“Wellwood Avenue” by  Nicholas V. Steiner

Wellwood Avenue, a Memoir

by Nicholas V. Steiner MD

In January,1935, one day after a massive blizzard blanketed America’s East Coast, my family having fled Hitler Germany arrived in hopes of starting a new life. As a three month old infant I have no memory of those early, difficult years, nor did my sister Ursula, aged just under three years at the time. What made the stories come to life was our mother’s exceptional memory, artist’s eye for detail and ability as a story teller. Much later her three volume memoir recorded the stories in great detail for posterity.

Our initial attempts to find a place to live and for my father to establish a medical practice were fruitless. Misled by my father’s cousin Hugo Einstein we wasted three months and considerable money before realizing that Washington D.C. was a poor choice. Disappointed, my parents returned to New York City where a kind, established German immigrant physician named Dr. Julius Beckhard steered them to–what my mother referred to as two “God forsaken” rural communities in upstate New York. Nearby Long Island would have made much sense but my father’s inquiries into drug stores “Is there room for another doctor in this town?” were immediately dismissed (“Not a chance!”). Another of Dad’s cousins came to the rescue. Taking a day off from work Fredo Lane (formerly Levi, a lovely man) drove onto the island until they stopped in front of a pharmacy. When asked the same question the pharmacist replied “Sure, why not?” That was all they needed to hear so it became Lindenhurst. Fredo drove the two much relieved men back to the City. What they didn’t know was that there were already four active medical practices in the town. Nor did they realize that the pharmacist having just opened his store was anxious for more business.

Days later my parents returned to Lindenhurst–a blue collar town of several thousand with many German residents, this time by train. After meeting with a banker they agreed to rent a small house on West Hofmann Avenue. Several blocks from the center of town It faced railroad tracks and an unmanned crossing of the Long Island Railroad, but would have to do. Dad’s beginnings were difficult. Newly arrived in a town where he was unknown, barely speaking the language and without a car, these were the grim reality. A occasional patient wandered in, some didn’t pay, etc. With time running out it was patient number 8, Charlie Schieffer who made the difference.

In a story related elsewhere Dad, accompanied by my mother, a graduate of Stuttgart’s Kinderheim (where my parents met in 1931) made a late afternoon house call at the Schieffer home. Confronted with an infant suffering from severe pneumonia (rapid shallow breathing, waxy pallor, lips and fingertips blue) they needed to make a quick decision. Have him transferred to a hospital with complete loss of his care? Or treating him at home with methods they’d learned in Stuttgart, years ago: damp compresses, mustard plaster, consider camphor to strengthen the heart etc. After initial hesitation Charlie’s parents decide to stay with the young doctor, even if things looked very bad.

Before dawn Mrs. Schieffer went to early mass. By the time she returned a miracle had happened! The child suddenly coughed up a glob of phlegm and began to breathe more deeply. His skin slowly turned pink. He made “baby” noises. Charlie had withstood the crisis and would live! Exhausted though greatly relieved my parents returned home. The morning passed and as Carl Schieffer’s first clients entered his barber shop, they heard nothing but praise for the young doctor. Dr. Steiner had worked through the night to save his son’s life! Dad’s career was assured. Before long a steady stream of new patients came to Dad’s door.

In hopes of expanding our local presence Mother joined the Frohsinn singing group and on Sundays attended St. John’s Lutheran Church. Before long as Dad’s situation further improved It became time to move on. Alma Bohne, a patient and neighbor drove Mom up and down South Wellwood Avenue, the main street in search of a place to buy. At number 373 they found an elderly Swiss couple, the Brandtles, who were considering a move elsewhere. While far from perfect it would do. The front porch could be converted to a waiting room; there were four bedrooms upstairs The deal was consummated and in September, 1937 we moved in. Until my father’s death in 1974 the front of the house served as his office and 373 S. Wellwood Ave. remained our home for several decades.

My oldest memory of all: the bearded kosher butcher who lived across the street from our W. Hoffman Ave. home decapitating several chickens (headless, they ran about wildly) .. My second oldest memory is of a man and his horse-drawn plough as they made their way back and forth across the field behind our new home. My parents had wisely included the adjacent piece of uncultivated land as part of our property. Evidently fascinated I stood watching them at the window for hours.

