Who knew Monday’s outing with mum and the finale of Downton Abbey would be little blips compared to what Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday had planned for me?

On Monday night (home from a perfect Delawarean teatime) I buckled down to study CT scans, barium swallows, sonography, and even what an X ray of an egg looks like.

On Tuesday my mind was a swirl of shades of gray. I felt uneasy all morning. Doom was on the horizon. I knew it. The quiz was at 4 pm. By noon I was a nervous wreck. All I could think about was a nightmare I’d had – which isn’t worth getting into, but it was awful. At 2 pm I got a call from Mom during a lecture. Grandmom had passed away. Suddenly I felt better – as if an enormous tension was released. (weird response, I know). I left lecture, told my professor what had happened, and was allowed postpone the quiz to Wednesday morning.

My grandmother and I were close. I think she was psychic, at least concerning my love life. (When YC came to visit I made sure he met her. Poor YC didn’t realize I was actually introducing him to my fortune teller…) Anyway, everyone grieves differently. I found comfort on the internet. Here’s the facebook post I wrote Tuesday night:

My grandmom (Lillian) passed away today. She was 97, and died in her sleep in her own home. I usually think of her as an old woman – more adult than I could ever be. Lately, though, I’ve imagined the Lillians I never met: a little sister, a teenager living in the depression, a girl scout at camp, a newlywed wife, a kindergarten teacher, a mom raising 4 children in West Philly during the 60’s, a mother-in-law to my father before he was a father, a widow after decades of marriage… and all the other Lillians who are packaged and preserved in family stories and photos. I like to think that, if she were my age, we would have been close friends. Then I remember that we WERE close friends. Anyway, Lillian, I’m really going to miss you.

Wednesday morning I answered 25 questions about how to look at the body. Then I took a subway to a bus to a train to a car to my home in Delaware. Alan (my brother) flew in from Saint Louis that afternoon. Dad got home in the evening. We ordered pizza, and ate dinner together as a family, which hadn’t happened since 2011.

Thursday morning we piled into the Plotzker car to drive to Philadelphia for the funeral. We arrived at the funeral home by 10. My aunts and uncles were there. A few cousins came, and family friends. The service started at 11; it was 20 minutes of sweet nostalgia – resurrecting my grandparents’ marriage, comparing Grandmom to the sabbath bride, praising the success of her children who are her ultimate legacy. After the service, a caravan of us drove to the cemetery. I put a shovel of dirt on her casket alongside my mother’s pile of dirt. She’s buried next to my granddad, Morton. It was bittersweet to see them together again.

We went back to her house. I helped set up the food. People trickled in and out to offer condolences. It almost felt like Thanksgiving. Eventually I reverted to my childhood tendency of snooping around the second floor while the adults ate and talked in the living room. I found a shoebox of photos on Grandmom’s desk. The pictures were disordered. They spanned 1905 to 2000.  Here’s one of her when she was 25 – about a year before she got married.

photo (7)

(Apparently, it was my grandfather’s favorite photo of her. She was cute, huh?)

The sun started to set. I had to go back to New York. Dad drove me to 30th street station, and I boarded the bus at 6. Last night I tried to watch a tutorial on the liver when I got home, but inevitably ended up watching an old episode of Downton Abbey – the one where a Turkish diplomat seduces lady Mary and then dies in her bed.

As for Freedom, which I haven’t mentioned yet…. My roommates and I invented a holiday called Freedom Day. It’s today. On Freedom Day you can free yourself from whatever you want. We’d scheduled a party to celebrate. Initially it seemed wrong to have a party so close to my grandmother’s death. But, I decided seeing friends would be good for me, and also an opportunity for me to celebrate her life by telling my friends her stories. Once someone told me that telling stories about the deceased sets them free. I like to think that’s true.


Tea Report:

February 19, 2013

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It’s been 48 hours of radiology straight. ish. I reviewed the chest, and part of the abdomen. Also, my room is tidier than it’s been in a while. Coincidence?

I’m taking a brief study break to go to Delaware to have tea with my mother. We are celebrating 1) Valentines Day and 2) the season finale of Downton Abbey. Keep in mind, this is not some peasantry affair; no Starbucks or that nonsense. We’ll be in a proper tea room. There will be tea sandwiches, followed by scones and cream, and then a multi-tered tray of little pastries, all underscored with a pot of tea for each of us. I hope they have Russian Caravan . The first time we went to tea I was ten. It was at the Hotel DuPont, and I think I wore a dress with ruffles (probably half against my will). I put 10 teaspoons of sugar into my cup, and then fell asleep at the table. Since then, Mom and I have gotten older, the tea less sweetened for me each year, I’ve managed to stay awake every time, and I’m old enough to not wear ruffles if I don’t want to. A few years ago our favorite place closed, so now we have to drive 30 minutes to Glasgow, Delaware for the next best tea room in the state.  Worth it.

