Before our difficulties began, one day as we were chatting, Kathy started to tell me about her “gentleman friend,” Mel. Mel came from a background similar to hers. He was the son of an evangelical Christian minister. In rebellion, he had turned to a life of “rock and roll and rebellion” (I translated this as engaging in sex, drugs, alcohol, and the like). Kathy told me that they were living together.

She told me that Mel was intelligent and sweet, but unable to get and hold a job. Apparently, he spent much of his time working out as a body builder. She knew he had the intelligence and charm to get himself a fine job (perhaps as a salesman), but he was entirely lacking in confidence in himself.

It was obvious that she desperately wanted him to propose to her and marry her. (Although she was not attending church, she still considered herself a “good Christian girl,” and living with a man in “sin” distressed her.)

Mel felt as a man he had to support Kathy. Actually, he was a fine “house husband,” a good cook and housekeeper. Kathy was fine with supporting Mel financially, but Mel was horrified at the idea.

She told me that periodically they would have a big fight and she would storm out and leave him, but then return.

I said, “This does not sound like it will work out. Perhaps you should just cut your losses and realize he is never going to change…”

At that point, Kathy astonished me by saying with some vigor, “No! No! I love him! I am not going to leave him.”

I was startled and decided to stop giving her advice. Looking back on the situation with perspective from years later, I now conclude that what Kathy (the evangelical feminist) wanted was, like Maria, a man who wouldn’t give her much shit. It was fine with her if she had to support Mel, as long as he let her wear the pants (so to speak) in the relationship.

Over time I actually met Mel a few times. He seemed like a pleasant, personable man. I could see no reason why he and Kathy would not make a fine married couple, but what do I know?

However, I figured that Mel would never break down and agree to marry Kathy. However, one week they made a trip to Nevada (not for gambling, but for what reason I don’t remember), and on her return Kathy surprised everyone at the school by telling us that Mel had married her in Las Vegas during the trip. As I had recently seen the zany Nicholas Cage film Honeymoon in Las Vegas depicting Cage as a reluctant boyfriend who finally breaks down and marries his lady love, I was struck by the peculiar coincidence. I could think of few people less similar to the characters in the movie than Mel and Kathy, but there they were, married on impulse, in Las Vegas.

Kathy told me after the marriage that after watching Mel with their dog, she decided not to have children. As I’ve always believed that 75% of the people who do have children should not, that seemed as good a reason for coming to such a conclusion as any.

About a year or so again I had an email exchange with Kathy. She and Mel are still married. She still likes to be in charge of everything, but she found a job at a community college where she prepares curriculum and seems to be in charge of enough stuff to keep her control urges satisfied. She said that she and Mel are still married, and he has become a minister (of what crazy denomination I have no idea) and satisfied his urge to be a preacher by marrying people. All in all seems like a happy ending for an evangelical Christian feminist.

Part 1

In talking about feminists I have known, I tend to divide them into two groups. One group I would describe as “classical feminists,” who thought, “Men have fucked us [women] over; when we get the chance, we will screw them just as badly.”

Historically, until recently, women seldom got the opportunity. Three women from historical records come quickly to mind: Cleopatra, Elizabeth I of England, and Catherine the Great of Russia.

Cleopatra famously fooled around with Anthony, who lost out in the Roman gang war rumbles of the time; she went down with him. Elizabeth was very tough and coy; defeating the Spanish armada, negotiating with a variety of suitors, while cultivating a cult of virginity (the virginity may have been accurate in fact.) Catherine of Russia proved to be a tough babe in a rough land; conquering enemies in war, holding on to her court (after her husband was deposed and then killed); and taking and casting aside lovers as suited her tastes without much qualm or secrecy.

At this point, as my style, I will embark on an incredibly prolix, tedious, and ignorant essay on the history of modern religious belief, which will eventually get you to the subject of feminist evangelical Christian babes I have known. Feel free to skip to the not so bad part will be helpfully labeled, “Not so bad part, slightly safer to read.”