To order to make himself better known to Lindenhurst’s long established pharmacy Dad introduced himself to the owner.Mr. lrmisch called two German employees to the front of the store. After they’d introduced themselves (with a stiff bow and formal handshakes, I imagine) one of them asked Dad if he’d like to join them at the next meeting of the Deutsch Amerikanische Bund. Quick to respond in such situations Dad replied that he needed to devote his time to building up his practice.

One day a man rang the front door bell and introduced himself as John Mi.inzel, a German immigrant roughly my dad’s age. He’d emigrated from Bingen am Rhein several years before. Having started work as a waiter he went on to became the owner of The Dew Drop Inn in Huntington Station, L.I. He asked whether Sophie, his recently arrived sister might find work in our home? Perfect timing! My parents immediately hired her for household work to include cooking and part time care of the children. She stayed with us for another eleven years.

Sophie regularly wrote to her mother and received letters in return until one day it stopped. The Nazi government having ascertained that Sophie was working for ‘a Jewish family’ in America abruptly stopped paying her late father’s benefits to her mother. Sophie, desperate at having her mother’s source of income ended and at having her letters intercepted, approached my parents in tears. Shocked but not deterred they soon found a solution. Sophie would henceforth pretend to employed by the Titleys, a non-Jewish family living in a neighboring town. Dad would periodically pick up her mail. Payments to her mother soon resumed.

Not long after moving in my parents learned that a parade organized by the Deutsch American Bund was being planned by Nazi sympathizers. Clad in Nazi uniforms, bearing large Swastika flags they marched down S. Wellwood Ave. directly in front of our home before moving on to Yaphank, an Eastern Long Island community known for its Nazi sympathies. My parents planned to stay out of sight that day but how to explain this frightening spectacle to their children? John Mi.inzel and his wife–Sophie always referred to her as “die Schwagerin” {the sister­in-law}–agreed that Uschi and I would spend the day with them. Afterwards, intent upon learning the reaction of locals to the Nazis, my mother cautiously walked along Wellwood Ave. To her great relief a woman spoke angrily. “Imagine” she said. “They let the tip of the American flag touch the ground!” Nazism would not take hold in Lindenhurst.

Germany remained in the headlines: The Hindenburgh Airship burst into flames with many fatalities as it approached NJ. In a world heavyweight event Germany’s Max Schmeling knocked out Joe Louis in the first round, but refugees cheered mightily in a rematch as the “Brown Bomber” forever dispatched Schmeling. By winning a gold medal at the Berlin Olympics the black American Jesse Owens deflated German myths of a superior race. Dad’s practice continued to grow. A new patient declared that he “didn’t like Jews”, yet went on to become a devoted lifelong patient.

On September 1, 1939 Hitler unleashed his fearsome Blitzkrieg against Poland. World War II had begun. Pearl Harbor and America’s entry into the war was still two years away yet many citizens–not least its European refugees–watched anxiously as German troops marched through France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Norway. Hitler’s invasion of Russia began in summer 1941. My parents’ painter friend, Josef Scharl (perhaps thinking of Napoleon) asked “ob se wieder ‘raus komme?” (Will they get out again?”)

After December 7, 1941 Germany and Japan became the foresworn enemies of the United States. Men enlisted or were drafted. A year into the war my father tried to enlist but was turned down. He long erroneously attributed this to his “Blattfiiss” (flat feet). Years later he learned from a well placed surgeon that it was due to his brother-in­law, Ernst Marquard’s being a general in the German Luftwaffe! It needs to be said that (Onkel) Ernst’s early warning that “dark days loom ahead” persuaded us to emigrate as early as Jan. 1935. Despite Ernst’s high rank he was primarily a scientist and never an enthusiastic Nazi. But the relationship was sufficient to scuttle Dad’s attempted enlistment. (Later as the war ended, Ernst was fortunate in not being “kidnapped” by the Russians. Instead, he was captured by the British but able to escape to his wife’s home, Sweden).

In Lindenhurst anger toward Germans and Japanese grew .. Ursula and I attended Elementary School on School Street. One day, evidently reacting to some graffiti scribbled on a wall and before all of us children seated in the assembly. Carl Fuchs, the school principal cried “Writin’ on the bathroom wall is like a dirty Vella Jap!” We were afraid of him. The mimeograph machine that stood his office led us to believe it was a “Spanking Machine”.

