Thursday, September 18, 2014

Larger Than Life

Do you like television dramas about noble but flawed characters? What if those characters are cursed with overlarge egos and the kinds of physical or psychological scars that would banish lesser mortals from the big stage? What if they betray those closest to them but show empathy for the average Joe? Can a character be both charismatic and a windbag?

This post isn’t about Game of Thrones or House of Cards. I’m eight hours into Ken Burns’ latest documentary, The Roosevelts: An IntimateBiography, and I’m hooked. Theodore, Franklin, and Eleanor Roosevelt had a striking effect on their families, country, and the world. 

This series relies on Burns’ familiar documentary format, making use of still shots, newsreels, video, journal entries, and snippets from correspondence with voice-overs by actors and commentary from historians. (Historian George Will can’t hide his distaste for Teddy’s and FDR’s executive-power grabs.  Historian Geoffrey C. Ward describes Franklin’s battle with polio with such feeling, I Googled Ward and learned he’d contracted polio in India as ten-year-old.)

This seven-part, fourteen-hour series started Sunday and finishes up Saturday. (Saturday the 20th is a marathon showing in some markets. Start your recorders.) It follows the Roosevelts from Theodore’s birth in 1858 to Eleanor’s death in 1962. That means, of course, it covers more than a century of U.S. and world events.

I must have muttered, “I didn’t know that,” to my husband a dozen times as we watched the first four episodes.  You won’t forget Teddy’s betrayal of William Howard Taft nor the death of his son Quentin in World War I.  FDR’s maneuvering behind the scenes as Assistant Secretary of the Navy show his ambition, and the scenes of his convalescence from polio show his humanity.

Must end this post now to watch the next episode of The Roosevelts!

Watch it along with me. You won’t be disappointed.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

We Remember Them

We will never forget the events of September 11, 2001.

We Remember Them 
At the rising sun and at its going down; We remember them.
At the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter; We remember them.
At the opening of the buds and in the rebirth of spring; We remember them.
At the blueness of the skies and in the warmth of summer; We remember them.
At the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of the autumn; We remember them.
At the beginning of the year and when it ends; We remember them.
As long as we live, they too will live, for they are now a part of us as We remember them.

Sylvan Kamens and Rabbi Jack Riemer

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Walk On By

Uh oh. There's no soft place to land.
Our feet propel us out the door in the morning. (Coffee helps, too.) The same feet and legs carry us through the workday and take us on errands, a meet-up with friends, and home again. If those feet and legs fail, we don’t have pinch hitters or understudies to take their place.

My mother recently hurt her ankle and leg and has to use a walker and go to physical therapy.  She’ll recover, but simple tasks aren’t simple anymore and getting out the door involves a three-step forward, two-step back minuet.

I’m seeing my mom’s surroundings through new eyes: a staircase morphs into a mountain trail. A door that opens onto a tiny vestibule that opens to another door is a trap designed to snare the wheel of a walker. A broken sidewalk qualifies as an obstacle course.  Ever notice how many sets of steps lack handrails? Me neither, not until my mother needed a walker.

My mom’s situation is no fun, but what writer can resist stepping into another person’s shoes--and ankle compression brace? I’m learning a lot and, to my shame, realize I could have been a lot more patient in the past with people who navigated slowly due to walkers, canes, and scooters.  The nicest words I heard recently were “Take your time,” spoken by a woman who held back her kids so my mother and I could cross a parking lot entrance.

Has an injury, yours or someone else's, changed the way you view your surroundings? If so, did the change last past the recovery stage? Where do you stand on handrails: necessity or spoiler of clean design?