A Long Island Doctor’s House Calls

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This week’s guest post is about my father-in-law who was one of the last Doctors to make house calls on Long Island:  Dr. George Nemecek. It was written by his Ph.D. son, Dr. Russell Nemecek, my husband.  The letter was in response to an article in the WSJ.

“Bob Green’s, “A Country Doctor Can’t Forget His 40 Years of House Calls” brought back memories of my father’s tenure as a general practitioner which spanned the same time frame as that of Dr. Kemper.  We lived in suburban Nassau County, but the only obvious difference in the medical service Dr. Kemper provided was my father didn’t have to travel quite as far to see his patients.  While it might shock the younger generation, these personal relationships with patients and  “door-to-door” service of house calls at literally any hour or time of day, were  very much what medicine was and how it was delivered in most areas of the country through the 1940s and into at least the early 1960s.

I fondly recall riding along and waiting in the car while my father made house calls. Over time, he phased them out except for a few of his elderly, longtime patients that could no longer come to his office which incidentally was attached to our home. There were no appointments for office hours: first come and first served. Yes, it sometimes meant long waits, but patients had as much time as they needed and his evening hours frequently didn’t end until 9 or 10 at night and even later when he came home for a few days while the rest of the family was away on vacation.

There were no stop watches checking on how many patients could be seen in some set period of time and somehow all of this worked in an era when few people had any kind of medical insurance. Over the years I have often laughed to myself thinking of how my Dad would react to an insurance company questioning a prescription or an ordered procedure.

His so-called day off (Thursday) did not mean the phone wouldn’t ring and on Sundays he visited patients in area nursing homes because that was the only day he had time to do so. Like Dr. Kemper, my father would cringe at the term, “health-care provider”. Being a physician was not an occupation, but simply a way of life to him and those of his generation.

Dr. Kemper recalled the rewards of seeing and hearing from former patients over the years. My father experienced some of that, but he died too young to fully hear multiple generations of thanks. It was left to my mother to hear the countless stories of appreciation over the nearly three decades until her passing away in 2008.

There is no questioning the benefits of today’s medical advancements and technology as medicine has become far more of a science than the art it was in so many ways decades ago.   However, in many ways this has come with a cost and not just a financial one.  Nevertheless, thank you for the memories, Dr. Kemper, and for your years of service to the medical profession and your patients.”

by Russell J. Nemecek, Ph.D. (guest post author)

E & R - pinning ceremony photo 2014

Note: Photos are of Dr. George Nemecek as a young man wearing academic medals awarded him in school.  In the wedding photo is Dr. George and his wife Frances.  The other photo would have been shortly after medical school  and in later years in his office.

The flower photo is courtesy of my talented niece, Sally Rose Dolak, who lives in Costa Rica and who blogs daily photos. Her link is:  http://rosedevi.blogspot.com/

 

 

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Posted in Medical Doctor, house calls, office hours, Dr. Kemper, WSJ article, Bob Green | Tagged , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

How Learning German Changed My Life

What do you consider most important in your life? Looking back, was there a single turning point in your life which made you who you are today?  Probably, like most of us, life’s most eventful moments come in a series of life-altering experiences.

Does any high school senior ready to graduate know what subject to major in to prepare for the future? Probably students have been told on numerous occasions that they need a college education to get the best available jobs.  Maybe and maybe not.  One important skill they will need is fluency in another language.  As a Fulbright teacher in Germany, I grasped first-hand how the German and American education systems differed.

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From early childhood on, the Germans place great value on independence and responsibility. They trust their children.  That became very evident this past summer when I visited our German “family” and friends.  At one point  after several hours of not seeing a four-year old boy, someone inquired about his whereabouts.  No one seemed overly concerned though.  It truly takes a village to educate.  I was reminded by my host that everyone in the family and village plays a part in educating the young people.  How refreshing. It turns out the young fellow had been playing with a friend in the village.  In my mind, the events would have played out quite differently in the US.

High praise is well-deserved for Germany’s vocational education system. Some of the 9th grade students I taught in Germany  left for paid apprenticeships at the end of that year.  During their apprenticeships, they continued with specialized classes in their field while they practiced their skills.  What impressed me most was the attitude of the Germans regarding vocational education in general.  It was not thought inferior to those university-bound students.  Quite the contrary:  those pursuing vocational subjects were afforded much the same respect.  Not everyone needed to attend college.  What a novel idea for some American parents.  Perhaps it is time to revisit the notion that everyone needs a college education.

Or maybe American parents need to consider free university education in Germany. I credit my parents with inspiring  me to study at  a German university.  My father beamed  upon my return home and told me how he had saved a great deal of money on my college education  even with the transatlantic  flight and cost of living expenses in Germany.  I did not fully fathom the weight of those words and their decision to encourage me to study abroad.  My life changed forever and for the better.

As a public high school educator, I have been fortunate to have experienced both US and  German schools.  Do I favor one over the other?  I will answer that one by reverting to  my first questions in this blog.  The single, most powerful event in my education came when I entered my German language classes at the University of Colorado at Boulder.   These fueled my desire to study abroad and immerse myself in the language, culture and country of Germany.  My passion and life-long love of the language was furthered by becoming a Fulbright teacher in Germany.  Twice.

Today, I became who I am because of university studies in Germany and teaching in German schools. I am more flexible and  open-minded to the world.

What single thing would I wish for all my students? I would wish that they too could study at least one year in Germany to firmly immerse themselves in the language and culture.  I wish that they too could learn more about themselves in the process and become more  tolerant individuals.  Learning how to learn comes as a big discovery for some in the college years.