Anecdote: In Barasch’s basement Joanie sings: “Smoke, smoke that smokin’ cigarette” then adds” I need to have a chest x ray.” George says “Can they find it?”

Anecdote: Seated in Mr. Barasch’s car on the way to his 2nd Street factory, he elegant in his Homburg hat, sneezes “Ha Russia!” Uschi replies: “Ha, Goiminy!!”

Our house was largely unchanged from when my parents bought it. We were fortunate in leaving Germany as early as we did for back then, each emigrant was allowed to take along 10 German Marks. More important: There was no limit to take along one’s entire belongings. My parents took with them their heavy (Biedermayer?) furniture and everything else in their household. Upon arrival in NY everything was duly loaded onto a van and when after 3 months Washington, DC proved to be a fiasco, shipped North again. Eventually it all found a place in our home on 5. Wellwood Avenue.

Downstairs a screened porch that faced 5. Wellwood Ave. was converted into a waiting room. Adjacent rooms became where Dad examined patients and where he sat surrounded by glass enclosed bookshelves, he composed letters (and later charming poetry) behind a huge wooden desk. The house’s sole bathroom was upstairs! A patient in need of a toilet first needed to walk upstairs past “Sophie’s room”. Three other bedrooms on the second floor were occupied by my parents, the children and “the library” (later Ursula’s room). From there a stairway led up to the spacious but poorly lit attic (referred to by Sophie as “the airdeck”).

Dad decided to have a New York surgeon repair his inguinal hernia. Back then, hernia repair–unlike the relatively minor procedure it has become–meant several days in bed. While recovering Dad developed a life-threatening, massive pulmonary embolism (a blood clot in the lungs that blocked cardiac output). He nearly died I Beyond hoping there would be no further clots little could be done. Neither Ursula nor I had any awareness of what was going on. Greatly alarmed, Mother approached her close friend (and Dad’s cousin) Elinor S. Gimbel who contacted Caldwell B. Esselstyn, a surgeon and good friend. As luck would have it he was able to procure small amounts of of a recently developed miracle drug called Heparin (an anti-coagulant that dissolves clots and prevents new ones). Truly a miracle! It saved Dad’s life. He went home well but weakened. It took time before he could resume his busy schedule.

Dr. Alfred Lowenstein, MD of Amityville covers Dad’s practice. Mom knows that he is listening from upstairs. “Merkt man das?” he mutters. Does one notice that?”

At home, adjacent to the office but separated from it by a wall was a dark living room where we spent little time. It opened into the dining room lined by clumsy, heavy dark furniture brought from Germany. The dining room connected via a narrow pantry (with a small refrigerator) into the kitchen where Uschi and I had most of our meals. We sat at a sturdy wooden table that like almost everything else had been brought from Germany. Dinner often consisted of “Griefibrei” (Semolina) topped with a dash of raspberry syrup. The kitchen table faced an old fashioned sink while across the room stood the massive floor to ceiling cupboard. For years, breakfast included either “Corn Flakes” or “Rice Crispies” until one day someone brought home a box of–Wheaties. “Jack Armstrong, the All American Boy”.

Across the way lived Ursula’s contemporary Connie Baer. We once rigged up a string between the two girls’ bed rooms. I’m not sure what kind of notes passed between them. Once, Connie entered just I was having a bath. Furious that she would see me in the nude I raced after her and spit. The drop of spit ran harmlessly down my chest.

For some reason we had a fake dog turd that unexpectedly appeared everywhere. One day we left it on Connie’s grandfather’s stairs. “lss datt Schitt?” Mr. Bartholet asked, picking it up.

In hopes of gaining new patients Mom attended St John’s Lutheran church on Sunday mornings and listened intently to sermons delivered by Pastor Westlin. Increasingly offended by his pro-German sentiment she never failed to say so as congregants gathered outside church. Aware of Mom’s criticism one day the Pastor honored us with a house call. A heated discussion ensued at the height of which Mom exclaimed “Surely Pastor Westlin, you are not comparing Adolf Hitler with President Roosevelt!” Enraged and with shouts of “Blasphemy!” he rushed out never to return again. Similarly, Mom never again attended services at St. John’s (or any other house of worship that I know of). Pastor Westlin was eventually farmed out to a home for aging members of the clergy located (fittingly enough) in Germantown, NY.

