dad was starting stage three and we were starting chemo that very day.  To note, I’d looked up various lymphomas the night before on the American Cancer Society website stage three in lymphoma is not good and there is no stage four that is death or it was in 2000.

So where does Harry come in?  Harry was our local pharmacist.  At one time our town had many small independent pharmacies, three (3) actually when I was growing up in the 1970’s, with soda fountains, glass display cases for candy, and personal service unlike the chains of today.  By the end of the 1980’s, three turned to two, and Harry worked at Samuel’s Pharmacy but then bought out Brown’s when the elderly brothers ran it retired.  But my folks never called it Brown’s they called it Harry’s.

My dad was supposed to get these shots to boost his white and red blood cells after his chemo treatments.  They weren’t experimental but they weren’t part of the routine protocol either — which put us into insurance company coverage hell.  My mum called and fought with the insurance company — my dad a retired postal worker/guard had a federal plan.  At one point the nurse at the insurance company told my mum: “You think you have a good plan — but you don’t really.”

The insurance paid for a large percentage/coverage of these shots.  When my mum went to pick them up, Harry came out and said to her cheerfully: “That will be three hundred dollars.”  The insurance had paid over a thousand but the rest was not covered.  Then as my mom took out her checkbook, he lowered his voice and said, “If you don’t have it now.  Don’t worry you can pay me back later.”

And that is just one story.  I’m sure Harry helped many other people that way, letting them pay off debts or giving them the medicine outright at a loss.  I know he did this for one beloved person in town who struggled with AIDS/HIV in the early days.  If not they probably would have lost their house and business.  One of the nurses in our dentist’s office this week told my mum her dog had some serious illness and the medicine was over $120 dollars, but someone told her to go see Harry.  He told her he could order and get it for her.  The price $20.  No mark up.  Harry also hired people to do home deliveries, one driver and one runner besides a few people to help behind the counter ringing sales. My grandmother was notorious for making a large order, because she lived in the next city over and they delivered there as well as around our town.  But she would call and complain and my mum would apologize but Harry told her not to worry.

Whenever I went to pick up medication for one of my folks, Harry was generous with time and questions especially in times of crisis when they were in and out of the hospital.  Years later, when we were in calmer times and I went to pick up my medication she would ask me: “Did you see Harry?”  And if I did: “What did he say?”

If I had a question or questions about a medicine or an interaction — Harry always took the time to answer my concerns or my mother’s that I was relaying, and he did this for everyone else too.  Most of the time I did not ask to see him unless it was necessary.  If I did see him for a brief chat, it was brief because people in line were waiting to see him or he was wanted on the phone.  Harry gave time and his knowledge to people.  That was the kind of generous person he was.

And he was quiet about it.  I don’t think we will actually know how many people Harry actually helped he wasn’t a boaster.  He mentored one of my mother’s students Carla who went to pharmacy school and worked with him for many years.  He was like a second father to her and his nephew Chris also worked in the store, managing the lottery and the soda fountain where people would gather and discuss town news.  Sometimes his son’s helped out on Sundays, mostly to make sure he closed on time and went to a family event.

When Harry fell over in the store — the police log said there was a hysterical call from Brown’s Pharmacy.  And our hearts fell too when all learned it was a brain tumor.  And someone went online and people that Harry gave to — gave back not just with messages and cards and love and prayers, but with money for his care and treatment — which of course did not work.

Harry passed away in 2017 leaving a tear in our hearts.  Carla continued to work in the pharmacy, and Chris was there too but they hired a couple of part time pharmacists and closed on Sundays — Harry’s widow Janine came to the store often to watch over them.  Apparently they offered to buy Janine out to keep the store open but instead, Harry’s widow, Janine and her family sold out to a heartless corporation Caremark/CVS which I’m sure was a larger, monetary sum, and gave the town only one (1) week’s notice.

Our local newspaper did a fluff piece and that is it.  But actually it’s not, Carla sadly lost her husband last year and just a few months ago her father fell in the center of town, hit his head and died a few days later in the hospital.

My hope is that someone will come forward and back Carla and the other pharmacists and Chris in opening another independent pharmacy.  This happened when the Lombardo family closed our town supermarket, a local resident/business man backed the former store manager and opened a very small market.  They just had their twenty (20) year anniversary.  Wherever he is I’m sure that Harry would bless this venture, and I’m praying it will happen as I watch the water — hoping the tide of all our tears will wash away any comfort that CVS buyout money will bring to Janine and her family.