While my co-worker Maria would probably not wanted to be grouped with babes like Cleopatra, Elizabeth, and Liz; as a very educated woman who majored in history and possessed a wry sense of humor, I suspect she would have reluctantly conceded the resemblance.

As an English major, I was familiar with Henry James, an eccentric writer who wrote dense novels that most people feel they ought to read but probably don’t want to. [Actually, with a little effort on the part of the reader, some of James’ early novels, such as What Maisie Knew, are pretty good, but as James was very bright and very talented, once he put his mind to writing completely unreadable novels, by the end of his life he succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. If he had been a competitive runner, James would have been one who ran marathons hundreds of miles from where any other competitor would dream of running in desert landscapes where no human observers would be caught dead watching the race because they would be caught dead period by the Gila monsters and rattlesnakes.

Until later, I was less familiar with Henry’s eccentric and brilliant brother, William James, a philosopher who believed in pragmatism (if i t works, it probably is right); a social scientist who invented experimental psychology (a system for torturing rats and pigeons); and one of the first people to study religious belief from the point of view of social science. In other words, aside from pondering the question of whether religious belief is true (impossible to determine for sure, but probably not) an issue that fretted James quite a bit as he was fairly depressed much of the time and did not want to die any more than most of us, except when he was considering whether to commit suicide, he also contemplated the question: what do religious people actually believe?

Writing in the late 1800s, James noticed that religious belief tended to fall into two schools:

Positive Thinking School: What might be called the “positive thinking school” (Tending toward a belief in a benevolent Loving God who will reward us for existing by granting us life after physical death in a groovy place called Heaven) and:

Humans Are Wicked, Doomed Sinners School:What might be called the “” believing that Christ’s sacrifice will save us from eternal punishment in Hell if we worship God and Christ while constantly bragging about our sinfulness and unworthiness.”

[In keeping with James I am speaking of Christianity here, but similar strains existed in other religions of his time as he was aware.]

A century after William James went to find out for himself if there is any there there (in other words, he croaked), globalism seems to be creeping into the world of religion, in that two main  religions are cohering around the world. Speaking in the late 1900s and early 2000s, writers such as Karen Armstrong (Catholic nun drop-out and author of acclaimed books such as The History of God) have described these trends (my summaries of which would probably make poor Karen puke, though very gently and discreetly, because she is a very gentle, refined woman):

Tolerant, Ecumenical, We Are All Children of One Loving God School and


(Karen Armstrong herself, describes the second school as “Fundamentalism”]

One of the typical strains of fundamentalism is “obedience to God.” God wants humans to be blindly and unquestionably obedient to Him. A side benefit of this system is that many fundamentalists assign themselves roles as spokespeople for God and then start telling others around them to be obedient to them as religious leaders, political leaders, and so on. In evangelical Christianity (and most other fundamentalist religions), men interpret this chain of command as applying to women being obedient to men (husbands, fathers, and so on).

Just as in the case of political leaders such as Cleopatra, Elizabeth, and Catherine, some fundamentalist women are not inclined by temperament and philosophy to be blindly and passively obedient to the men in their lives. In the following sections of this thread I will describe a couple of evangelical Christian women I have known who were by nature feminists and the somewhat amusing (at least to me) turns these contradictions played out in their lives.

I don’t know how much longer I will keep posting on my blog. However, there are stories I always meant to tell and while I am still alive I will maunder on about them to my three or four readers…David, Trucie-woo, Waxing Strange, perhaps Pete, though I don’t know if he is still reading. Mommy? Not many left. Before I get to the first feminist, I will talk about the science fiction high school class we taught.

First, I met with the vice-principal, My Ylvisaker. Later, I learned that Kip referred to him (with genial good humor) as “Mr. Evilseeker.”

I had been laid off from my job as a high school teacher in Seattle. Angry, I vowed to leave the state and we drove to Oregon. I visited Hood River. Fortunately, they didn’t hire me. It is a cold and dangerous place.

