Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Rush Medical Center Loses My Dad's Body

Just in case you didn't see this short bit of a man's life. . .

Jardin du Luxembourg

Friday, December 26, 2008

Day after Christmas in Providence

It's been a relatively quiet holiday season for us here in Providence. It was raining lightly when on Christmas Eve when we drove to T. F. Green airport just south of the city to pick up Susan's mom who was flying in from Michigan. We waited only about 20 minutes or so before her flight landed -- along with all the people coming in from Philly and Chicago as well. (photo: Frank at Dick & Dorothy's on Christmas Day)

The hugs and kisses were flying fast and furiously at the arrivals gate -- lots of family and friends coming home for the holidays it would seem -- reminded me of the opening title scene from the movie Love Actually. (photo: Cathy at Dick & Dorothy's on Christmas Day)

We drove back to our house where mom unpacked and freshened up. Dick & Dorothy came by a little after 5pm, and we all had a grand time over good food (if I must say so myself), good wine and warm conversation. (photo: Susie at Dick & Dorothy's on Christmas Day)

Christmas Day we had a leisurely morning, with homemade blueberry muffins and brilliant sunshine and warm temps. The spring-like weather took its toll on the snow piles and ice patches, reducing them to mere specters of their former lives, hinting at what nuisances and damages they had caused just a few days before. (photo: Mom, founder and creator of the world-famous "Bernice Game," at Dick & Dorothy's on Christmas Day)

A little after noon the three of us drove downtown. Susie gave her mom the VIP tour of Gracie's, after which we drove north up into the wilds of Massachusetts to Dick and Dorothy's house in Douglas for Christmas Day family get together. We sat around a warm fire and chatted until Frank, Cathy and Mieke arrived, followed not long after by Mary and her friend Larry. (photo: Dick, Christmas Day)

Before long we all sat around the table and enjoyed another of D & D's spectacular meals: fennell/onion soup and salad courses followed by the specialty of the house, beef burgundy with fresh green beans and mashed potatoes (the beans, from Hannaford, were very good). (photo: Mieke at Dick & Dorothy's on Christmas Day)

(photo: Bernice Game contestants at Dick & Dorothy's on Christmas Day)

After a relaxing dinner and while D & D cleaned up, some of the group played a quick round of the Bernice game. Now for those unfamiliar with this particular bit of Van Halsema/VandenBerg family tradition, this is very much like "Categories" but with more laughing. Cathy was in rare form keeping everyone on their toes and smiles on all our faces. The game was cut short since Frank and Cathy had to get Mieke to the train station in Providence so she could get back home to NYC at a reasonable hour. (photo: Larry at Dick & Dorothy's on Christmas Day)

Soon afterwards we said our goodbyes and headed off into the clear, cold night back south toward the Ocean State.

Not a bad way to spend Christmas really.

Have a wonderful New Year!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Bitterly cold and heavy snow in Providence

As we lurch toward the end of 2008, New England, rarely if ever confused with Old England, got blasted with an ice storm a little more than a week ago and then beginning this last Friday we were nailed with a major snowstorm. (OK, so the photo isn't Providence and there's no snow -- but it is Siena, which, after all, is the center of the known universe. And they do have snow. Sometimes.)

With temperatures in the single digits day after day and dropping into the minus column with the wind, we were also lashed with more than a foot of snow in Providence. Beginning last Friday afternoon we picked up about 8 or so inches and then another half foot on Sunday. Just a little north of us they got much more of course.

Johnson & Wales University wisely closed a day earlier, beating the storm and its attending hassles for driving, walking, being outside -- we're off until 5 January now. Susie is also off from Gracie's for a few days this week and then back this weekend for regular menu and getting ready for the big New Year's blast (more of that after the first of the year). Then she's off for two or three days after New Year's.

As I mentioned in my last note we're not going to Italy the first of the New Year. Aside from trying to find a reasonable airfare on an airline that doesn't have Alitalia in its name we both have work to do here in Providence.

And speaking of work we cannot emphasize enough how lucky we are to have work -- and not just work, the kind that makes one loath to even say the word, but the kind of work that is a real joy, being with people you like and respect.

