Tuesday, March 30, 2010

I’m looking for a kidney!


This is not meant to be funny! It’s no joke! I’m out looking for a kidney for a friend.
by Charlie Leck

I have some wonderful old friends who go way back. Unfortunately, the old part is truer than I would like it to be. Let’s call them Liz and Sandy. We’ve been doing things together for almost 40 years. We have kids who are close to the same age. For a time, when they were wee ones, they played together on those occasions when we joined up for a picnic or a family evening.

You ought to hear this incredible story about their daughter, Lisa. It may pluck some at your heart strings. It does at mine.

Lisa soared to great heights and we’ve always been proud of her and her accomplishments. She earned her medical degree, and then a string of other degrees: MSPH (Master of Science in Public Health), MBA (Master of Business Administration), and FACP (Fellow of the American College of Physicians). It’s more than ironic, as you’ll soon see, that one of the specialties in her work is high risk pregnancy. She is a physician of extraordinary achievement out in Denver.

She’s a single, professional woman who, somehow, never had the time to get married as her career rocketed forward. Yet, for years and years, Lisa wanted to know the joy of having children and being a mom. She tried, pretty desperately, to adopt kids from China. She waited patiently for several years. China, frankly, is a bureaucratic nightmare and, at every little turn, there seemed to be an additional cost. It's such a shame for a nation that has so many orphaned young girls. For a while it seemed it would work out, but there was one disappointment after another and, after many years, Lisa lost patience. However, she didn't lose her determination to have children.

Well, my goodness! A bit over a year ago, Lisa became pregnant with twins through a process of in vitro fertilization. If you, like I, are baffled by this procedure and don’t really understand it, read here for a good explanation of in vitro fertilization. She flew up to the Twin Cities to proudly tell her parents the good news. She brought with her the ultra sound photos. Naturally, the expectant grandparents were as excited as Lisa.

All of us were thrilled. Grandma and Grandpa (Liz and Sandy), her brother and his family, Aunt Adrianne and Uncle Bill (down in Tucson), and, of course, we (and all our family spread around the country). All of us watched the dramatic developments closely and got more and more excited as the day of delivery approached.

Of course, none of us were as excited or as joyful as Lisa herself. She was about to become a mother who would have her children with her for many, many years. Now, Lisa also knew there were plenty of risks in what she was doing. She was on the plus side of 40 years. Remember, she’s a doctor and a damned smart one, so she understood.

The pregnancy was completely normal. Everything was going well. Lisa kept up her travels for work right into October. Delivery was planned for the end of December. Well, somewhere toward the end of their term, things started going wrong and the earth seemed to tremble a bit. Some of Lisa's labs didn't look so good. The doctors decided on a premature delivery. So, the children came early (November 30) and the doctors had their hands full. I wrote about this marvelous and trying time in an earlier blog.

The initial fight seemed to be for the children because of the premature delivery; yet they were in terrific condition at about four pounds. Our initial worries about them were misplaced and soon messages arrived telling us that we should be concerned about Lisa. Slowly, like heavy clouds creeping in over the landscape, and most unexpectedly, the point of interest shifted to the mother. Lisa was not recovering properly. Those of us who were concerned, who loved her, who were interested in her brilliant career, hung on infrequent notices from the hospital. They were not positive and hopeful. Prayer groups formed – both Christian and Jewish. Hundreds prayed for her – hoped for her and wondered what they could do for her.

The beautiful little babes, quite unbelievably, flourished and grew strong and healthy. Photographs of them sent us all in to fits of celebration. Just in the last few days they weighed in at 13.8 pounds (Daniel) and 12.13 pounds (Sophie). They’re about to switch off the special formula for premature kids to a regular, ordinary mixture. They sleep through the night now and their smiles are constant.

Yet, we waited for good news about Lisa also and such news was slow to come. She had gone straight from delivery into intensive care. Her bleeding wouldn't stop. She required enormous amounts of blood -- more than 100 units. Her platelets were alarmingly low. Emergency surgery was performed to stop the bleeding. It didn't seem to help. Dialysis and plasmapharesis was done daily. She had approached death's door several times. Now the sense of worry had shifted fully from the children to the mother. Heroic doctors, led by Doctor Michael Schwartz, struggled to save her life. Physicians all over the nation were consulted.

What was going on with poor Lisa? Renal failure! Her kidneys are not filtering.

Now the doctors don’t expect Lisa’s kidneys to recover. She receives constant dialysis treatments. She needs a kidney transplant and it’s critical that she gets one. The dialysis is not a good, long-term option. So, Lisa’s been placed on a waiting list for a contribution from a deceased donor. The projections are for a wait of at least two years.

A much better option – better by far – would be a living donor. Such transplants have become commonplace and extremely safe. We can function, without problems, on one kidney.

Here’s the report that comes from the transplant evaluation team out in Denver. There are three components to matching a kidney: (1) blood type; (2) human leukocyte antigen (HLA), and (3) panel reactive antibodies (PRA).

Because her blood type is AB+, Lisa can accept a kidney from individuals with any blood type. There are 6 different antigens that make up the HLA. Anti-rejection drugs are so good today that HLA matching is less critical than in the past – the life of a transplanted kidney that is a 0/6 match is not that different from a kidney that is a 6/6 match. It is far better to have a living donor kidney that is a 0/6 match than a deceased donor kidney that is a 6/6 match.

The recipient’s PRA score is based on his/her history of blood transfusions, pregnancy and other things that expose the recipient to blood antigens. Once a potential donor is identified, the transplant center will do a cross match between the donor and the recipient's blood to see if this is a problem.

Who can be a donor?
The donor needs to be between 18 and 60, healthy, and with no history of diabetes or high blood pressure. If there is a family history of diabetes they will do an oral glucose tolerance test to see if the donor has pre-diabetes and they will do an evaluation to make sure there is no unknown kidney disease or other condition. As far as costs go, there is no cost to the donor for anything. If a potential donor lives out of state, when they contact the donor coordinator, she will arrange for them to get the testing done locally, and have the bill sent to the University where it will be forwarded to Lisa’s insurance company.

As far as the transplant itself, the kidney will be taken out with laproscopic assistance. There will be two small holes for the instruments in the upper and lower abdomen on the left (they will take the left kidney) and a small incision around the belly button to take the kidney out. The donor will spend 2-3 days in the hospital and will be able to return to normal activities in 1-2 weeks on average.

For Lisa, they will make a small incision in her right pelvic area and put the kidney in there. They will not remove the old kidneys.

I’m not trying to pretend here that this isn’t a huge decision for a potential donor. It’s a major commitment. If someone out there wants to think about this kind of life-giving and loving gift, there are many places to get information. One web site to check is www.transplantliving.org. Or, if you would like to talk anonymously to the transplant coordinator about what you would need to consider before making this decision contact Vonnie Bagwell at 720-848-2261 or email her at vonnie.bagwell@uch.edu

I’m hoping that this blog – this desperate search for a kidney for a new and excited mother – could be sent along, by everyone who reads it, to their friends and the people on their email lists.