My attending St. John’s Sunday School came to an abrupt end, too. A well meaning neighbor, Mr. Charles Fisher, picked up Ursula and me and drove us to and from Sunday School held in the church basement. Along with singing various songs–none of which I can remember—a basket was circulated among us into which it was expected that each child would drop in a few coins or dollar bills. With that in mind my parents gave me a small, colorfully beaded purse, inside of which I kept a shiny penny. On the day in question as the basket of coins approached and pursued by several children I bolted outdoors and calmly threw the coin into the street.

Our parents rarely relied on corporate punishment when Ursula and needed to be reprimanded, but one occasion it was entirely justified. Goaded by the “back street boys”–Johnny Genuwein and Bobby Schneider, we happily joined in the ransacking of our neighbors’ garden. The Hellmans’, an elderly childless couple had brought shells home from previous trips to Florida and lined their gardens with them. What fun to tear up them up and throw them around the garden! A few days later as the Hellmans returned they were justifiably angered at the perpetrators. Of course, the “back street boys” said it was entirely our fault. Either way, Mom had no choice but to give Ursula and me a real thrashing (accompanied by our cries at being beaten). It was a beating well deserved and we never again set foot in the Hellmans’ garden. I wasn’t very good at hiding pain and on one occasion remember Dad giving me an injection under the kitchen table. Much later in life including today I’ve lived with chronic and at times acute physical pain.

By now the War occupied much in our lives. Maybe having our own chickens would help the war effort? A box of a several day old chicks (needed heat from a light bulb) arrived and placed on our garage floor just as Mom returned from surgery at New York’s Mt. Sinai for a painful thyroid nodule. Poor woman! Somehow most of the chicks survived long enough to be transferred to what became the Chicken Coop, a house behind our garage. I was able to take care of them as they grew older. In Time, full grown chickens flew over fence into neighbors’ gardens! Before going to bed it befell me to retrieve them one by one and lock them into the “Chicken Coop”. We then needed to build a fence and keep them locked in. My job consisted of cleaning out the overnight chicken droppings, which I didn’t mind at all. How much having these chickens contributed to the war effort is debatable. The chickens all had names (“Admiral Yamimoto”, “Emma”, etc). We also had 2 ducks (Jody and Benjy) who happily splashed around a tub of water but their droppings greatly soiled the garden. We gave them away. Marie Sulph (sp?) promised that the chicken allotted to her would have “a good home” (inside her corpulent stomach?). She sent for the flapping chicken in a taxi!

One day Georgie and I decided to smoke one of his dad’s cigars inside Dad’s bedroom closet with doors closed! It stank something awful and forever turned us against tobacco! On each of our birthdays we gave one another a dollar. George eventually went into business including China and is now living next to a FL golf course. I salute him.

To visit Jimmy’s house on Travis Avenue meant being shuttled past the parlour–did anyone ever sit in the parlour? “Down cellar” meant walking downstairs past a poster of Veronica Lake–long blond hair and all, and a radio that crackled the trumpeting of Harry James and comic books (Superman, etc.)

Sometimes Sophie took Uschi and along on her walks to do the shopping, past the residential homes to where the shops began. Passed the Polish bakery, Otto Seiben’s watch making shop, the firehouse, Bohack’s groceries and Liebl’s hardware, “The Itch” movie theater (where we never ventured) was next to Gus Boloukos’ ice cream parlour’s (my father was amused when he changed it to “Bukos”). Beyond that lay lrmisch’s Pharmacy and the LIRR tracks.

On the other side of the tracks (Denzel’s Tavern on the opposite corner), eventually one came to Benkert’s meat store. I well remember the pleasure of trying to cover my shoes with sawdust, only to be interrupted by Mr. Benkert handing me a slice of delicious fresh baloney. The Benkerts’, masters of “die Gemischte Language” greatly enriched our vocabulary. Reaching for a jar on the shelf he pronounced “Und dat hass Uhliff er/ in” {And that has olive oil in it!’) or his wife {Eugenie) in response to their dog’s barking: “Schtop dat Schporty oder I take out mein Schuh und hit you mit!” (Stop that Sporty or I’ll take off my shoe and hit you with it!). One time, Mom Encountered Mrs. McGowan there. She usually went to Brummers (pronounced “Brummiz” in Babylon. “How is Jimmy?” Mom asked. “He’s in the Service, stationed in Germany,” replied Mrs. McGowan. “Germany?” Mom asks. “There’s much to see there.” “Yeah. He don’t mind it there”. “He don’t mind it there?” Mom asks.

