A Miracle on Central

Yesterday while listening to Alan Alda discuss his Parkinson’s diagnosis and I remembered a miraculous story from a long long time ago. If you fact check this story I’m sure it’s loaded with inaccuracies but it’s a true story.

My grandfather, Dr. Jack Stell, was a surgeon in Hot Springs, Arkansas. He studied at Ouachita Baptist University and Tulane, then opened his practice here, between 1915 and 1920. As a surgeon at St. Josephs’ , he was loved, even adored by his nurses, who were all nuns at the time, because it was a Catholic hospital.

As a Baptist in the early 1900s my grandfather was not a fan of the Catholic church and he did not approve of the Pope’s power or position. But he loved, respected and needed  his nurse-nuns.

During the early 1940s something started happening. Many of the local surgeons were enlisted during WWII and working to put soldiers back together elsewhere. So, there something of a shortage of surgeons in Hot Springs. Daddy Jack (the grandkids name for him) was extremely busy.  He and his habit clad nurses worked almost constantly.  But, Daddy Jack started noticing that something was wrong.  Tiny tremors in  his fingers then hand hands, began frustrating him. At first, no one noticed. But he knew something was terribly wrong.

After a year or so he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s . But Hot Springs and the hospital still desperately needed his surgical talents.

When I was a little girl, in the 60’s, my mother, and ancient withered nuns, would tell me stories about my grandfather. Old nuns in  dark  heavy habits , would  take me into their offices, give me ice cream or pudding from the hospital kitchen and tell me stories.  The one repeated to me so many times was simple and beautiful.

Daddy Jack told his nurses about the diagnosis. Together, they decided before each operation, they would all kneel, on the cold tile floor in the operating room, and they would pray, as one, for his hands to be steady and true. The Baptist doctor and Catholic nuns joined hands and asked for a miracle.

God listened. For almost two years Dr. Jack Stell and his nuns prayed and continued with the life saving surgeries.

Once Hot Springs was repopulated with a few more surgeons, Dr. Jack Stell retired to his home on Prospect avenue.

As a little girl, I would eat my pudding, listening to the old nuns as they wiped their eyes with handkerchiefs they miraculously produced from their sleeves.

Today, I understand the power of their faith, love and conviction. Back then, I only knew I had to sit and listen to their stories in order to get any goodies.

 

Love At Rocky’s Corner

Dating is a funny thing.  You want to help each other…but how much and when?  All those boundaries have to be worked out.

Twenty five or twenty six years ago when Alex and I first started dating, I was trying to get my little magazine, The Spring, up and running and I worked as a waitress at Rocky’s Corner, a legendary Hot Springs Pizzeria.

I’d left my first husband in Key West and was struggling to make things work. Jack and Mary were three and four and we all lived on pizza toast and spaghetti noodles. I met Alex and the first thing he did, was start making “real dinners” for us. The kids were so excited to have three things on their plate, at the same time!!

Alex and I had been dating about a month when he realized how bad the brakes were on my car.   He was so concerned he asked several times if I would let him get me some new brakes, and then I could pay him back.  But I refused.  I didn’t need his help and I wasn’t going to take him money. We’d only been dating a month.

So, Alex came up with a solution on his own. One afternoon, while I was working lunch, unbeknownst to me, Alex snuck into the office at Rocky’s to talk to the owner Joey Diorio. Joey was the PERFECT Chicago style pizza place owner.  He had the look, the accent and the attitude. He was a Chicago style pizza pie come to life, thick and cheesy, loud, abrasive, loving and funny. Alex explained the situation to Joey who immediately understood.  He summoned an older waitress from Romania or  Czechoslovakia, with a heavy accent, to his office. A few minutes latter she stole my car keys out of my purse while I was taking a drink order and delivered them to Alex and Joey.

Alex then snuck out, stole my car and got my breaks fixed.  Two hours latter he returned, put the car in the same spot, then took my keys back to Joey, who found the old Romanian or Czechoslovakian waitress, who returned my keys to my purse. She’d been winking at me all day, but I didn’t suspect anything.

Two hours later I got off, sat at the bar counting my tips and drinking a draft beer. I said goodbye to everyone and Joey was acting super odd. Smiling too much and telling me to have a safe ride home.

Going home, everything was great. I had the windows down and the radio turned up loud.  I was probably listening to Color Me Bad singing “I Wanna Sex You Up.” It was all just great till I came to the first stop sign…..and almost went through the windshield.

I’ve been married to that car thief for a long time now. But sometimes that’s what loves does. Puts you right through the windshield.

 

They Tapped My Daughters Phone! For Real

My daughter Mary called and said emphatically, “I think my phone is tapped, Mom.”
I smiled and wondered if she was off her medication because this has happened before. Then in my smarmy, patient Mom voice I said, “Why would anybody tap your phone honey?”
She took the bait. “Ok, consider this. I work with Middle Eastern refugees and I’m studying Arabic.”
“Yeah, but look at the stuff you teach your students. How to shop and use coupons, how to rent an apartment and fill out a job application, that’s not crazy or dangerous.”
“I know, Mom, but they don’t know that. they just know I spend a lot of time with Middle Eastern refuges.”
I nodded. “Ok.”
“Because my students are from the Middle East, I study a lot of Middle Eastern websites so I can understand where they are coming from. I check out sights from Syria, Iran,Eritrea, Congo, Somalia, you know.”
“yeah, I get that.” I say, seeing the pieces of the puzzle come together.
She continued, “Andy and I work with the ACLU and go to a lot of protests. And I took a pretty long trip to Uganda this year.”
I sighed, “Yeah, I forgot about that. ”
“And technically I work for a Chinese corporation. I mean, that’s who writes my checks.”
That’s when I grimaced. “Man, you do check a lot of boxes. If I was the CIA or something like that, I’d totally be checking you out. I think our tax dollars are being well spent.”
“Yeah, that’s what I thought, and a lot of my friends have told me my phone makes funny noises right before I pick up.”
I grunted, “That’s not good. Ok, if they interview you you just need to tell the FBI or CIA, who ever that you are Episcopal, and Episcopalians don’t get radicalized. We play golf.”
Mary laughed, “Good point.”
“Ok, and honey, there’s a whole list of words and phrases you probably need to avoid on the phone. But I can’t tell you what they are.”
The truth is Mary, my beautiful daughter is super patrotic, loves America and wants to save the world. But if you call her….you probably need to be careful what you say.