We understand fully the challenge here. This search is not an easy one and the odds are likely against us, but we’ve got to try for Lisa, Sophie and Daniel.


A 2007 photo of Lisa...

Thanks for your kind attention.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

We've Got a Brand New Ball Park


I was in dreamland yesterday and I kept fighting back the tears!
by Charlie Leck

Here’s hoping the late song writer, Joe Raposo, and old blue eyes will forgive me, but I was in a lyric and festive mood yesterday after visiting Target Field, the new home of the Minnesota Twins baseball team.

And now there is a ballpark right here
Where the field is warm and green
And the people play their crazy game
With a joy I'd never seen.
And the air is so wonder filled
From the hot dogs and the beer
Yes, there is a new ballpark, right here.

Now the children come to find it

And they can't believe their eyes
`cause the Twins will soon be playin’
Hitting balls into great wide skies
That sparkle just like diamonds

That are ever bright and clear
And the summer must come quickly…
Very, very quickly… this year.


Yes, there is a brand new ballpark, right here.

And I’ll admit there were some tears in my eyes on occasion as I stood and looked down on a sight that might be as American as can be and as beautiful as anything I’ve ever seen – a brand new ball park with emerald green grass under soft blue skies. I thought of my old man a lot and how he would have loved being by my side. I thought, too, of my wife’s dear father, who was so involved in bringing big league baseball to Minnesota, and how thrilled he would have been to look down on that field with me. I could see, in my mind, his sparkling eyes and that smile of a little child that he always seemed to have.

Forgive me for bursting with pride and joy this morning, but I can’t help it. What a wondrous ball park. It left me breathless as it did thousands and thousands of others who got their first look at it yesterday. The reviews last evening and this morning, on every television station and on every blog and newspaper report were all complete raves. Someone did his homework real good. This park was built with both fans and players and the history of baseball in mind. Nothing was missed. This is a ball park that will make the players feel like kids again and the fans will have uproariously good times watching the kids play.

Our baseball sage in this area, Sid Hartman, who has been following minor league and major league baseball for over 60 years, says: “I don’t believe there is a better stadium anywhere.” Well, Sid, when I first read those comments from you a couple of weeks ago, I thought you were just blowing smoke and doing some home-town humping; but, this morning, I think I absolutely agree with you.

Even our most sarcastic and grumbling sports writers and commentators are raving about this new and wonderful spot to watch baseball. Baseball in our town will again become an occasion -- a very special occasion.

My wife and I spent a few hours just slowly walking around the new stadium yesterday, taking in the views of the field from nearly every angle. We examined club rooms and bars and eateries. We had a better than good lunch in the Town Park Tavern (a sort of shrine to Minnesota’s wonderful small town baseball parks). We checked out the rest rooms and the great Budweiser Deck where there was a huge, low, flat fireplace glowing with heat for fans who were chilly. Everywhere we turned there was something new and fun and interesting.

And, I’ll tell you there are some wonderful spots in this stadium to watch a baseball game – more wonderful spots than in any stadium I’ve ever seen.

You know what’s great? We’re going to have rain-outs again in Minnesota! We’re going to have cool breezes at night games in Minnesota again. There will be full moons glowing down on us on some of our evenings. And warm sunshine for day games. This is the way baseball is supposed to be and I just can’t wait.

There were some geniuses as work in the design of this stadium and I tip my hat to them.

Our professional ball club allowed the University of Minnesota baseball team to play the first game ever at Target Field. The players approached the field quite reverently yesterday, not sure they should step on the pristine grass and the perfectly groomed dirt of the diamond.

The Gopher shortstop, A.J. Peterson said “that was about the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.” Sports columnist Jim Souhan wonders this morning if the new stadium ought to be considered a “shrine.” Spectators and players seemed that respectful and over-awed yesterday. Strangers were slapping strangers on the back and they were smiling at each other and singing the praises of the ball park.

“Isn’t that about the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen.”

Sing it out Frank! Sing it out! We’ve got a ball park right here in our home town and it’s a thing of beauty and wonder. On April 12 the Twins will give the park it’s official grand opening in a game against the Boston Red Sox and every single seat will be occupied by fans who will be cheering on our home town team.

Not only will it be a great stadium in which to watch a game, but some wonderful ball players are going to pour out on that field on that first afternoon – Justin Morneau, Jason Kubel, Denard Span, Michael Cuddayer, Scottie Baker and Joe. That’s all you need to call our catcher – just Joe. He’s our hometown Joe and we’re in love with him and can’t wait to watch him take up his place behind the plate for the opening pitch at Target Field. Wow! I’ll tell you!

And now there is a ball park right here!
How the children come to find it
And they can’t believe their eyes
Cause we’ve got the grandest ball park
Right here!

Politics of Rage & Hate in Full-Swing


We, who still believe in America's possibilities must fight hateful politics and not give in to them!
by Charlie Leck

Paul Krugman came right out and said it! Listen up!

“For if you care about America’s future, you can’t be happy as extremists take full control of one of our two great political parties.” [Paul Krugman: Going to Extreme, 25 March 2010]

His column about this subject is worth a careful reading.

It’s especially interesting to read his doubt about the Republican claims that America didn’t want this health care reform. You’ll understand, after you read Krugman’s explanation, that the truth is that the country is about evenly split on this matter and that puts Obama on safer ground than you might think. It’s just that a very large percent of those unhappy with the recent bill come from a group within the nation very much like I – who simply wanted and hoped for much, much more than we got. Do you think we’re going to turn against Obama or the Democratic Party in a national election? Of course we’re not!

It puts Republicans on a much more even playing field than we might think in this fall’s Congressional elections.

If, for a moment, you think the Republican Party has not been recaptured by Karl Rove and his methodology, you haven’t been watching the news. Rove has become one of the frequently interviewed talking heads about the coming election. And look at the Rovian way leaders in the party like John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are talking these days.

What has been really striking has been the eliminationist rhetoric of the G.O.P., coming not from some radical fringe but from the party’s leaders. John Boehner, the House minority leader, declared that the passage of health reform was “Armageddon.” The Republican National Committee put out a fund-raising appeal that included a picture of Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, surrounded by flames, while the committee’s chairman declared that it was time to put Ms. Pelosi on “the firing line.” And Sarah Palin put out a map literally putting Democratic lawmakers in the cross hairs of a rifle sight.