Then I visited Tigard, a suburb of Portland. Mr. Ylvisaker told me their alternative education program, Alternative Futures, needed a replacement teacher. It was clear that he had no idea where he would find someone strange enough to fit in with the other two teachers, Kip and Maria. It only took me a few minutes to communicate that I was weird enough.

He said, “We also have a “mass media” program. Can you teach that?’

I didn’t tell him that my wife and I had given up on television, and thought it healthier to raise a child with books instead of the tube. I silently vowed to buy a television set.

Then I met with Kip, an engineer from Tacoma who became a high school math teacher. In those days, engineers made blueprints by hand and pen rather than with CAD programs on computers. Kip not only printed well, like an architect, but Maria and I agreed that when Kip  wrote on the chalkboard, he displayed “happy writing.” Just a few lines on the board cheered up the entire classroom. We never figured out how he did it.

Kip introduced me to his cats. I learned that he and Maria and a journalism teacher had created a program called “Alternative Futures” to prepare young people for a changing future. I later learned that Kip had fallen in love with one of his students, Karen. It is a big no no for high school teachers to diddle their students. I knew one teacher who was fired for kissing a student. However, as one of my fellow male teachers said to me once in the teacher’s room, “When I look at those fresh young female bodies, I am terribly tempted. However, when those fresh young female bodies open their mouths and speak to me, all temptation disappears.”

The year I arrived, Karen was gone. She had traveled to Ecuador to learn Spanish and do good deeds. Everyone knew that Kip and Karen were in love, but they didn’t cross the lines. When I met Karen, later, she was cute, but no bodacious. In fact, I realized, Kip had fallen in love with her mind, though I am sure he liked her body well enough. She started college; Kip got her father’s permmission to “court her;” eventually they married. I think I attended the wedding. I lost all touch with Kip.

To be continued…

January 29, 2010


I wrote a couple of blog posts about a computer store on the island where I live. I referred to the store as John Quincy Adams computers because their name sounds like (a different) United States President. The store consists of Mom, Dad, and Son. Son turned out to be “Son-in-Law.” I bought a laptop from them. Their service has turned out to be very good and I have turned into a loyal and appreciative customer.

One day Dad blurted out to me that Son-in-Law was ill, ill to the point of death with a heart ailment. Son-in was brought back from the brink of death and seems to be doing reasonably well. I see Mom and Dad (who are a little older than I am, I think) and Son-in-Law fairly frequently at the gym.

Today, in the locker room I said to Son-in-Law, “I have a personal question. Feel free not to answer, and feel free to tell me to go away. I have never heard of a daughter to Mom and Dad…?”

He replied, quite amiably, “My marriage to Robin [(I presume the daughter] ended about four years ago. She moved to the East Coast. When I answer the phone at the store, people say I sound just like Dad. [I have noticed this, but I can tell the difference.]

This answered my question, but leaves a lot of other questions, but I think I was given as much information as I can reasonably expect to get.

An Ordinary Person

November 19, 2009

At the gym where I work out every other day, young people (high school students, college students, recent graduates) work at the desk to hand out locker keys and towels.

Yesterday, the young lady smiled broadly as she handed me a towel.

“You look happy,” I said.

“I AM happy,” she replied. “I am getting married in two weeks.” Her smile widened.

“In a week, my wife and I will celebrate our 44th anniversary,” I replied. She looked happy for us, also.

On the day of our anniversary, we will visit Random Granddaughter’s kindergarten at the school for Very Bright Children. Last night my wife and I chatted about it.

“She is supposed to perform in a play for the parents,” Mrs. Random said. “I hope she doesn’t break down and start sobbing in the middle of it. She gets herself so worked up.”

“She wants to be the center of attention and then she hates being the center of attention,” I said. “I hope she learns to deal with being just an ordinary person like the rest of us. Though, of course, she will be an extraordinary ordinary person.”

“If Random Granddaughter some day supervises other employees some day when she has a career, she will not be a very patient boss,” I said to my wife. RG had been supervising my wife and me when we were taking care of her, and she was not very patient with us.