So, thanks, Mom and Dad, for trusting me and allowing me this once-in-a lifetime opportunity to study in Germany. I am who I am today because of your faith in me.

1995 Tom, Emily in Spreewald Fulbright year0001

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Note: A newly published book (2017) takes an in-depth view  of an American mother living in Germany and rearing self-reliant children.  It’s an interesting read and is spot on: Achtung Baby by Sara Zaske.

Posted in Achtung Baby by Sara Zaske, education in Germany vs. education in the U.S., family, Fulbright Teacher, German language, study in Germany, teaching German, tolerant individuals, Universität Heidelberg, Germany, University of Colorado, Boulder, vocational education | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 33 Comments

Why We Ask Ourselves?

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Snow blankets the earth on

this February day. With a heavy heart,

we drove to church to attend a funeral

for a young man and to sing in the choir.

 

Fleeting moments of the sun attempting

to warm our spirits through the white

sky. Weather person must have been

asleep for the forecast. A mere couple

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inches was not the full story. Make that

six to eight inches and still falling.

Unplowed, untreated streets made

for difficult driving. Our music

 

ministry for family and friends

includes singing for funerals.

Where are words of comfort?

How do we express our sorrow

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when a young person is snatched

from us? Not even thirty and

we pause to pray and mourn him.

Why we ask ourselves?

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All that remains is silence.

Our keepsake will be the

memories from which we

will never part. Why?

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And why again? How do we

manage to live on? Why and

why again? How can this be right

and just? Why?  And why again?

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Posted in funeral, keepsake, Music Ministry, silence, snow | Tagged , , , , , | 29 Comments

The Neighborhood Diner

Naugahyde-covered booths
and chairs in deep red color
adorned the diner interior.
Murals on the wall painted

by local artists depicted
the home town high school
team, the Bees. Baldwinsville’s
finest fare offered 24/7.

Steeped in the 50s and complete
with juke boxes at each booth
play the hits of yesteryear.
Formica table tops with baskets

filled with condiments; napkins.
Young and old and in between congregate
at this diner for food and conversation.
I spread orange marmalade on toast.

When it is crowded, we sit at the
counter just like the old
five and dime store ones.
Our attentive waitress

pours frequent refills of
delicious Paul de Lima
coffee which began making
the brew more than 100 years

ago. Today, a neighbor and
I went to the B’ville Diner
for breakfast and good company.
Prices are right; food is good.

For a brief time, we are treated
as family. We smile at the children
and share a few laughs.
Small town America at its best.

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Posted in diner, juke boxes, Naugahyde, Paul de Lima coffee | Tagged , , , , , , | 22 Comments

Our Private Art Collection

We count ourselves lucky to
have amassed our own private
art collection. Beginning with crayon
and paper affixed to the refrigerator

with magnets, we progressed
to kitchen cabinet spaces on
the doors. Little hands and smiles
greeted us with each new piece

in our art gallery. Lots of
kisses and hugs about such
beautiful work created
by little hands. Later we framed

some of the special pieces.
Wooden bird houses and ceramic
ones. Tiles decorated and painted.
Masks and dream catchers.

Chalk on sand paper. Hands
painted and pressed to paper
and cloth. Making paper and
forming into hearts and angels.

We have had a never-
ending art gallery in our house.
Naturally we are thrilled to
have such creative offspring.

Just imagine all the homes
lucky enough to have such art
work in their own private
galleries and spaces!

The artists no longer reside
with us and have their own lives.
We are the lucky ones to have
remembrances of them everywhere!

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1995 Tom, Emily in Spreewald Fulbright year0001

Posted in art collection, artists, joy of creativity, private art gallery, remembrances | Tagged , , , , , , | 16 Comments

A Birthday Prayer

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My tall, dark handsome husband
and father is a pearl of great value.
This Sunday is his birthday.
I will say a prayer of gratitude

that we met all those
many moons ago and
found each other, married
and had a family.

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May God grant him many
more moons to do his
good works on earth before
coming to take him back.

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May the good Lord watch
over and keep him well and
safe for he is precious to me.
I understand the day will

come but not too soon, please.
Please grant us many more
family times together even
though we live miles apart.

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Without saying a word, we
are comfortable together.
May we have many more laughs
and Scrabble games together.

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May we sing together more.
May we have more time to
love one another and cherish
all the memories from

the many moons we have
spent together. It is with
you, my husband, that I have
found true joy in living.

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May you continue to remain
healthy and strong and have
many more moons to share
with us. God bless you with love.

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Posted in birthday prayer, my husband, scrabble games, singing together | Tagged , , , , , , | 69 Comments

Safe and Sound in Frigid Temperatures

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Silence, snow and wind chills.
Schools closed, bitter temperatures,
no traffic. Dangerous wind chills
keep children indoors.

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Grateful for the kindness of neighbors
and strangers who plowed our daughter’s
driveway during the blizzard. Caring
people who look out for others.

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Whiteouts, blowing, drifting snows.
Lake effect predicted with
Storm totals just under one meter.
Occasional snow plow.

Warm and cozy indoors.
Wonder. Worry about my
husband’s drive home,
described as treacherous.

Grateful to be retired.
No longer have to brave
the elements. Mid afternoon with
sky and ground the same white.

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Turned on Christmas lights to color
indoors and out one last time.
Hot soup for dinner.   Relax and
grateful for family and friends.

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Posted in blizzard, grateful, treacherous commutes, whiteouts, wind chills | Tagged , , , | 39 Comments