“All of this goes far beyond politics as usual. Democrats had a lot of harsh things to say about former President George W. Bush — but you’ll search in vain for anything comparably menacing, anything that even hinted at an appeal to violence, from members of Congress, let alone senior party officials.[Paul Krugman: Going to Extreme, 25 March 2010]

Of course, what Democrats and other reasonable people are hoping is that there will be a voter backlash against such harsh, mean and untruthful tactics by Republicans. We live in a crazed nation right now, however, and one just doesn’t know what will happen. I’ve lost a lot of my faith in my nation, but not so much so that I really believe there is a possibility it would turn to someone like Sarah Palin for leadership.

Those of us who really love America, and believe it ought to be a nation of fairness to all people, will need to rally behind President Obama this summer and fall and contribute mightily to those good candidates who will be threatened by scurrilous Republican attacks. In other words, we must reject politics of hate.


Saturday, March 27, 2010

For MURDER MYSTERY READERS


Death of a Writer, by Michael Collins, in worthy of a reading!
by Charlie Leck

If you are not interested in the mystery novel or murder mysteries, read no further. Come back tomorrow for some Sunday morning reading recommendations.

[A Review] This dark novel of murder and serial killings came out in 2006. So, why I am just reviewing it now.

Answer simple = Just read it!

I received the book, among a pile of others and along with a box of wonderful Italian salamis and cheeses, olives and pâté, as a Christmas gift from one of the kids. I’ve slowly worked my way through all the books, finding a few of them nearly as delectable as the Tuscan Pâté that was included among the Italian delicacies. Though Soldier’s Heart, by Elizabeth D. Samet, was the clear prize winner among the books, I was also considerably intrigued by Death of a Writer. I mentioned both of these books briefly in an earlier blog in February. Though I dealt with Samet’s book in some detail, I did not review this highly unusual murder mystery.

Let me warn you first. You don’t want to read Death of a Writer unless you can deal with some rather dark and tragic themes; however, there are plenty of good reasons to read the book that overcome those shadows. First, there are those important questions raised by this complex story: (1) the relationship between the fictional novel and non-fiction and when and how the two meld into one; (2) the question of liberal arts educations in a modern technological world; (3) the both comical and tragic weaknesses of contemporary academia.

Some reviewers have actually called the book both pithy and comical. I didn’t find myself laughing very often, but I was gripped and held spell-bound and found that it was a book difficult to put down. Collins is a good story teller and he weaves an intricate tale within the pages of this book.

A down and out writer, who had dreamed of literary greatness, is trapped on a mediocre college campus teaching English and creative writing. He’s earned his tenure at the school and with that achievement came a sense of great boredom and loss of interest. So, we’re introduced to both a has-been writer and a failure as an instructor. Professor E. Robert Pendleton is an extremely intelligent man. He could have been a good teacher and a successful writer. One of the great questions posed by the book is why he is neither and, instead, a likely murderer.

The tale is intense and the mystery is complex. Is the professor a serial killer who has chronicled one of his killings in an intense and exciting novel that gets short listed as a nominee for the National Book Award? Perhaps! Or, did he have some special and inside knowledge that allowed him to chronicle the killing in a very intimate manner? Is his book fiction or autobiography? If the latter, how can it be nominated for a major fiction award?

Near the beginning of this tale, the professor attempts suicide. He fails, but in the attempt he seemingly disables his brain and communication functions so badly that he cannot answer any of these compelling questions. So, solving the mystery is left to a salty and entirely messed-up police detective and a young and attractive doctoral candidate at the professor’s college.

There’s plenty of Greek tragedy to pass around, so everyone gets a share. Life can be miserable and we’re introduced to plenty of life’s miserable people. We're carried nearly to the book's conclusion before the mystery becomes clear and some readers will congratulate themselves for figuring it out early and others will jump to first one conclusion and then to another (as I did).

I have a standard question I ask myself each time I put a book down, finished with reading it: Was my time well spent and was the reading worth the time spent? I have degrees of answers, like (1) Absolutely; (2) Somewhat; (3) Perhaps; (4) Not Really; and (5) God No! I do give Michael Collins an ABSOLUTELY on his creative and interesting story of murder and so much more.

If you are into this kind of mystery, I recommend it to you.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Senate Revises the Bill and Sends it Back


Now, health care reform has only to survive a challenge in the Supreme Court and in the national elections of this November.
by Charlie Leck

The health care reform bills passed by the House and Senate are not at all as far reaching in measure as I personally hoped; yet, they do amount to important reform upon which can be built, someday, a real health care program for America.

There are two tactics the Republicans will use in an attempt to yet kill the bill.

First, there is talk of a Supreme Court challenge which will hinge on that part of the bill that mandates individuals to buy some type of health insurance. The question before the court will amount to a contest of that part of the law that takes away an individual’s liberty to choose ‘yes or no’ on the purchase of such insurance. Knowing how erratic and strange this court is, I would never predict that the challenge will not succeed. In fact, it may.

Second, the Republicans will ride this issue hard in the November elections and seek to gain a majority in both houses of Congress so they can legislatively repeal the new law. I would also never predict that this challenge will not succeed. In fact, it may.

Obama will need to do something he hoped to avoid in 2010. He must take to the streets in big cities and small towns, launching a vigorous election campaign on behalf of his Democratic colleagues running for the Senate and the House. The Republican leaders of this fall’s campaign will be familiar. The GOP will trot out lots of old and recognizable faces – from McCain to Mitch McConnell – from Karl Rove to Dick Cheney. We’ll also hear plenty from Sarah Palin and, here in Minnesota, from Michele Bachmann. The conservative radio talk show geeks will be on the attack also. And so will the Tea Party.

There will also be a strong third party movement in many states and it will be interesting to watch the direction that those movements take on a state by state basis. I imagine there will be lots of dampened fingers in the air, trying to determine the direction of the wind.

I bid you adieu for a few days. Friday will find me having my second eye repaired and I’ll be laid up for a while and won’t be allowed to look at a computer screen. I’ll post a blog again on Sunday.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Universal Health Care by 2014


That’s what Tom Huntley predicts; that is, that Minnesota, and most likely all of America, will have universal health care by 2014.
by Charlie Leck

Here are two great wishes that I have.

First, that Tom Huntley, the Chair of the Minnesota House of Representatives Committee on Health Care, is correct in his prediction that “the United States will join the rest of the industrialized world and have universal health care coverage… by 2014.” That’s only four years from now.

Second, that I may live to see it and join in the great celebration that is sure to follow.

That’s what Tom Huntley, of Duluth, Minnesota, told Mary Lehammer of Twin Cities Public Television. Huntley was one of the chief advisors to the White House on the health care bill struggles. He seems to have a handle on the direction of health care reform in America.

Yesterday, Tuesday, 23 March 2010, President Obama signed the House bill into law. In doing so, he proudly said: “We are a nation that does what is hard, what is necessary, what is right.”

