The Uphill Slide

There is always something.

Making Connections


It was raining in Oakland. I was driving with my daughter to Panera. As we passed a building along Fifth Avenue, I told her that was where Dr. Stone’s office was—I think. He was my mother’s surgeon for her first hip replacement in 1970 or 1971, quite renowned for a surgery that was not performed in our local hospital. I said, “Dr. Stone died when he fell down an elevator shaft.”—I think.

The hip replacement operation and recovery were quite extensive then. My mother was strung up in some type of weights traction for weeks of a hospital stay, and then she spent months recuperating at home in a make-shift downstairs bedroom. My sister-in-law was hired on as her private duty nurse in the hospital, a position that made the other nurses standoffish until they learned she was family and not an insult to their nursing care. One Saturday during her hospitalization, I hitched a ride from Penn State to Pitt with students going to the rivals’ football game and surprised my mother with a visit. Christmas dinner that year was hospital turkey for my mom, dad and me. The perfect Christmas dinner, one served by someone else.

My father used the weeks of mom’s hospitalization to have a local carpenter, the father of a couple of Roy’s best friends and the man he worked for while the mushroom mines was on strike, transform a small back porch on the first floor into a bathroom. Dan laid his tools on my mother’s dining room table, and I got hell for a scratch. “Why was that my fault?” I thought. It just was. The door to that porch with its squares of windows hidden behind an aluminum Venetian blind was the bathroom door as long as we owned the house. There were little hands that pulled back those blinds to invade your privacy.

So that was the chain of events from Oakland today taking me fifty miles away over forty years ago connecting people and places.


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