“RG was not very patient from the day she was born,” replied my wife.

From the age of zero to the age of four, RG was not allowed to watch videos on the theory that videos are harmful to developing little minds. Once she reached the age of four, her mommies decided she can watch one or two carefully chosen videos in a week, usually for not more than about twenty minutes of viewing time in a session.

One of the issues here is Can some of the most brilliant parenting of the century turn a brilliant young drama princess child into a wholesome human being? David Rochester is watching with interest from a safe distance as he works on reintegrating his fragmented personality into a wholesome human being.

May you live in interesting times is not a Chinese curse, but we certainly live in such times, do we not?

Anyway, the mommies asked the grandparents to babysit, perhaps because we work for free, while they took advantage of tickets to a concert that they also got for free. Free can be a very good price.

“Here is a DVD with wholesome videos for children,” Mommy (RG’s birth mother) said. She asked RG what videos she wanted to watch.

Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type, was choice #1. This is a recent but already classic book for children, a book now animated movie about cows that type messages to the farmer on a typewriter. Unless he provides them with electric blankets, they will stop supplying him with milk. The plot thickens from there.

As a child of modern times, however, I doubt that RG knows what a typewriter is. When I was a high school student, I actually used a slide rule because calculators had not been invented yet. I used a buggy whip to make my slide rule go faster.

Courderoy was RG’s second choice. This is a book (now video) about a lonely little black girl who falls in love with a lonely teddy bear in a department store. RG lives in a world of multi-cultural influences. She has two mommies and two daddies. She has an adopted aunt from Singapore. And so on.

The mommies left for their concert. Grandma and Grandpa and Random Granddaughter settled on the couch in front of the combination television monitor/DVD player. Grandma held the remote. Grandma tried to start the DVD going. Mr. and Mrs. Random have a couple of television monitors, DVD players, and remotes at home. It’s not like we are video virgins.

Grandma could not get the video to start. RG expressed impatience. Grandma has a tendency to use bad words when she is frustrated, but she is very careful around RG. The mommies are prissy, goody-goody lesbians who do not much like to be described as “lesbians” and who certainly do not want a five-year-old daughter to hear bad words from Grandma and Grandpa. As RG is now attending kindergarten, however; it is only a matter of time before the first f-bomb comes home with her like a puppy following her home. [The mommies like cats better than dogs, also, and resist getting RG a dog.]

Eventually, after several tries, Grandma brought up a menu of the videos. She selected the typing cows video and pushed “Play” on the remote. The story began. The cows typed messages and went on strike. RG watched with interest. I haven’t heard about her going on strike yet, but it is surely only a matter of time. She didn’t ask about typewriters. I guess she figured a typewriter is something like a computer.

At the end of the story, Grandma tried to get back to the main menu. Instead of bringing up the menu, the entire rebooted and loaded slowly. RG expressed irritation. Eventually the list of videos appeared. Grandma tried to choose and start Courderoy. Each time she did so, the entire DVD rebooted. It took a long time for the list of videos to appear on the screen. About the third time this occurred. RG expressed her impatience and irritation quite strongly. “Perhaps Grandpa knows how to use the remote better than you do,” she told Grandma.

Grandma pretended she did not hear that remark. I kept my mouth shut.

Grandma said, “This remote does not work like the remote we have at home.”

RG said, “My mommies get it to work” in a very condescending and exasperated tone. I kept my mouth shut.

Grandma kept trying. On the fifth try, Courderoy began to play. Grandma said, “I did exactly the same thing I did on the other four tries, but this time it worked.”

RG did not say anything, but her face displayed an expression that eloquently communicated, Sure it did, Grandma.

She watched half the video. Suddenly, she said, “Let’s stop the video. I am ready to go to bed.” She has apparently internalize the time limit for watching videos.

RG went upstairs, flossed and brushed her teeth, picked out a book about church mice and a friendly cat and a party for me to read, and went to bed very peacefully and amiably without any drama queen theatrics.