Letter to Cassandra Thurs. 21-Friday 22 May 1801: “To make long sentences upon unpleasant subjects is very odious & I shall therefore get rid of the one now uppermost in my thoughts as soon as possible.”

In this letter, which follows one that is missing, Jane Austen writes from the Paragon in Bath to her older sister Cassandra, visiting the family of the Reverend Fowle’s in Kintbury/Newbury.

Austen’s letter contains news of their trying to find a suitable place to rent in Bath very heavy with her wit not only on the available market they are surveying but the entire process: “We now have nothing in view.–When you arrive, we will at least have the pleasure of examining some of these purifying Houses again;–they are so very desirable in size, and situation, that there is some satisfaction in spending ten minutes within them.” (Austen’s own spelling and syntax.)

Although Austen pauses early on here to convey to her sister an answer apparently to a query by Cassandra and clarifies that there is a bit of a fracas going on: “–I will now answer the enquiries in your last letter.  I cannot learn any other explanation of the coolness between my Aunt & Miss Bond than that the latter felt herself slighted by the former’s leaving Bath last summer without calling to see her before she went.–It seems the oddest kind of quarrel in the World; they never visit, but I beleive they speak very civilly if they meet; My Uncle & Miss Bond certainly do.” (Austen’s own spelling and syntax.)

From the report on the “odd quarrel”  Austen jumps around to news about purchases, their brother Frank, and updates on different people they are meeting in Bath and the status of these relationships.  Austen seems to be displeased thus far with people not keen for outings that include a good long walk: “Our grand Walk to Weston was again fixed for Yesterday, & was accomplished in a very striking manner; Every one of the party declined it under some presence or other except our two selves & we had therefore a tete a tete; but that we should equally have had after the first two Yards, had half the Inhabitants of Bath set off with us.” (Austen’s own emphasis, spelling and syntax.)

Apparently, the fashion of gossip is being discussed between the sisters and Austen seems to detail to her sister details of what people’s reputations are via Bath gossip plus her own personal opinions: “It is the fashion to think them both very detestable, but they are so civil & and their gowns look so white & so nice (why by the bye my Aunt thinks an absurd pretension in this place) that I cannot utterly abhor them, especially as Miss Holder owns that she has no taste for Music.”  (Austen’s own spelling and syntax.)

Austen returns to descriptions of the lodgings they have visited and found unsuitable and also includes her thoughts about smaller social gatherings: “We are to have a tiny party here tonight; I hate tiny parties–they force one into constant exertion.–Miss Edwards & her father Mrs. Busby and her nephew Mr. Maitland, & Mr. Livingstone are to be the whole;–and I am prevented from setting my black cap at Mr. Maitland by his having a wife & ten Children.”  (Austen’s own spelling and syntax.)

Austen here also including some language here referring to her status as an aging woman in the marriage market, which seems to be a running thread along with the other updates she is conveying to her sister along with other updates including the sale of their belongings from Steventon which she seems to be frustrated and unhappy about their bookseller: “Mr. Bent seems bent upon being very detestable, for the values the books at only 70£.  The whole World is in conspiracy to enrich one part of our family at the expense of another.–Ten shillings for Dodsley’s Poems however please me to the quick, & I do not care how often I sell them for as much.  When Mr. Bramston has read them through I will sell them again.”  (Austen’s own emphasis, spelling and syntax.)

Returning again to more social updates including fashion she writes:  “When you have made Martha’s bonnet you must make her a cloak of the same sort of materials; they are very much worn here, in different forms–many of them just like her black silk spencer, with a trimming around the armholes instead of Sleeves;–some are long before, & some long all round like C. Bigg’s.” (Austen’s own spelling and syntax.)

Austen adds a postscript with more news — of fashionable people: “The Pickfords are in Bath & have called here.–She is the most elegant looking Woman I have seen since I left Martha–He is as raffish in his appearance as I would wish every Disciple of Godwin to be.” Per the notes/paraphrasing, Austen is probably referring to someone who is a devoted reader of writer William Godwin (1756-1836).   This is an interesting description and I’m wondering if the Pickfords were a couple or a brother and sister duo — perhaps some sort of inspiration for the Crawfords of Sense and Sensibility?