Now the President will “hit the road” to explain the case for the law and what it will do for all Americans. He’ll take on Republicans who, knowingly, I think, represent the law as an infringement on the right of Americans not to be insured, and also as an infringement on the right of each and the several states of the union. The President’s opposition will also contend that it is a bad law that will increase the expense of health care in the nation; while the President and his backers contend that the law will get health care expenses under control. Even worse, Republicans will argue that the President has done something evil and taken away certain rights of all citizens. The GOP has gone loopy, you know, and no longer deserves to represent honest, hard-working Americans. It is a party of the archaic – of times that no longer make sense or have relevance in the country. It is the party of the very wealthy, trying to pretend that they also represent the interests of ordinary and common Americans as well.

Out on the stump, however, the President will tell the American people things they will be overjoyed to hear. Americans, when they understand that insurance companies will no longer be able to drop people from coverage when they get sick and that children with pre-existing conditions cannot be refused coverage. And, that we'll be able to keep our kids on our own health policies until they are 26 (so we can safely get them through college and started on their own careers).

A Denver reader sent along a link to a fascinating and clever column by Richard Cohen in the Aspen Daily News On-Line, called ON COMPASSION WE’RE CATCHING UP! I’m including the first two paragraphs below and a link to the rest of the column in case you’d like to read it all.

“Mitch McConnell is right. The Republican Senate leader, a man whose vision is to deny others theirs, told The New York Times that President Obama’s health care proposal was part of an attempt to “turn us into a Western European country,” which, the good Lord willing, is what will now happen. I, for one, could use a dash of Germany, where there are something like 200 private health insurance plans and where everyone is covered and no one goes broke on account of bad health. It’s great to be healthy in America, but for too many Americans, it’s better to be sick somewhere else.

“I would also take France or Switzerland, but mostly I’d like Japan, which I move to Western Europe for the sake of argument, and where medical care is as good (or better) than it is here and much less expensive. What all these countries have in common is the recognition that health care is, like food or education, a universal right. The United States, to McConnell’s evident chagrin, is now moving this way.”

Again, here’s the link for “the rest of the story…” http://www.aspendailynews.com/section/home/139818 Read particularly the 4th paragraph of the column that begins: “This battle was never entirely about health care.” Cohen makes some very insightful comments.

As for Mitch McConnell himself, I like to defenestrate him (that’s my “word of the day” from Dictionary.com and I’m supposed to try to use it in a sentence, so there you go).

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Weekend with the Grandkids (Photos)

Anne, Jim and Erika inside the giant Tornado Slide


The big kids at the bottom of the Tornado Slide

The warning sounds and the giant bucket tips

Caroline dancing a jig

Anna playing ball with her dad

Caroline and her dad at the bottom of a tube slide

Caroline and her mom

Caroline on a jet ski

A mild distraction to the photographer!

Grandma at work in the kitchen of our little suite

Grandma at play on the water slides

Anna Rose in a water spray

Not that I expect hundreds of you are interested, but I know a few of your are. The photos I've presented are of my grandchildren, Anna Rose and Caroline Jean, and of Grandma Anne, and the mom and dad of my grandkids, Erika and Jim. They are a mild interlude between quite serous blogs. These were all taken over the last weekend down in Wisconsin Dells. Looking at the grandchildren like this explains why I've cheered and pleaded so hard for a sensible national health care program.

Look for more about Health Care Reform tomorrow.

Charlie Leck

WHAT WILL THE NEW HEALTH CARE BILL DO?


Here are some of the things you can expect from the new health care bill!
recommended reading from Charlie Leck

In this story by Tara Siegel Bernard, you can read an excellent summary of what the new health care legislation will and will not do. For those of you who are curious, it’s worth the read.

The article leads me to believe that the process of health care reform is not finished. Over the next couple of years, this legislation will have to be tweaked, corrected and improved. There are holes in it for individuals and for employers. Congress will have to address those problems.

Here’s another summary of the bill that appeared in the Boston Globe. It covers some things missed in the NY Times piece, but the emphasis is on what the bill means for Massachusetts.

One of the things that breaks my heart in this fight is the dishonesty and vileness of the Tea Party protests. You can expect plenty of lies out of those folks in the coming days. One can only be pleased that they are associated mostly with the Republican Party. Take a step back and look at these thugs and crazies. They are not of the sort that made America great. They are stamped with the brand of selfishness and self-protection. They are not prepared to welcome those who are “yearning to be free.” They are not the type to extend their hands to the suffering and those in need. They are, instead, self-serving, closed-minded, ignorant and hateful bigots.

Read Bob Herbert’s NY Times column about the Tea Party antics: An Absence of Class.

A lot of my readers have expressed great worries about the coming election, as have I. I’m starting to feel better now about that election – especially if the Democrats have the gumption to label the Republican Party as the “party of no” and the “party of no ideas.” Indeed, the Republicans know how to stall and they know how to obstruct; however, they proved to us in the 8 years under George W. Bush’s guidance that they do not know how to lead and solve problems. Democrats must make the people understand that the Republicans represent the power brokers in America and those afraid to invest in their nation so that more and more people might share the degree of comfort they have achieved.

Adam Nagourney’s “political memo” in the NY Times is right-on about this subject concerning the strategy that the Democrats must following to avoid defeat by the Republicans in November.
More about what the health care reform bill will and won't do is coming soon!

Monday, March 22, 2010

MEDICARE MARKS THE END OF AMERICAN FREEDOM



Ronald Reagan, in 1961, predicted the passage of the Medicare bill would mark the end of American Freedom!
by Charlie Leck

“If you don’t, this program I promise you, will pass just as surely as the sun will come up tomorrow and behind it will come other federal programs that will invade every area of freedom as we have known it in this country until one day as Normal Thomas said we will wake to find that we have socialism, and if you don’t do this and I don’t do this, one of these days we are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children, what it once was like in America when men were free.” [Ronald Reagan, 1961]

Was last night's vote on a health care reform bill a historical moment in American History? Time will tell, of course.

Just remember the above words of Reagan when you hear the doomsday predictions out of Republicans in the next several weeks. Our nation is in desperate need of health care reform. We can’t afford to keep going as we are, with vital health care decisions left in the hands of insurance companies and corporations that stand to make mega profits without concern for the real health of the nation and those who cannot afford their exorbitant fees.

I was pleased with the courage and energy President Obama showed in the last few weeks, when he determined that he would go it alone – without Republican support or cooperation, that is – and pass the best health care reform bill he could possibly usher through Congress.

Those of us who voted for him, must sit back now and admit that he did the very best that he could with what he had.

It is certainly not what I envisioned when I listened to him campaign throughout 2007 and 2008. It is not what I heard Hilary Clinton promise on the stump a number of times.

And, it is certainly not what most progressives, including the one who taps out these words on his keyboard now, wanted for America.