The next day I tried to use my laptop. The mommies have changed their ISP/wireless Internet connection again. I could not get my laptop to connect to the Internet.

Mommy said, “Mama set this up. I don’t know how to connect your laptop. [Mama was at the university studying calculus.] Perhaps you can go to the library (which is only a few blocks away). Perhaps you can take RG with you to the library.”

RG and I walked to the library. I sat on a couch in the children’s section while RG browsed for books.

In the past, RG picked out books at random. Now she is learning to read, and her kindergarten teacher gave her some guidelines for picking out books. I don’t remember the exact directions, but the run something like this.

Look at a book. Try to read a little bit. If maybe two words are new, then choose the book. If five or more words are new, don’t choose that book.

RG chose several books. I looked them over. They seemed like excellent choices. One of the books struck me as an excellent choice for David Rochester as well, so I have ordered the book on the Internet and it is supposedly on the way to David and his Amazon. I hope they like it. If they do, RG gets all the credit. If they don’t, it is my fault.

We went to the self-checkout. I tried to check out all four of the books at once. The self-checkout only checked out one. I had to reboot the self-checkout. This was exactly like the experience Grandma had the night before with remote and the video player. As I kept slowly rebooting the self-checkout, RG twisted restlessly and said, “Grandpa, aren’t you done checking out the books? I am ready to go home.”

Eventually we went home, had something to eat, and went to RG’s cross-country race where she sobbed, ran 1/2 mile, and smiled when she received a blue ribbon. If your grandchild is thinking about working for RG some day or marrying RG some day, tell him or her to start training right now, because she will be a bossy boss and a severe spouse.

I remember J (my niece) visiting us when she was about 12. My wife and I compared her to our daughter, a year or two older, very unfavorably, and predicted that J would be a very messed up adult as she grew older. We lost all contact with my sister and my niece for a number of years.

When we were living in Oregon a number of years ago, J called us one day and told us that she was going to college in California and working in a conservation program for youth. She asked if she could visit us. At the time, my daughter was attending college at Oberlin in Ohio.

When J came to visit us, my wife and I, expecting a very messed up young adult, were surprised to meet a pleasant, mature, self-possessed young woman. We took her out to dinner and had a lovely time. She came to visit us a couple more times, eventually bringing along a boy friend, S, she had met at college. He also proved to be an intelligent, courteous, and delightful young man. Both niece J and boy friend S graduated together with degrees in environmental engineering of some sort. They moved to the east coast of the United States and got married. A few years ago, I attended a couple of family reunions on the East Coast, organized by my Aunt Naomi and financed by her millionaire daughter, my cousin Joanna. Now living in Vermont, both niece J and her now husband S attended. They not only attended, they served as brilliant organizers and facilitators, taking people on hikes through Vermont and later New Hampshire wilderness and invariably being kind, patient and endearing to everyone at the reunion, ranging from little babies to aunts in their seventies.

Being a rude person, I said to my sister, “I am surprised at how well your daughter turned out. When she was a teenager, I thought you were a terrible mother and your daughter would be ruined for life.”

My sister’s answer was, “I was indeed a terrible mother. I have no explanation of how well she has turned out except that she had a lot of strength of character and she attended a Waldorf School.”

[I am a little skeptical of that explanation. My youngest brother and youngest sister attended a Waldorf School and they are both seriously messed up individuals.]

Unfortunately, as my daughter and her partner live here on the West Coast, and J and her husband S live in Vermont, they have never had a chance to meet as adults, nor have their children had a chance to encounter each other. My daughter and her partner, of course, are parents to the inimitable Random Granddaughter, now attending kindergarten at the School for Very Bright Children.

J and S have two children. My sister, very close to my Aunt Rose, like her became a follower of the weird semi-cult of Anthropacifism, based on the teaching of the German nut philosopher Rudolf Steiner. The Anthropacifists are best known in the United States for the Waldorf Schools and for biodynamic farming. My niece’s two children go to a Waldorf school. Although I consider them to be nutty overall, the Waldorf schools have some good points going for them, and bio-dynamic farmers have some success with their method of agriculture, which includes some peculiarities such as planting by phases of the moon.