One never knows how long things last of course, but, as someone we happen to like and respects often says, "we're just happy to be here."

Aside from the uncertainty surrounding Rush Medical Center's inability or unwillingness to do the right thing in the wake of having lost my dad's body, life is really very good. The coming New Year, which would have seen Dad celebrate his 99th year with us, will see us celebrating it with his spirit and memory. We often comment over dinner how Dad and Tunis are probably standing outside together, maybe on a tee somewhere, and Tunis is trying to tee up his ball but can't because dad keeps making him laugh and mom is sitting on a nearby bench -- she still hasn't adjusted to being able to breathe normally even in the afterlife -- watching these two guys with that knowing smile on her face.

Have a truly grand and glorious new year and, as the movie says, have a wonderful life.

We're certainly trying to. And until we see you again,

Buon Natale e Joyeux Noël et Merry Christmas!
Buon Capodanno e Bonne Année et Happy New Year!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Global Warming in Providence, Dad, DNA and Italian reflections

Global warming may or may not still be controversial -- after all so is evolution -- but one thing seems certain: the weather is weird. This past week has seen incredibly, brutally cold temperatures spring back up into the 60s here in Providence. We were reeling from monsoon-like rains earlier in the week with Florida like temps while just a few miles to our north much of New England was getting hammered by one of the worst ice storms in years.

Like I said, weird.

Work is still good for both of us: Susie continues to come up with new desserts, which I never get to taste but hear of constantly each day. I can't help but wonder is there no end to her dessert menu? Anyway, we are lucky indeed not just to have the paychecks of course but to be doing something we truly enjoy and getting paid for it. What the future holds for us is anyone's guess, but right now things are looking pretty good.

One thing seems certain though: we will never get our dad's remains back now. By now most of you know this oddly painful saga of Don Soper's last truly wonderful gift to his community gone very wrong. The DNA test was a "no match" so it seems fairly clear to us now that dad is gone for good. While the third act is not over just yet whatever happens from here on will certainly not be a happy ending.

One other thing seems certain, is that we will not be going to Italy for New Year's break. Money is of course the issue, as it is for most folks in these times, but also time: Gracie's is going to be closed for only a couple of days after the new year and Johnson & Wales returns to a regular schedule on January 3rd. nevertheless, I hope to update my Siena website sometime this coming year. Assuming the gods haven't taken a fancy to other plans of course.

As I have often said, one just never knows what funny twists and turns life has in store for us, right Pop?

(photo above: dad holding me while we both sat on the slide -- pretty much says everything you need to know about our relationship.)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

DNA tests reveal "0.00% probability" - No match

We received the DNA test results from Orchid Cellmark in the mail yesterday and they are conclusive: "0.00 paternity index" and "0.00% probability of paternity" between my sample and the submitted sample from Rush Medical Center.

I cannot begin to express my feelings right now.

The spokesperson at the medical center is at a loss to explain what happened. We, of course, wonder not only where our father is -- a question to which there is now certainly no answer, but who, in fact, is the cadaver they claimed to be our dad's body?

How widespread was the problem of body identification at the Rush Medical School last year? Or this year for that matter?

The medical center balked, indeed at first refused to agree to DNA testing. They claimed that, after downloading images of my father off the web -- images I had put there by the way -- it was claimed that after comparing features they were certain the body they had "misidentified" was dad and saw no need for further testing.

By the time, however, we had lost considerable faith in people we did not know personally or professionally and remained adamant that the testing be done.

And so it was.

Look, this is no earth-shaking event in the future of western civilization. People die every day and many of those go missing forever. But it has been more than a year out of our lives of being hung out to dry as it were, waiting, waiting, waiting. . .

Nothing can be done about our father's remains. He is now known only to God. But if you are considering donating your body to science or your mother or father is even thinking about making such a lasting and profound donation, be absolutely clear about what you are about to do. And be absolutely clear about what will become of your body when it's all used up.

Thanks pop! For everything!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Friday, December 05, 2008

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Monday, December 01, 2008