It will take some long days of study to really see what we will get out of this mish-mash; and I will begin today my study of the bill that the President will sign and send over to the Senate for reconciliation. Be aware that the Republicans will cry and scream about the unfairness and treachery of the reconciliation process. As they do, please don’t forget that they, in the last two decades, also used this process to pass some extremely questionable bills that favored the wealthy.

For now, I am just going to hail the President who fought the good fight and spoke the truth to the American people and the men and women of his political party. His comments to gathered Democrats this past Saturday, may be regarded by history as the words of a courageous and honest President. I was terribly moved by them:

Every once in a while a moment comes where you have a chance to vindicate all those best hopes that you had about yourself, about this country, where you have a chance to make good on those promises that you made ... And this is the time to make true on that promise. We are not bound to win, but we are bound to be true. We are not bound to succeed, but we are bound to let whatever light we have shine.”

Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, indeed!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Dells


How the Dells have changed!
by Charlie Leck

Very little interrupts my blogging, but the grandkids always get that right. They come first. Right now I'm down in the Wisconsin Dells, a very touristy spot just about midway between Minneapolis and Chicago -- a perfect spot for meeting up with the Chicago grandkids.

Years and years ago, when the boys were little, they loved coming here because there were all kinds of boat rides and go cart tracks. On trips to or from the East, we'd plan a stop in the Dells so that boys could have some fun. There were a couple of old motels and a pancake house and another cafe or so.

Well, the Dells is different these days. It's a monster entertainment spot for children and families with one giant water park after another where hundreds of families can check in for a weekend or, as in the case of the current spot on the calendar, for spring break from school.

There are at least 20 different movie screens within walking distance of the mega lodge where we're staying -- the Great Wolf Lodge. There are also better than 30 restaurants and cafes from which to choose.

Frankly, it's too much. They took one of the most beautiful spots in the upper Midwest and turned it strictly touristy and tacky. Yet, the chill'n love it and that's the most important thing, I guess. The old Dells tourist stop was strictly a summer place and now, with the vast indoor water play spots, it is year 'round.

I and my life's partner drove into old, dowtown Baraboo yesterday and found it quite unchanged from twenty and thirty years ago. An 0ld friend was still operating her bookstore across from the town square park and she was still making an acceptable living at it. I walked into the place grumbling and growling like any ordinary tourist and she didn't recognize me (who could with the way I've aged?) and she asked if she could help me, "sir?"

"I'd like a hug," I said.

She rolled her eyes and figured, "Oh, what the hell?" And she gave this old fella a big hug. As we were hugging I told her who I was and she yelped and gave me a genuine draft hug, indeed.

I bought a couple of novels (used books) from her and a children's book to take back to the grandkids. It was nice to get a wiff of the old times in the area before going back to the mega-hotel.

All this to say that my blogging's been interrupted by a day or two, but I'll be back on line on a regular basis on Tuesday.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Short Story


Big Cole Anderson
by Charlie Leck

The following is a draft of a short story I wrote over the last several days. I offer it to those of you who wish to read it and make comments and suggestions for me. It is somewhat lengthy (about 14 pages in a standard book size), so you may prefer not to tackle it. I will not be offended if you choose not to read it. Come back in a couple of days for my next blog.

Cole Anderson was an extraordinarily big man and he knew it. He was the biggest man the folks of Dublin had ever seen. Cole liked being big and he enjoyed towering over other people. In so many ways he was deeply insecure. He doubted himself and lacked real confidence. He wasn’t very well educated. He was pretty much withdrawn and shy. Yet, when he was up close to other people, always looking down at them, feeling as if he could encompass them and smother them in his grasp, he thought he gained something of an advantage over them. As a matter of fact, nearly everyone was afraid of Cole because of both his size and his general ignorance and slow mindedness. It was this fear that people had for him that kept Cole going in his work.

This big man -- big like a giant -- worked for the town of Dublin, in Iowa. He was the town’s only paid employee and he did just about everything. He took care of the city’s records and filings and money, though there wasn’t much of any of those things in such a small town. There were less than 500 people living in Dublin and it wasn’t on a highway that went anywhere much at all. Cole also cared for the roads and the one little city park that contained a set of swings and one rusty, old slide for very small children. There weren’t really any utilities to watch over. Everyone had his own well and septic system and they all got their electricity from the county’s rural cooperative. For fire protection services, the community just depended on the town of Rybak, 11 miles or so on down a narrow and winding county road.

Cole was also the town policeman. There wasn’t a police car or anything like that. Cole just drove his own car -- an 81’ Jeep Cherokee with a stick shift. On the few occasions when Cole needed to stop someone he just plugged a blinking red light into his cigarette lighter opening and set it up on the dashboard. Instead of a siren, he’d just blow his horn with some authority. The town was supposed to pay Cole a mileage allowance for using his own car, but there was never enough money in the treasury to make such payments, so Cole just ignored filing any reimbursement forms.

To get more specific about Cole Anderson, he was just over six feet, nine inches tall. He weighed nearly 300 pounds and he had feet and hands that were bigger than any the folks in Dublin had ever seen before. When Cole shook hands with anyone, he just enveloped that person’s entire hand in his own so there was nothing left to see -- not a finger or the tip of a finger or anything below the wrist.

Cole also had a massive head that was, even as big as his body was, way out of proportion with the rest of his anatomy. Folks had all they could do not to laugh at Cole when they saw him coming. His big, ambling body was funny enough, but then they’d see that head that was too big for his body and they would really get a jolt of the giggles. Except, of course, nobody would laugh because they were frightened that Cole might reach out and slap them with one of those massive paws of his

However, it wasn’t really Cole’s size that made nearly everyone afraid of him. It was his apparent dimwittedness that set his townsfolk to shivering in his presence. Why Cole could say some of the strangest and most unexpected things in reply to a simple statement about how it was such a nice day, that folks would wonder if this big ape was so dumb that he might inadvertently attack and crush a normal person just out of sheer lunacy and stupidity.

Ryan Polzak told some of the townsfolk that he was stopped by Cole and his flashing red light one day when he was driving along Sapp Street. So he asked Cole what he had done wrong and Cole just looked at Ryan in disbelief that he would ask such a question when it was perfectly obvious why Cole had stopped Ryan.

Now, Ryan said, he felt some sort of tremble come across Cole and he didn’t want to push things by asking any more questions, so he just sat back there in his car and waited for Cole to tell him he could go on now.

Cole finally spoke up, shaking his finger in Ryan’s face and showering him in a significant amount of spit as he spoke.

“Now you better get this mess of a car washed up, so it’s clean on Sunday when you go over to Westby to church, or I’m going to slap you in jail.”

“Why, Cole, we ain’t got no jail,” Ryan said before thinking better of it than to correct Cole to his face. Cole again shook a finger in Ryan’s face and answered him rather coldly.

