Pretty In Pink

I remembered to bring my pink polo shirt to the office yesterday. Those who know me well would assume I’ll forget about things like this. Diane and I left early to drive to my brother Dave’s house in Metamora for our 2nd “Pink Party”. This time we were joined my (much older) brother Ron’s family visiting from Seattle.  His granddaughter Penny was making her first appearance in Michigan.

Our Pink Parties are our opportunity to stand in solidarity with my Sister in Law Joy Einheuser. Over the past couple of years Joy has become a fierce and courageous warrior against Cancer.

I hate Cancer.

Less than an hour before we had to leave Fred Hoffman posted this on Facebook.

Dear Facebook Friends: Let me invite you to a new journey with Jim and me. After a hellish three weeks of tests, I just got the diagnosis of advanced stage cancer in several places – and an aggressive treatment plan to battle it will begin soon. I am so grateful for the medical professionals who picked this up from a routine physical blood test and got on it so quickly – two ultrasounds, two MRIs, a colonoscopy, a gastroentrophy, a CAT scan and a PET scan, plus more blood work than this pin cushion should endure. At least we now know the enemy and we know that prayer (Father Solanus!), a positive attitude, the best caregiver in the world (Jim) and modern medicine are all on our side. And yes, our doc says I will be OK on our big day, Nov. 29. . . .Thanks for being there for Jim and me!

Troubling words, “advanced stage”, “several places” and “aggressive treatment”.

I actually knew Fred and his partner Jim before they knew each other. I met Fred in the early 70’s when he wrote about politics for the Dearborn Press and Guide and he interviewed me as a candidate for the Wayne State University Board of Governors. I went to High School with Jim.  He’s been a friend since we were both 14.

Jim brought Fred to a class reunion many years ago. I interrupted Jim when he was introducing me. “Jim, I already know Fred”.

About a month and a half ago I was thrilled to get the invitation. After nearly thirty years together and one important Supreme Court Decision they are getting married. We will all be there on their big day, but…

I hate Cancer

Jeanne Ellis was 32 when she came to work in my law firm.  She was a brilliant lawyer and a competitive volley ball and co-ed football (I don’t mean soccer) player. Just after the firm’s holiday party she came to me to say that she had discovered a lump and that it was confirmed to be malignant. She intended to fight it aggressively and we were all in her corner. I told her to take the time she needed for her treatment. I knew she could continue to do the work and the rest of us would cover for her when necessary.

I made it a point to go into her office every morning, perch myself on her desk and ask her what was going on and how she was doing. She was a woman of great poise and optimism. But one morning following a doctor’s appointment she had fire in her eyes. She looked up at me and said; “If I hear one more doctor start a sentence with the words, ‘The evidence suggests….’ I will scream!. Mike, they have no goddamn idea what they are doing. They are guessing and making it up as they go along.”

The absolutely hardest thing I’ve ever done as an employer is to sit down with Jeanne and tell her to go home. The cancer had metastasized to her bones. Watching her constantly shift positions in her chair during a staff meeting I realized she was in pain. “We are keeping your office for you. Take the time you need to deal with this. You come back whenever you feel up to it. ” She never did.

She was skeletal and in a hospital bed in her parents living room the last time we spoke. Making what I thought was small talk I asked her about what she thought about the quality of care from our insurer’s HMO. “Everything was great, Mike. My only complaint with them is that they sent me home to die”.

I hate Cancer

Jack was my sister Carol’s high school sweet heart. When their three boys were all teens Jack went to have a persistent cough checked. He never smoked but had a lemon sized tumor in his lung. The cancer didn’t take long to spread to his brain. Jack had a number of great gifts. Among them was him comforting me in my distress when I thought I had come to comfort him.

I don’t like the notion that cancer survivors are heroes.  What does that make those who don’t survive? Something less than a hero?

The real cruelty of cancer is the inevitable “Sophie’s Choice” of quality of life versus length of life.

Let’s always honor the survivors and fighters as well as those who are no longer with us.

Joy and Fred – we are with you with all the thoughts, prayers, encouragement, and whatever else we can provide.  Your courage inspires us.

Jeanne and Jack – we are grateful that you were such an important part of our lives. Your courage continues to inspires us too.


Hats Off

Among the nicest blessings life can bestow is a good family and a rich circle of friends. I’ve scored high on both counts. Over the past number of years I’ve developed some strong friendships with members of that over examined age cohort,  Millennials.  When I think about them as being half my age I realize that in most cases I’m prematurely aging them. We have completely different historical touchstones, tastes in music, and cultural contexts.  Once I caught myself tearing up just a bit when I was asked where I was when I heard about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Then I realized the blank stares that I saw came from people for whom Kennedy is simply a distant and not so significant historical figure.

But advanced generational membership does have some benefits. I’m gratified by the phone calls I get from time to time from friends or friends of friends that usually begin along the lines of; “Do you have time to talk? I think I might have done something stupid and I’m wondering if you can help.” These are often issues that they don’t want to discuss with their parents. And they aren’t limited to legal concerns. I like to think I’ve become something like a de facto cool uncle.

It’d be malpractice for me to offer much in the way of advice in the area of criminal law. I haven’t thought much about Crim Law since the bar exam which I took around the time a lot of these friends were born.

But my attorney credential was helpful last year when I barged into a suburban lock up and demand to see “my client” following a frantic call about a friend who was cuffed and hauled away after a colossal miscommunication with police officers who came to the social service agency where he worked. He is black and the Officers were white. My friends in law enforcement (some of whom I represent) will know I mean no disrespect. But the book gets followed a bit more closely when there is a lawyer looking over everyone’s shoulder. He was released that afternoon and no charges filed.

But I have to be vigilant about not sounding like some old coot from time to time.

MariosA group of us had dinner at Mario’s restaurant in midtown Saturday night. This is a venerable Italian place with white table cloths, waiters wearing tuxedos, and an antipasto, salad, soup and pasta course before you get your entree.  In my peripheral vision I could see a couple at an adjoining table. What was wrong with this picture? The (ah-hem) “gentleman” was wearing a baseball cap. I couldn’t not keep looking.  Was this his fault? Or management, who could have simply said “would you please remove your hat while dining with us?” Or was it me because I had an anachronistic notion that gentlemen don’t wear hats indoors in classy establishments. And all of that said, why did it bother me so much?

The steak I ordered turned out to be flavorless and tough. I’m not sure my friends got it when I said “too bad this place has turned into a truck stop.” Sounds like something an old coot would say.

This from Sunday’s New York Times. Should we think about replenishing our body’s microbes with an autologous fecal transplant rather than rely on failing antibiotics? I’m going to need a new (and separate) freezer.

The week end weather was glorious.  Two bike rides through the woods; one through the wooded path in Palmer Park and another in adjoining Sherwood Forest.

A happy Monday to you all and my wishes for a great week.