Yes, Look Back

In this society, looking back is considered very uncool. We are encouraged to be in the present. The past is seen as an obstacle to moving forward. Reminiscence is considered a nostalgic waste of time.

We should be looking ahead at the next new path.

I believe most of us are not looking back enough.

How much do you know about your family history? Maybe you know where your parents were born but what about your grandparents? Your Aunts and Uncles? Can you picture their family life?

I am going to tell you about an incredible experience. I’m going to talk about a pilgrimage, for lack of a stronger term. This word denotes a journey to a sacred place. Actually it can be a simple exploration of one’s lineage. My brother Steve, sister Rita, and I set out on a true pilgrimage to my dad’s birthplace. Steve, an extremely knowledgable historian/Holocaust researcher prepared the groundwork for us. He had fastidiously mapped out our father’s town to the point of fairly accurately locating his exact house. He outlined the path the family took to the concentration camp. My cousin Richard came along as our guide. His presence was invaluable for his multilingualism, personal experience and high entertainment value.

We bid farewell to our new families and set out to explore our old one.

The four of us crossed the ocean from our respective homes and met in Budapest, which was the center of culture and commerce back in the day. My grandfather (or sometimes my dad) would take the overnight train to Budapest to buy leather, as my grandfather was a shoemaker. Later my dad was taken to slave labor in Komarom, a short distance from Budapest. He lucked out and worked as a shoemaker. “I had a good deal there”, he says. He spent weekends with relatives in Budapest. He had a “sweetheart” there too. People traveled to Budapest after the war to find each other, to look for surviving family members. The day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, my dad was there. He woke up and heard on the radio.

My dad is from the mountains of Subcarpathia in what was Czechoslovakia, now part of Ukraine. We headed there next. Passing the border was not easy. Rental cars need extra insurance for Ukraine. We were refused entry at the Záhony crossing. Richard sweet talked the cute Polish UN observer into telling us we could cross via Slovakia.

The next few days were spent in my dad’s neighborhood. We located his Svalava street, by the landmarks that Steve provided. Then the highlight of the trip: we found the legendary house. I never believed it would still be standing or that we would be able to identify it. A lovely place on a quiet street right across from the Svalava river. We were lucky to find a woman in the yard. Richard explained the story and although she was in a hurry, she allowed us to come in and look around. She kept reassuring us that she purchased the house, that it was not taken.  When we sent pictures home to our dad he responded “Oh!..Oh!…they’ve remodeled!”

We saw the train station, a place so central to life at the time. We wandered into Nelipeno to find his mother’s house but it was gone. We found an old Jewish cemetery. We absorbed the landscape, the trees, the smells where our father spent his childhood. There was a full social and cultural life here. People were working, kids were out playing.

It made the idea of the Nazi’s coming in just unthinkable. What went through their minds as they extinguished this thriving community? What went through my grandparents’ minds as they were taken away?

My dad came from a family of 8. His mother was put on a train with his two youngest sisters. They went directly to the ovens in Auschwitz. His father and sister died at some point during the Holocaust. The three eldest survived.

Following the path of my grandmother and her two youngest daughters, we drove to Poland, to the Auschwitz concentration camp. We saw the train tracks in the entrance where they stepped off the cattle cars. Those two little girls must have been terrified. They had never been so far from home. You have probably seen these or similar pictures. I was shocked at how enormous it is – larger than 5,000 football fields. Auschwitz was made up of three camps; an extermination camp, a slave-labor camp and a prison camp. Most of the people who arrived there were of no use to the Nazis and went directly to the gas chambers. There were four large crematoria composed of a disrobing area, 8 large gas chambers and 46 crematorium ovens. Those sent to slave-labor dug the deep trenches we saw around the camp. They worked on expansion of the grounds, forced to build their own death camp. In the span of 5 years about 1.5 million people were killed there.

We left Auschwitz feeling spent, dusty and anguished. We wanted to toss whatever clothing we were wearing and never wear it again.

We arrived in the lively city of Krakow in a daze. Richard left us at that point, heading back to Czech to see his mom. What a mensch for taking this trip with us!

There is no way to unsee what we witnessed on this trip. There was life before the Holocaust for these Czechoslovakians. One that is too often overlooked. They were all just going about their business. For many centuries the Jews practiced openly and attended synagogue. They were free.

Each one of us responded differently to what we experienced. Rita was more demonstrative/external, Steve was quiet/internal and I was somewhere in between. Just as you would expect knowing our personalities dating back from childhood.

I needed to make this trip to understand and enrich my life, but only once. I won’t be going back. I feel it will take years for me to fully integrate and fully understand how it impacted me.

While our dad was very moved that we made the trip, he has no desire go back. He’s getting up there, he was born in 1920. We are glad we did this now, while he is still around.

I would encourage all of us to look back. I used to see my parents as these people who raised me and were always old. I never gave much thought to their childhood, to their lives before me. We need to be curious. This is our DNA! Ask the questions. They may say that they don’t have a story. Everyone has a story.