Across the street we entered Bob’s Market (Later Zalman’s) for fresh vegetables. Danny, Bob’s son once made a lewd comment to Ursula. Then back across the tracks to Bodansky’s Bakery corner of First St. and took home a delicious cake with raisins on it.

On the way home we sang German songs(” … Oh, meine Lola, Wenn der Mond am Himmel steht … “). Back at home Sophie unpacked what she’d bought and prepared dinner. On Sundays when we walked around the lake at Belmont State Park we encountered mostly Europeans en route and came home to Sophie’s having baked a cake with powdered sugar on top. That plus a cup of coffee, nice afternoon!

Being a lone practitioner was very hard. A telephone answering service was years away. Anyone wanting to speak with the doctor, day or night, simply had the operator phone “375”. At 4:00 AM a patient might call with with an utterly inane request: “Should those hot compress be wet or dry?”. Or “My goat just gave birth and preceded to eat the afterbirth. What do I do now?” Dad’s response: “I don’t know. It’s never before happened in my practice.”

With colleagues serving in the war Dad’s duties were stretched even tighter. No matter the hour he delivered babies in three separate hospitals in different towns. On an especially foggy night he crashed his car into the showroom window of an Amityville millinery store, left the vehicle and took a cab in time to deliver the child, “Doc Beats Stork!” was the headline in a local newspaper. The upstairs neighbor accused him of leaving the scene of a crime.

Pulled away yet again from the dinner table on many an evening and wagging a finger at me he said, “Think it over! Is this what you want?” Knowing that I could never lead as hectic and demanding life as his had been I vowed to someday become “a specialist”.

When my friends “George” and “Jimmy” came over (or if I went to their house) rather than knock on the door one simply called “Nickee … ” to be let in. George had a talented older brother “Bobbie” who built a primitive TV set that allowed us to see the scratchy black and white images of early TV! Before long people had their own sets. When we bought bread and cake at Bodanskys corner bakery the grandmother sat in the back room watching TV wrestling and pronounced one of them “Doity fightuh”

It befell Dad to take care of the two town drunks, Bill Wagner and David Stipp. So foul was it inside their house that he examined them outside on their front lawn. One day Uschi posed me this question: “Who would you have as a father, Winston Churchill or Bill Wagner?” With great emotion and without hesitation I uttered “Winston Churchill!” “What about Hitler versus Bill Wagner?” she asked. With equal emotion I shouted “Bill Wagner!”

Christmas Eve began with a drive to visit the Bohnes, old Frau Bohne spoke only Bomisch from her youth, and brief visit at Carmen and Alfred Mielke. They’d been helpful wheb we were getting started in Lindenhurst. Why Dad would drop off a bottle of red wine at Heling’s Funeral Home remained a mystery. After opening our presents (too many!) we sat down to enjoy the special supper–Herring Sa/at, and the many types of cookies that Sophie (and later my grandmother) baked, then set to cool on the attic floor. The front doorbell rang. A group of drunks bled everywhere before my father could hustle them off to a nearby hospital. Without a word of of protest Sophie scrubbed the waiting room walls of blood for hours until all was “well” again.

While we were on vacation she answered the phone, as if she were the lady of the house (to my mother’s great annoyance for Sophie had a far stronger accent (“lss dat yeer dogische”?). She wrote barely legible notes as to who’d called. Before the days of an answering service!

Elinor Gimbel played an increasingly important role in or lives. She and Mom (both “night owls”) talked on the phone for at least an hour after the rest us had gone to bed. Among other things she encouraged “Bridget” (as my mother now called herself professionally) to move on with her career as a designer of Christmas cards. This began with Mom creating hundreds of cards by hand (mostly at night) for Elinor. She gradually built herself up as a card designer at 5th Avenue Stores (George Jensen) then created ads in the Playbill for New York theatergoers and Kaiser Lingerie in the New York Subway system. Eventually she landed a contract with the national greeting firm Fravessi Lamont and remained with them for years, designing cards for every occasion. One year more than a million “Bridget” cards were sold nationally.