Mary from Peru to Visit

September 13, 2009

Some time back, I wrote about hosting a party at the mommies’ house for my two favorite volunteers: Mary (not Maria) from Peru and S from Romania.

My wife was quite taken with Mary. I think because they are much alike. Each is very intelligent but does not think she is. Each does exactly as she pleases regardless of what other people think they “ought” to do. Of course, they are different as well. Mary has a Master’s Degree in Industrial Engineering. My wife took one college class.

In any case, I asked my wife, “Do you want to invite Mary to visit us?” My wife seldom wants people to visit us unless she had decided to invite them. However, in this case, she said, “Yes.”

Mary said she has bought a condo and that things are going well at her job for a utility company and that she will visit us next month.

My wife said, “Be sure to tell her we will pay for her ferry ticket.”

I let the mommies know about the visit, but their lives are so busy and complicated I don’t know if they will join us. Perhaps Random Granddaughter can invite her entire kindergarten class from the school for very bright children. On the way, they could stop and visit the used car dealer that sells used fire trucks and as a project they could take a fire engine apart and put it back together.

Book Notes

September 12, 2009

Book notes for Pete and David.

Pete, you suggested I read Gold Coast, by Nelson DeMille. I just finished reading it. The book was very stimulating, entertaining, thoughtful, and well-written, and I plan to read the sequel. I thank you for the suggestion.

The main lesson I drew from reading it was not to get involved in a ménage à trois with a Mafia don and my wife, not a kink I am likely to pursue. (My wife has made it clear to me that if I am not faithful to her, I am not likely to live for a long time. I don’t think she would bother to hire someone from the Mafia to help her hit me.)

I presume you are adhering to the same sensible policy in regard to your lovely bride.

Pete, in turn I will suggest two possible books for you to read. They are not exactly like Gold Coast and I don’t know if you will like either book, so please don’t put out a contract on me if you read either and find you don’t like them.

One is called Vertical Run, by Joseph Garber.

The other is Vanishing Act by Thomas Perry.

David, on more than one occasion, you have suggested I read The Road to Wellville by T. Coraghessan Boyle. I just checked it out of the library and I have started reading it.

It does indeed seem to relate in a deep way to my family’s history. (My paternal grandfather was a big fan of Dr. John Harvey Kellogg.) Although I have only started reading the book, I do already sense a connection and it does bring back moving memories.


What’s a Chelate?

August 28, 2009

A few days ago, I got an email from my cousin Julie, whom I barely know, about our Aunt Henriette. Henriette is the aunt who wanted to be an opera singer for the Metropolitan Opera. She married Morton, who told her he could coach her to be a successful opera singer. Henriette worked as a waitress to support Morton. As far as I know, Morton never did a day’s work in his life. The rest of my family despised Morton as a smarmy, anti-Semitic free loader, so Henriette has been rather isolated from the rest of her family. (It was eccentric of Morton to marry a woman from a Jewish family.)

Unlike many of my family members, I am not very musical. I heard Henriette practicing her opera singing. She did not sound very talented to me, but what do I know? For that matter, the Metropolitan never hired her, so perhaps they were as clueless as I.

After she gave up on her dream of being an opera singer, Henriette had a baby, Carl, and left Morton for a while. Eventually, they reconciled. When Carl became an adult he fled as far as he could, leaving New York City and hiding out with a girl friend in Oregon.


As I was the first child born in my generation, Henriette imprinted on me as a nephew she can depend on, especially for help with her computer. She called me from New York City and asked me to help solve her computer problems after her son Carl, who is actually better with computers than I am, refused to speak with her any more on the topic of computers. Henriette refused to believe that I could not diagnose and “fix” her computer over the phone. After I realized her computer was a hopeless mess, I bought her a new computer. Using reproductions of fine art works she pulled from the Internet, and the expensive ink jet printer I also bought her, Henriette put together calendars and advertised them on the Internet, hoping to make a lot of money.