Between now and teatime I’ll ride a subway to a bus, then a train, and then watching more tutorials about abdominal radiology tonight. It’s been over 2 years since I’ve had a proper medical school quiz (or a proper teatime). By Tuesday Downton Abbey will be finished for the season, I’ll have taken my quiz, and maybe my thirst for tea will finally be quenched.

Next stop: Wilmington.


A month, categorically

February 15, 2013

It’s been four weeks since I’ve written. A lot has happened, and there’s a lot about to happen, and frankly the idea of blogging everything is a little daunting. But – lucky for you, my beautiful reader – I just drank a stiff cup of coffee. Plus it’s Friday and I don’t feel like studying. You know what that means: a really long blog post. 

Lately I’ve learned to be systematic about things. In radiology (my current rotation) we look at every image in the same order, as if we were visually reciting the alphabet of the body. Now, with a month’s worth of material to cover in one post, it seems appropriate to write things methodically. Let’s go by topic, shall we?

HEALTH: Not much to report. Air is coming into and out of my lungs. Blood into and out of my heart. No fevers, weight loss, rashes, or broken bones. I got new glasses that are too expensive. I tell myself it’s better than not having the option to see the world crisp and clear. That said, to all my nearsighted homeboys & ladyfriends, sometimes the world looks amazing when it’s fuzzy. Am I right?

OCCUPATION: Med School. I’m still in it. 3.5 more months to graduation. When we last left off I was writing a paper about cholera in the industrial revolution for my history of medicine class. That’s done now. If anyone wants to get a drink and chat about the controversies between Chadwick’s sanitation policies vs. the ideologies of Virchow and Farr, I am so down for that. Besides writing last month, there was a moment (week) when I wasn’t sure if I [c/sh/w]ould be a doctor. I talked to my mom & dad for a few hours… By “mom & dad” I mean them, my roommates, Tonya, Liz, Jess, Krystal, Alex, Naz, Nick, Aileen, Claire, Suzi, Joanie and probably a few other people who generously listened.  Thanks to everyone. Anyhow, in the end I ranked my residency programs, and certified my list. It looks like I’m going to be a doctor… or at least give it a real shot. We find out where on March 15th. STAY TUNED. Other things that have occupied my time include having a fantastic birthday party, and realizing what it means to be 30. (I.e. an adult, but not old yet).

EDUCATION: Did you know there are actually 2000 Shades of Gray? Luckily radiologists have narrowed it down to 4 – air, fat, soft tissue and bone. What else is there, really? Last week we learned how to read chest X-rays. This week we’re studying the abdomen, a bit of neurological imaging, and some musculoskeletal pathology. Combine that with my two online classes about 1) clinical research, and 2) How Doctors Think, and I’m actually kinda busy… Outside of school, I’m learning about Buddhist views of fearlessness (yay ID Project!). Finally, on my birthday I reflected on what I learned from my twenties. Here are a few things I figured out.

1) How to be happy by myself 
2) How to meditate regularly 
3) How to tell when I’ve had enough to drink for one night. 
4) How to not take things personally. 

It took me a decade, but that’s not bad. Hopefully chest X-rays won’t take as long, since I have a quiz next Tuesday.

RELATIONSHIPS: (The good stuff) Valentines Day was yesterday. I didn’t get to say “I love you” to everyone I love. I definitely tried. There are a lot of you out there. I might as well take this categorical opportunity to mention that I’m dating someone.  Now I know I need a little over 6 months before I’m willing to admit to having a boyfriend on the internet. In the interest of anonymity we’ll call him YC. I don’t want to disclose too much. Even for a blog, this stuff is kind of personal. I’ll just say: he likes science a lot, his sense of humor is dark, and he lives in Australia… What’s a hemisphere or a fifteen hour time difference matter when there’s Skype? And Viber? and What’s App? and Gchat? Well. It matters a little. I’m going to visit YC in April. Twenty-six hours on a plane to go on a date with this guy. (Worth it). Other relationship stuff: Shout out to my new friend Amanda, who I met on Craigslist. Also, shout out to Jonthon, who I met in Burma when he lived in Indonesia and I lived in Hanoi — now we’re taking on New York City together. Finally, a very warm welcome to new Brooklynite (and my fellow Luce Scholar) – Chris Magoon! Can’t wait to see you in the neighborhood!

I think that about covers all the bases for now. Did I leave anything out? If yes, feel free to leave comments or questions. I ought to get back to radiology. If anyone is curious how to interpret a sonogram of a kidney, I’ll get back to you in a week. (Study interruptions welcome — text/email/phone calls/hand written letters/visitors. Thanks in advance)