“The operational word here, Mr Ryan Polzak,” Cole said with a long, drawn out emphasis on the pole part of Ryan’s last name, “is slap.”

Ryan thought about that for a few seconds: “The operational word here is slap!” Then Ryan got pretty scared when he looked up into Cole’s big face with those over-sized, protruding ears and that massive nose with a jungle of hair growing out of it, and he, thinking about how Cole could probably knock his head clear off if he slapped him upside the head, thought he might piss in his pants until Cole finally slapped the roof of his car and told him to get on his way now and get the car washed “afore Sunday anyhow!”

Now in that circle of townsfolk where Ryan told that story about Cole, you might have expected a decent amount of laughter or howling or, at least, a fair amount of giggling, but those folks who listened to the story fell open-mouthed and silent as church mice. There had been genuine fear in Ryan’s face as he told the story and that sign of anxiousness was transferred to all those who listened to him.

The entire idea of getting slapped up the side of the head by Cole Anderson was about as frightening as anything any one of them could picture.

Yet, with all of this established as fact, there is one thing you ought to understand clearly. There was one of the townsfolk in Dublin who indeed had no fear of Cole Anderson and who rather liked the man and found him kind and helpful; and that was Rebecca Stonehold.

Rebecca was the mother of little, 4 year old Robert Stonehold whose father had died in one of America’s silly and undeclared wars and left Robby without a father and Rebecca alone to raise Robby up.

Cole had stopped by the town park one day when Robby and his mother were there and the little boy recognized just right away who Cole was and what his most important job was, too. He went running up to the big man while Rebecca held back in a corner of the park.

“This here slide ain’t no good,” the little boy shouted up to the big man.

Rebecca took a picture in her mind of the boy who came up to about the knee cap of the giant fellow and talked up to him as if he might whoop him if Cole didn’t do something right away about his complaint.

Rebecca thought it was “a picture of total incongruity, if that’s the right word,” the woman told her grandmother on the telephone that night.

“My, there was Robby with his short, blonde hair and those bright blue eyes, with that little pug nose of his, and his tiny ears, talking to this giant of a man, who might have come right out of the Jack and the Giant Beanstalk story, and I just had to lean back and laugh out loud.”

“Well, what did the big hulk do?” Rebecca’s Grandma Laura asked from her easy chair in Nora Springs, Iowa.

“Why, grandma, he said to little Robby that he would certainly take a look at the slide and then, if he could, go get the tools he needed to fix it.”

Robby and the big giant of a man walked together across the playground to where the little slide stood.

“See here?”

Robby called up to Cole and showed the big man how the slide wouldn’t stay put and nearly tipped over everytime a child climbed up on it to enjoy the ride down.

“Well, that won’t do at all,” Cole smiled widely and said to the boy who was way down below him. “I think what I better do is go back to the city garage and get a bag of cement and then I’ll come back here and we’ll try to fix those front legs and back legs of this slide so they won’t move around no more.”

Robby shook his head in affirmation, indicating that the idea sounded workable to him.

“But, I’m gonna need some real help to do the job, now little man. Could you hang around here while I get what we need in the way of tools and stuff, so you can help me when I get back?”

Robby looked over at his mother for leadership on that difficult question and Rebecca nodded to him with a smile on her face.

“I sure can,” Robby said, turning back to Cole. “I’ll be right here when you return.”

So on that summer afternoon, the little slide got planted in a big wad of cement and every little kid recognized the improvement and always gave Robby credit for getting that big, crazy guy to get the job done; however, the boy always took such remarks without humor and expressed his dissatisfaction that anyone would talk that way about his and his mom’s good friend, Cole.

The local police car, an orange-brown Jeep Cherokee, was often seen parked at Rebecca Stonehold’s home during the supper hour after that day when the slide was repaired in the town park. There was plenty of scandalous talk about that fact around town, but most of it lost steam because the car was gone from the Stonehold home shortly after the dinner hour and was always seen either patrolling around town or back over at Cole’s own miserable, unkempt house.

Cole Anderson’s home is another whole part of this intriguing story about Dublin’s town employee. Though Cole was often seen at the Stonehold house, making repairs of every sort, whether to the roof or a tattered screen or a porch step, no work, it seems, had been done on Cole’s home in many, many years.

“Not since his old pa died, anyhow,” is how the word went around town when it came to talking about how run-down and shameful was Cole’s own house.

After his pa died, all repairs ceased on what was then viewed as Cole’s house. It didn’t matter what it was. If a window broke, Cole either boarded it up, if it faced north or northeast, or stretched some plastic across the opening if it faced south or southwest. Roof repairs weren’t made and, instead, buckets were used, and often emptied several times in big rainstorms, to handle any leaks. When the back stairs fell apart and were no longer usable, the front door became the only point of access and egress in the home. The old garage in the back of the house simply wobbled one day and came crashing down. Fortunately, the Jeep Cherokee was not parked inside it at the time and Cole decided that the automobile, from that day on, could do just as well parked outside as in.

Within only a few weeks of the day Cole’s mother died, just about all of the old house except the kitchen, Cole’s bedroom and an old bathroom off the kitchen were closed up and never used again. No single person ever got to see the inside of Cole’s home and it was left to the imagination of each and every soul who lived in Dublin to picture what it may have been like in there. Those, of course, were not pretty pictures at all.

It was only a month or so after Cole’s mother’s death that the repairs were made to the slide in the community park. After that, Cole was often seen at the town’s grocery store, if one could call it that, purchasing groceries that seemed bound for the Whitehold residence; that is, those purchases often included some items that it was known well enough were favorites of little Robby Whitehold -- especially those little, chewable wax bottles that were filled with colored sugar-water.

While Rebecca cooked up a relatively handsome dinner of stews, or hashes, noodles, dumplings, meatloaf, maccaroni caserole or something of the sort, Robby and Cole would play outside in the fine weather, throwing a ball back and forth to each other or flying a kite out there on Leffler Road. It was quite a sight watching Cole trying to get a kite to rise up on a gust of wind. The man was so unnaturally clumsy that it took him the longest time to learn how to release the kite on the breeze; but, because it was vital to Robby, Cole recognized the importance of learning these skills and he worked at them until they were accomplished. Throwing a ball had been something he had tried to do from childhood and always gave up the effort because it had been concluded by himself and others that it was a skill he would never master; however, for Robby, after several weeks of diligent practice with the town baseball coach over at Grassly Township, Cole learned how to make the throw and catch with a decent amount of both grace and skill.

After several months of such mutal attention, Robby and Cole became very deep and close friends. Robby, to Cole, became the most important thing or person in the whole world. Though Cole did not understand the concept, he loved little Robby with his whole heart and his entire being. And for that, in return, Rebecca Whitehold loved Cole very much.