Visit the small town in Idaho, or the county in Ireland or wherever your roots lie. It may not be Cancun or the place you dreamed of vacationing but this is a different type of travel. This is a pilgrimage.

Six Watches, Six Stories

I have always had a thing about watches. In preparation for this post, I talked to people and nearly everyone had a watch story. The subject stirred up more emotion than any material object I’ve written about. 

Watches are making a comeback. It’s part of that retro move. Another attempt to free humankind from the tether of the phone. Most of us check the time with our cell phone. I check the time on my phone even when I am wearing a watch – it’s a habit. 

Enter the hybrid beasts, the Apple Watch and other smartwatches. Sales on these watches are rising and expected to grow. I’m an early adopter with a watch fetish but do not own one. People say they are awesome but I doubt they generate the love we have for the not-so-smart watch. They don’t carry the emotional, historical heft of an older, often analog, wristwatch. It’s all good. 

Jewelry was included in my decluttering project. I only kept things that have a good story, without regard to how much they are worth. I had a drawer full of dead watches. I donated all of my old Swatch watches – how I loved those once! Fossils and random watches made their way to Goodwill. 

I am down to six watches – only the ones that bring me joy.
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up; The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

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About Last Night

Love+Medicine - Panic

As a doctor, I spend my time giving advice to people. Before I write another blog post, I need to come clean. Let me tell you about last night.

I had a panic attack.

Whether it was an acute stress reaction or panic attack is just semantics.
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Happy New Year!

Love+Medicine - Anne

As this year comes to an end I want to thank my Love and Medicine readers. With so much out there to read, I’m happy you choose me.

You never know what you’re going to get when you read my blog. That will continue in 2018.

Here’s a look at what we’ve been talking about. Kick back and browse. I’m different from a year ago. You’re different too. Take a second look. Enjoy!


FASHION

The Men’s Outerwear Conundrum
Lovely Brazilian Workout Leggings
I love my Turkish Towel…and here’s why


POETRY

Object of Desire
Steady Hand

There was a Space. Part 1
1217 Miles
Most of All
Shadow Cookies


ENTERTAINMENT

The Psychiatrist in Film
What I’m Watching


LOVE

Love and Medicine - Candy

Let’s Talk About VD
Unconditional Love:A Murder- Suicide Mystery


ASK Dr. Annie K.

Are Your Ears Ringing?
Being There for a Friend

Transition in Parenting
Transitions From Nervous to Excited
Cannabis Oil


SEX

Sex and Familiarity
Why We Need To Talk About Sex
Got Passion?
Don’t Give Up on Sex


HEALTH

Hello darkness, my old friend
Lung Cancer: A Lonely Place

5 Tricks An Old Dog Can Teach You
It’s Just Like Riding A Bicycle
The Paradox of Water
Walking (guest blogger)


FOOD

410 Calories of Magic
Gogi Berries

Spending Time in Napa Valley got me thinking about Wine
Sociology and The Lemon Bar


TRAVEL

Yes, Look Back
10 Reasons to Visit Japan (that you won’t find in the guide book…)

Studenthue – The Student Cap
Love and Medicine Goes Global!


LIFE

Love+Medicine Meteor Shower

Life As a Gypsy
Hula Hoops

My Son bought Bitcoin…
What Happens in Vegas Does NOT Stay in Vegas
16 Things You Don’t Know About Me
The Winter Solstice and Other Musings
The Weekend is Almost Here
Things I’ve Learned this Week
12 Things I Want to Do This Summer
My Summer List Update


RELATIONSHIPS

Platonic Love
The Winter-Spring Romance


SPORTS

Somebody Turn On The Game

Object of Desire

On my last trip to Ireland we were in a pub every night for music “sessions”. Reciting poetry for me substituted for musical performance, as I am unable to carry a tune or play an instrument. 

My original poetry is a little over-the-top, borderline erotica. I did do a bit of that. This poem by Kim Addonizio rocked the house.  It was such a hit at the pubs, I had to share it with my loveandmedicine readers.

It is a great expression of the opposing forces that drive women and the reason men love us. 

 

What Do Women Want?

By Kim Addonizio

 

I want a red dress.

I want it flimsy and cheap,

I want it too tight, I want to wear it

until someone tears it off me.

I want it sleeveless and backless,

this dress, so no one has to guess

what’s underneath. I want to walk down

the street past Thrifty’s and the hardware store

with all those keys glittering in the window,

past Mr. and Mrs. Wong selling day-old

donuts in their café, past the Guerra brothers

slinging pigs from the truck and onto the dolly,

hoisting the slick snouts over their shoulders.

I want to walk like I’m the only

woman on earth and I can have my pick.

I want that red dress bad.

I want it to confirm

your worst fears about me,

to show you how little I care about you

or anything except what I want.

When I find it, I’ll pull that garment

from its hanger like I’m choosing a body

to carry me into this world, through

the birth-cries and the love-cries too,

and I’ll wear it like bones, like skin,

it’ll be the goddamned

dress they bury me in.