In other ways too, Elinor introduced Mom to Mark Millard and paved the way for investments on the New York Stock exchange. Not least, disgusted with the subpar Lindenhurst School system, Elinor introduced us to the Lincoln School where her sons’ Tom and Stinor were students. (She also had a son from a previous marriage, Nicholas, S. MD who later arranged my transfer from the Basel U. medical school to WSU in Detroit. In its day the Lincoln School, backed by Columbia University had excellent teachers with many graduating students going on to top Ivy League institutions.

In order to accomplish this Elinor arranged the purchase of Apt. 3D at 169 East 78th Street, a few doors down from her double brownstone home. This led to a major change in our Lindenhurst situation! We would of course keep the house with Dad maintaining his ever busy medical practice. On Monday mornings he would drive “Ush” and me to LIRR train and later on, Bridget followed. We would stay in the NYC apartment until Friday afternoons when the reverse occurred. Needless to say this was a tremendous sacrifice for Dad! But he was able to go provide his children with a better education and give Bridget a place to work from. Not least, after hours Mom regularly paid a late night visit to Elinor.

One morning having missed the Lindenhurst connection we foolishly raced alongside the LIRR train hoping to catch it at the Amityville Station. Crazy! Suddenly the car’s hood flew open forcing Dad to pull over. Forever lost was the Pontiac’s headpiece. I suspect we had to catch a follow up train for New York and were late for school.

How did Ush and I manage to sleep in the same room? A curtain separated the bedroom into two while Mom slept on the couch in the living room. In later years when Grandma (arrived from Germany) moved in with us she sometimes awakened me by opening the door and asking “Nicky. Sch/a/st Ou? She became remarkably acclimated to New York City, visited stores, etc.

When Grandma first arrived she lived with the Gievers family on Lindenhurst’s S. First Street. John had been a mechanic in Westphalia, Germany and was the logical one to teach Ush and me to drive. Backing up, I once lodged a branch in his car’s tailpipe. When my parents modernized the house they gave John and Louise (“Louischen”) the heavy furniture they’d brought from Germany. Their very intelligent daughter, Erika later did work at Yale.

Our summers in Europe sometimes included Elinor, Tom and Stinor, especially in the Engadin where we three boys and a guide climbed the steep Piz della Margna (still had snow on top!). In one of my many dumb moves I stowed a large thermos bottle into my knapsack and broke it! Back at the hotel I rolled it under my bed and forgot about is, so ESG was stuck the bill.

Everything changed in 1948. Dad maintained his busy practice while workman sawed, hammered, carried boards, etc. around him. In the afternoon Eddie, the foreman, sat at the piano and sang “Wish I’d died in the cradle”. So did we. Later we discovered that the house was built on a cache of empty whisky bottles! Sophie wrinkled her nose when Arnold Benfey, MD a Prussian pediatrician carried a watering can to from his car. In the old bathroom and its single toilet Nothing was more welcome than a new bathroom and toilet downstairs! Arnold suffered immensely in bath water long grown cold while Uschi sat on the toilet interminably waiting to finish her duty.

Other German emigrant physicians:

Paul Biel, MD: Viennese born, first lived in Wyandanch, LI, a largely black neighborhood. A music lover he somehow got workmen to carry his piano upstairs but had to sit in the hall to play! With the advent of WW II he was drafted and sent to the Pacific. It changed him. Formerly a teetotaler he returned with a debonair moustache from years in Okinawa and enjoyed a glass of scotch evenings at our place. Later he moved and remained in Babylon, NY. He also loved to swim at Gilgo Beach, LI, accompanied by Mom and myself in September, water still warm, no life guards.

A diploma in his Shaw Ave office (much to Ush’s delight) displayed a diploma citing him as “Paulum”. On April Fools day with a fake “Linhoise” accent she’d call ad ask “Is the ice frozen yet?”

After emigrating Paul had his sister Wilma (“Vilma”) and mother “Beppi” join him. Wilma was unmarried and worked in NYC for the US State Dep’t. Her English was so accented (“All Raht”) that one instantly recognized her as Austrian. Sadly, she later died of breast ca. On two occasions as her train approached Babylon the train hit Paul’s car! He was okay.