Henriette and Morton had been living on money from my cousin Joanna, who learned to speak Chinese fluently in Taiwan and became a millionaire as co-founder of the baby furniture company Graco. After Joanna died of breast cancer, Joanna’s mother, my Aunt Naomi, Henriette’s sister, funneled money to her. When Naomi became ill and crippled in Australia, the money flow ceased.

My family is a great believer in “alternative health care.” My grandfather, Harry, was a dentist in Chicago who became a great follower of Dr. Kellogg of the cereal family. Dr. Kellogg believed in 1) never having sex and 2) solving all medical problems by giving people “colonics.” Colonics, in plain language, are enemas. Alternative health nuts believe that crap gets stuck in a person’s colon and needs to be flushed. Most medical authorities believe this theory is crap. I got a few colonics as a child, but mostly my parents believed that avoiding white sugar and eating organically grown vegetables was the key to avoiding disease. I think there is some merit to these policies, and my wife and I mostly eat food we grow ourselves or buy from farmer’s markets, but for medical care we mostly visit conventional physicians.

Although Grandfather Harry followed Dr. Kellog’s practices in terms of colonics, he was by all reports a horny old goat who sired four children on my monstrously narcissistic Grandmother, Agnes. As far as I know, Harry never cheated on Agnes, though I wouldn’t have blamed him.

Henriette and Naomi were big followers of alternative medical care. Naomi’s husband, Donald, grew up in a California high desert ranching family, became an electrical engineer, and then a chiropractor and professor of chiropractic “science.”. Their other daughter, Valerie, sister of millionaire Joanna, became a chiropractor also and now lives in Spain. After Naomi died, Donald had a heart attack. Valerie brought him to Canada for medical care.

Julie, my cousin, told me that Henriette, now in her eighties, is not doing that well. For one thing, her New York City apartment is full of bedbugs. This sounds like a bad joke, but it’s a real mess. The exterminators have fumigated her apartment twice. They threw her bed out into the trash. She is now sleeping on the floor.

Julie is a grade school teacher in upstate New York. Henriette, now lonely and poor, takes the bus up to visit Julie. Julie took Henriette to an “alternative” eye doctor who told her she has cataracts. However, it is not considered safe for Henriette to have cataract surgery at present (see below).

Henriette has been working at a senior center teaching computer classes to make some money. As I have spent hours on the phone trying to help her through her computer problems, I am somewhat mirthed at the idea of her teaching other senior citizens how to use computers.

 Her legs are swelling and getting varicose veins, and her heart has problems, with her arteries clogging.

As a big fan of alternative health care, Henriette has become fixated on “chelates” therapy, a therapy which sounds like quackery to me, that is supposed to remove blockages to arteries by natural means.

Henriette’s computer is sealed in a plastic bag because of the fumigation, so I have been sending her printed letters, pictures of my family and garden, and calling her on the phone. So far, Henriette, who is very conscientious, has been sending me about $30 a month to repay me for the computer I bought her. She has paid me a little over half. In my last letter, I said not to send me any more money. My wife and I have decided to forgive the rest of the money Henriette still owes us, though we are not going to send her any more money.

I allowed a week for the last letter to reach Henriette. I will call Henriette today. If she wants me to send her money for her chelates therapy, I will tell Henriette that as I would not spend money on chelates therapy for myself or my wife, I will not spend money on it for her, aside from freeing up the $30 a month she was sending me as repayment.

I am not looking forward to this conversation, because Henriette seems to be of the opinion that chelates therapy can keep her alive for a while, so she may be concluding I am helping pronounce a death sentence on her. Well, we all will die eventually, and we all have to make difficult decisions about what to do to keep ourselves alive and healthy as long as we can.

My wife, who is fairly healthy at the moment, said to me, “If I knew I had only a little while to live, I would try to be as comfortable as possible and occupy myself with activities I enjoy as much as I could, and not try to engage in extreme measures in a desperate attempt to stay alive.” That sounds sensible to me.