In her closing of her postscript, Austen goes back and or ties/back to the previous tidbit about setting her cap and the joke about their new Bath acquaintance Mr. Maitland by saying: “We drink tea tonight with Mrs. Busby I scandalized her Nephew cruelly; he has but three Children instead of Ten.–” (Austen’s own spelling and syntax.)

All notes and cite stop: Jane Austen’s Letters Fourth Edition, edited and collected by Deirdre Le Faye, Oxford University Press, 2011.






Digressions: Things I find on the beach and up-cycling.

My dad always used to clean the beach and I do what I can now.  It’s amazing to me how much trash washes up in our little bay from Boston Harbor.  Forget tea — I found this Christian Louboutin stiletto (shoe) last year, it was in the marsh grass with the heel facing up — at first I thought it was a beer bottle.  This is a picture right after finding, on the dryer in the cellar — it was covered in algae and it took awhile but my mum and I cleaned it up.


Clearly it was real — see photo of the famous red sole below.  And so I suggested post cleaning — a project of my mum converting it into a doorstop or a desk/paperweight for her breast cancer surgeon.

IMG_0211My mum’s surgeon/doctor is a fan of wearing high heels but not in the operating room! And on one post surgery appointment, she showed us the famous red soles of the Louboutin shoes she was wearing that day.  It took a while but my mum converted the now clean — orphan shoe over into a desk/paper weight for her and gave it to her at her check up last week!

IMG_0529My mum used glass floral display beads to fill the shoe, and weigh it down.  She decorated it with the pink spangled trim and the breast cancer pin/ribbon symbol.  Her surgeon loved it.

Book Review: Joe Gould’s Teeth by Jill Lepore.

Joe Gould’s Teeth by Jill Lepore was a very interesting and fast read.  Lepore is probably more well known for her book: The Secret History of Wonder Woman, which I also enjoyed.  This is story about an interesting man named Joseph Gould but in a way it’s also about Joseph Mitchell a writer for The New Yorker.  Gould was a bit of an eccentric, obviously mentally ill but a Harvard connected one time student who took up residence off and on in NYC’s pre and post World War Greenwich Village where he befriended among others: ee cummings, Erza Pound and Williams Carlos Williams — the latter who may have tried to give him/secure him mental health and medical care.  Joe Mitchell made Gould part of the Literati of Greenwich Village via his article: “Professor Seagull” — Gould’s friends were hoping the article would secure him a literary patron or support of some kind.  Gould was in a way — famous for being famous or connected to the more well known or famous.  Spoilers follow.

Gould insisted that he was writing an oral history of everything everyone said to him — a capsule of the modern era of life through his eyes.  Lepore goes on the hunt to see if this oral history/literary project ever existed or if it was lost and/or destroyed by Gould or confused by his friends with his personal journal/diaries.  She explores many theories chasing after the truth.  Being at Harvard she investigates and learns, Gould never actually graduated and was unable to find any archive he possible said he left to the university but reconstructs what she can.

Gould — Lepore speculates via several modern day opinions of Harvard doctors — may have had a form of Autism and perhaps some other disorders that were never correctly diagnosed or treated.  During this time in American society, treatment of the mentally ill had their teeth removed because the prevailing theory was that: the mental illness was said to be connected to an infection in the teeth.  Gould was always losing the false/replacement teeth and could never really stabilize his housing and work situation despite the ongoing efforts and assistance of his literary friends.  Gould did some time in asylums and was probably treated with electroshock therapy  and lobotomy again as those were current treatment methods.

As Lepore notes and Gould is very much obsessed with the Harlem Renaissance and Jazz Age and he stalked an artist named Augusta Savage — who’s history Lepore works very hard to research and reconstruct as well.

The other absorbing part of this book is the writer Joseph Mitchell and his relationship with Gould.  After Gould passes away, Mitchell writes a sequel article in The New Yorker asserting during one of his many run ins with Gould — getting hurt/asking for money which was repeat behavior with many of his connections and friends — Gould admitted to him (Mitchell) that “the oral history” did not exist.

This was rebutted by many friends and acquaintances of Gould’s writing into Mitchell confirming they saw chapters or at least pages.  Again, Lepore traces Mitchell’s footsteps back at Harvard trying to confirm what these folks were alleging concerning the actual existence of the work Gould insisted he was writing or re-writing over and over.

The whole thing is like a literary trivia mystery inside a mystery, both fascinating and heartbreaking.  It’s a bit short but Lepore only has so much to work with and she notes sadly a lot has been lost to history.