When the three of them, Rebecca, Robby and Cole, on Saturday, August 11th of last year, showed up at the ice cream social at the First Methodist Church of Dublin, Iowa, well, I can’t explain properly enough, what a storm of interest and gossip the coming out caused. The three of them climbed out of Cole’s Jeep Cherokee together and, as they came across the parking lot, Robby took up a position between them and held his mother’s hand while Cole’s hand enveloped nearly all of Robby’s other hand and lower arm.

Now it should be told that Rebecca Stonehold is a mighty pretty woman. Just before she went off to Iowa State, she lived with her grandmother just east of Mason City, in the little town of Nora Springs. Her parents had died in an automobible accident when they were returning home from a weekend trip to Minneapolis. Rebecca was but 14 yeas old when the accident happened. Rebecca’s daddy ran a pharmacy right there on West Congress Street and was the most popular man in town. He umpired at little league games and was head of the Rotarians and a deacon in the United Methodist Chruch on North Hawkeye Street. It was a sad, sad day in Nora Springs when the town learned they lost one of their best.

Rebecca’s grandpa, Lamont Ferguson, who adored his only child, his beloved daughter, Rachael May, died within a year of that auto accident of a broken heart, they say. Fortunately, her parents had left behind some life insurance funds that were able to sustain both Rebecca and her grandmother, and then send the girl off to college. From what’s told around these parts, Grandma Laura Ferguson was heroic the way she kept life and a semblance of happiness going for a teenage Rebecca.

She and Rob met at Iowa State and dated their entire four years of school. Just after their graduation, those two beautiful young people got married right up there in Nora Springs, with Grandma Laura giving the bride away. When they moved down here so that Rob could begin his coaching and teaching career, the two of them were considered about the handsomest couple that had ever exsisted in the community of Dublin, or within the entire county for that matter. Rob’s dad had farmed nearly half of Lobley County, just 7 or 8 miles outside of Dublin, and Rob was a big basketball star during his years at Grassly Regional High School. He was so good that he earned himself a full-ride basketball scholarship to Iowa State University. He came home from the University, with Rebecca, to take the basketball coaching job at Grassly and to teach civics and American history at the school as well. He also joined the National Guard in order to earn a little extra money and to avoid having to farm with his dad during the summer. None of us thought much about it when Rob and the rest of his unit were called up and sent into the desert, in some nation half way around the world, to fight for some ill-explained cause or other. It wasn’t even three months after Rob left town, for parts of the world we didn’t understand or couldn’t place on a map, that a uniformed soldier showed up on Lefler Road looking for the home of Rob Stonehold. Upon finding the correct house, and after introducing himself, he presented Rebecca with a letter from Rob’s commanding officer who explained how brave her husband had been and how he had sacrificed his life so that we, in Dublin, might be free. He also presented her with a folded flag and explained that Rob’s body would be coming home sometime soon, but there were complications in transportation arrangements and it might be sometime before the coffin actually arrived in Iowa.

The first thing Rebecca did was to call Pastor Hardin and, sobbing, begged him to come over to her house to comfort Robby.

It was a long time after that before we saw even the slightest hint of a smile out of Rebecca Stonehold, but we could tell she was a strong woman who was going to be there for Robby no matter how stupid the world and its wars. The whole town admired her. She kept teaching English at the high school and she kept little Robby close to her and made sure he felt as loved as a child could be. She knew what it was to lose parents as a child; and Grandma Laura had taught her a thing or two.

There were plenty of young guys who wanted to date Rebecca, but she wouldn’t have any of them. Rob had been special. He was probably as extraordinary as any young man who ever lived in this town and no grave over there in the cemetary was visited any more than was his. It would take someone very special to replace Rob Stonehold in the heart of his sweet Rebecca and, for that matter, in the heart of the town of Dublin.

So that day, when the three of them came walking across the gravel parking lot at the Methodist Church, and they were all smiling widely and laughing outloud, well, we were all just stunned that the big lug who worked for our little town could give this beautiful woman such a gift.

I mean, here’s the facts as best I can respectfully say them. Rebecca Stonehold is probably the prettiest dang woman who ever lived in the town of Dublin. My goodness, she is one of the most knock-you-down and make-you-look, pulchritudinous women we’ve ever seen in these parts. And here she was, gayly strolling across the parking lot in the company of a man who had to be the most aberrant and strangest looking fellow ever to come out of the entire state of Iowa, no less our own little community. Cole Anderson was really no ordinary human being. Here in our community we regarded him as something of a freak who we both feared for what he might surprisingly do someday and as something far less than an actual human being.

Yet, I’ll ltell you something that is as true as anything you’ll ever hear coming out of the state of Iowa. Never were there three people any more happy than that strange threesome who skipped their way into our hearts at the ice cream social in Dublin last year.

The three of them were the hit of the social. All of us watched little Robby cling to big Cole Anderson. And, we took notice of how affectionately the man held the child on his lap. We blushed a bit when Rebecca Stonehold reached across to Cole and put her hand upon his arm and laughed with him about some terribly humorous thing that Robby had said about all the doings-on.

I’m here to tell you that it brought some tears to the eyes of grown, serious and pessimistic men. What it did to the ladies and old women of the crowd is too extraordinary to describe here. There was a general buzz of happiness that is powerful enough to transform a whole community. And who among us would have thought that such a phenomenon could have been brought to us on the crooked and awkward shoulders of our town cop and works superintendent?

Now, none of this is to say that any of us thought there was an element of romance in this whole relationship between Cole Anderson and Rebecca Stonehold. No sir! Yet, we were mighty surprised one day when several trucks and a big piece of machinery were hauled into town from Davenport and they all pulled into Cole’s big yard and commenced tearing everything asunder and loading up the shards and shreds of the Anderson house and garage. In three days time there wasn’t a drop of evidence that there had ever been a shack of a house there on that property.

And it wasn’t one week later that the Larkin Homes Company, of Bettendorf, started digging out a foundation and laying the footings for a brand new house on the old and former Norman Stanley Anderson property. And a right fine and pretty house it was. My goodness, it contained the most opulent kitchen anyone in this community had ever seen. There was a splendid playroom that was designed with young Robby Stonehold in mind, as was his bedroom on the second floor at the very head of a grand and curving staircase that led up there from a grand foyer (which was in all honesty a word that none of us around here really had heard before nor did we know how to pronouce it in the proper French manner). And, on either side of Robby’s attractive bedroom were two other bedrooms of equal size and extraordinary comfort. Each of the three bedrooms had its very own bathroom.

It seemed like the big house rose up in no time at all over the summer months and, before the beginning of the school season, a landscaping company had come in here from Des Moines and laid out a lawn of several acres surrounding the house and its three-car garage and laid down a sports court that was virtually unheard of outside of city circles in our state.