Paul Joined us during summers, too. We drove to Eastern Austria and borders with CZ and Hungary and scenic Defreggen Tai. Back In Vienna (black tie) he had dinner with my beautiful but painfully shy girl friend Camilla, flown from Norway as we listened to zither music (“Kosje Anta I”).

Arthur Hertz. MD (of course a cardiologist) was handsome with sleeked back black hair. He never married, liked to spend evening sipping whisky at Chandlers (“Schandlers”). He managed to have a NYC Police license and quietly fired an air pistol into corner of my bedroom. Years later he died suddenly. Mom had predicted this because of his build (short chest).

Bela Haydu, MD, a handsome, young dark Hungarian was the heart throb at Copaigue General Hospital (Once “Marconiville”). Mary, a pretty, young blond nurse married him.

The back of our modernized house included the “sun room” from which our meals overlooked the garden. a modernized kitchen (gone the pantry!) a living room with baby grand piano and a door behind which Dad could take care of his patients. He would emerge periodically, take a swig of (cough suppressant) Dolophine (Methadone) from the fridge and swear in German about the darling crying kid in his office, “Ihm gehort dos Arsch versohlt!” (Should have his ass whipped).

In 1948 among the mess of tearing down and rebuilding the house a sweet little Dachshund puppy–Pixie, Jolly’s daughter, ran into the street and was killed by a passing car.

In retrospect, I was curiously unmoved by her death•~the first indication of a Jack of empathy(!) characteristic of the (much later identified as covert narcissism!). Years later as Dad died I sat for few moments at his bedside, yet shed hardly a tear. What was wrong with me? As an Norwegian friend Haakon Arne Christiansen and his wife joined us for a quiet dinner I looked non-chalent and even made a joke! Me, not empathic? Similarly, at the memorial held for Dad a few days later (Elinor chided me for not wearing a black tie. I didn’t have one!). And when Mom died a few years later, granted it was expected, I didn’t cry. Rather, I took care of notifying a few people and arranged for the shipping of her cremains to a funeral home in Stuttgart. Elisabeth Kraft was typically invaluable in this.

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Years later I was shocked at being described as a narcissist, yet the psychologist was quick to add: the covert type. More dangerous than the over-the-top version. Looking back, I was given far too much in life, with no sense of responsibility or awareness of others’ needs. Just ask Jennifer who gave me endlessly, only to be ignored, abused and neglected at every turn in her life.

Everything changed after Dr.Leibu immediately ordered a MRI Brain study (done rather amateurishly, took forever at New lmaging–sitting in cold room) later to be repeated at Hackensack UMC, from where I was transported by wailing ambulance after thelst study showed something abnormal in the posterior brain! Plan was for Dr. Kaptain, (part of the fabulous Neurosurgery team at NJ Brain & Spine) to do a biopsy but the latest plan is to remove entire mass (Prostate or Melanoma years ago?) and saw off part of skull. This morning after after a largely sleepless night an apologetic “Tracy” member of Brain and Spine team announced procedure advanced 1 day (now scheduled at 5 PM tomorrow!). Oh well. Anesthesia person came in to discuss procedure (NPO after midnight!).

Why was last night so bad? Fair but forgettable dinner. Jane planted a condom catheter that came off at 11:30 PM. Need to change shirt, sheets, etc. Says she remembers me from a few nights ago. Guess all 84 yr old white men look alike. She applied a condom catheter that has lasted most of today! Of course, it may have to be replaced by a Foley during tomorrow’s procedure. Anyway. despite Erika’s attention I was awakened by utterly cheerful man (4 AM) “How’s everything on this wonderful day?” Because a roommate was complaining of swollen wrist {“Help” “Help” etc.) the cheerful man turned on some overhead lights for all of us to suffer. I’d like to have gone down to let the air out of his tires, then have him complain in what a fine day it was. Instead, tried without success to sleep rest of night (itching scalp. etc). Finally. at 6AM breakfast arrived (at least thoughts of it). A lost night! One thing I’ll say about the early morning cheerfulness is how genuine it is! Then another night NPO after midnight until 5 PM!

My days in a single room just ended with arrival of a young Chinese man (from Tenafly), seems to have had a stroke of some kind. His family chatters away in Chinese of which I understand nothing, just as well. I’m pretty quiet but regret all the noises (embarrassingly loud swearing!) of my nights.

All Rights Reserved c 2018 Nicholas V. Steiner, MD