It was on August 11 of that summer that we all first noticed the “For Sale” sign that went up in the yard of the house on Lefler Road where young Robby Stonehold and his mother, Rebecca, lived.

Cole Anderson, from some source of money that none of us knew the first thing about, had built a lovely house for Robby and Rebecca out there on his parents’ old farm property. All the detritus of Cole’s old life had been neatly and completely swept away and in its place had risen, like a Phoenix, the most beautiful home in all of Dublin or in all of the county for that matter.

Well, we were naturally very curious about this relationship between Cole and Rebecca and all sorts of rumors circulated around town that were always the main topics of conversation at Dooley’s Tavern and at the Perk-Up Coffee Shop over morning breakfast.

Hamm Sullivan had done all the plumbing work at the new house and it was he who described its luxuriousness to to all of us. It appeared to him, Hamm said, that Rebecca and Cole were to have separate bedrooms on either side of Robby’s very extraordinary room. It didn’t look like any love arrangement, Hamm said, and it looked as if, to him, that Cole had invited Robby and his mother to come live in his new house.

It was on exactly 9 September that the barn builders showed up on the Anderson farm and began the construction of a handsome, but small, red barn. It was completely finished by the end of the month and, before the final splash of paint was applied, rumors drifted over from Ames that Harley Woods, the most famous quarter horse trainer in Iowa, was bringing over the cutest pony that he had ever seen or trained.

The shocker was yet to come. It was there in the county newspaper on 14 October. There was to be an open house for the entire Community at Cole Anderson’s new house on the 22nd of the month. Everyone was invited, but they were encouraged to car pool so too many cars would not be parked out on the county road. The story in the paper said that Digger Newton was going to be there with his pig roaster and Mrs. Newton was planning all the side dishes, desserts and beverages. Why the whole town buzzed with the exciting news for days, but it was only the beginning of the portentous news to come.

Postmaster Enid Coleman, only a day after the story broke in the county newspaper about the open house, said a rumor had drifted down from Nora Springs that Rebecca had introduced Cole to her Grandma Laura and that they had talked of setting a wedding date. The rumor ran rampant on the wings of the breeze and it had touched the ears of every man, woman and child in Dublin by the daylight’s end.

Pastor Hardin, at the Methodist Church, was mighty flustered about the tale and how it was growing like a monster with every retelling of it. This, he thought, needed to be nipped in the bud or whatever part of it was truth had to be substantiated and controlled. He headed out toward Cole Anderson’s new house.

Mrs. Hardin waited patiently for her husband’s return. It was considerably past her and her husband’s bed times when she finally saw the headlights of his car turning into the driveway of the parsonage. She rushed to meet her husband at the doorway from the garage and, as she always did, to take his hat and coat. She noticed immediately, even in the dim light, that the pastor was ghostly white.

“What is it dear? What is it?”

The pastor shook his head silently. His eyes glowed with wonder and excitement, but he was nearly breathless and couldn’t speak.

“Come, dear,” his wife said. “Come and sit down.”

So, from his chair in the parlor, as soon as he could speak, the pastor told his loving wife all the news about the new and spectacular house and about Robby and Rebecca and Cole. Mrs. Hardin was left speechless by the news.

Indeed, Cole had proposed to Rebecca Stonehold and the woman had agreed and allowed Cole to place on her finger a diamond ring that had been Cole’s mother’s. Rebecca had held out her hand with great excitement and joy for the pastor to examine the quaint piece of jewelry. As she did, Robby squealed with happiness and Cole beamed proudly from the large, over-sized chair that had been placed in the new home just for him.

The pastor had always thought of Cole, quite honestly, as a genuinely grotesque and awkward looking fellow, but as Cole looked over at him now, with that broad smile and sparkling eyes, the pastor realized there was something else about the man that he had always missed -- that had escaped the entire community.

Cole Anderson was a good and kind man. He had never been given the chance to love anyone -- not even his own, strange parents -- until he met little Robby. The boy had taught the giant of a man how to love and what it felt like to be loved in return. And the mother, pretty Rebecca, had been caught up in the love and drawn into its triangle. She was consumed by a love, which only a mother can understand, for her son, but she found herself unable to escape the magnetic draw toward Cole Anderson.

On the morning of the ice cream social, she explained to Pastor Hardin, as they were leaving her home and walking toward Cole’s Jeep Cherokee, she had reached up on her tippy-toes, as high as she could get, and had kissed Cole on the cheek. She told him that he was the kindest and sweetest man she had ever met. And, in that instant, she whispered to the pastor, Cole Anderson became handsome and desirable. His clumsiness seemed to float away, Rebecca said to the pastor, and a charming confidence settled over him. And his tongue relaxed and he was able to speak softly and smoothly.

“And you, Rebecca, are more beautiful than the most extraordinary of all God’s angels. You and dear Robby have taught me about happiness and love. I would never have known either had it not been for you. You so kindly shared your son and allowed me to have the first friend in my entire life. It was a gift that only an angel can give.”

Pastor Hardin’s wife sat quietly, listening to her husband’s account, and tears streamed from her eyes and slid down her cheeks. It was the grandest love story she had ever heard.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

America, You Should Be Ashamed of Yourself!


In America, poor people are being turned away by doctors and medical centers because they have no health insurance of any kind!
by Charlie Leck

I’m sure Michele Bachmann won’t blink an eye. Neither will Dick Armey. Certainly the former Vice President, Dick Cheney, won’t give a damn either. Yet, this morning I watched a video on the NY Times news video collection about the inability of doctors to treat poor patients in Flint, Michigan. I mean, it’s about cancer patients being turned away. There are no funds left in any state or federal programs that allow these patients to be treated. (Unfortunately, I can’t give you a direct link to these videos, but if you go there today – 16 March 2010 – you should find it among these videos. It is called: “Medicaid Patients Left in the Lurch.”) Start at NY Times Videos.

I found myself bouncing off the walls. Is this America? In Japan these people would be fully treated – and so would they in Canada, France, Germany, England, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and Norway – and in a couple dozen other nations! But, they can’t receive treatment here in America.

This is the same nation that sent (how much?) billions of dollars to banks in trouble. The same nation, too, that helped car dealerships stay afloat. The same nation where big shots within corporations received individual bonuses that are in the dozens of millions of dollars or more.

Is this the same America? America, you should be ashamed! Michele Bachmann, you should be ashamed! And so should you, John McCain! And you, Scott Brown. And so should Mitch McConnell and all those Republicans who just can’t figure out a way to make sure our brothers and sisters in America are cared for.

Perhaps that’s exactly the problem; that is, that we can’t identify with these poor folks as our brothers and sisters anymore.

What the hell is wrong with America? Are we so individually self-centered that we cannot feel the suffering of other people anymore? What the hell is wrong?

I want us to be as good to our people as France is to hers. As England is. As Canada. As Norway.

Is that too much to ask in America?