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CASTEDO'S TWITS. OBITUARIES

When someone died at the age I am now, I used to say, well, lived long enough. Now I say, so young! What happened!!
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CASTEDO'S TWITS. FOOD IN SUITCASES

When I fly somewhere where I can cook I carry food. Tractors and grand pianos are carried in airplanes, why not some onions and potatoes?
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REJECTED PARENTS

Many parents who have been rejected by their grown children ask, “I can’t understand why I have so much pain in my life.” The answer? It's because they are too close to the issue to see it with perspective. Most rejected parents are the victims of a trend that started in the 1960s  Read More 
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CASTEDO'S TWITS. HEADACHES

Whenever I get a headache I say better a headache than to be limbless, blind, deaf and dumb (that especially, if you know me).

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2,500 Refugees in a Cargo Boat

70 years ago, after fleeing from Franco's wrath, concentration and detention camps in France, and the invading Nazis, my parents and I, departed from Europe in an old, leaky cargo boat originally outfitted for a crew of 12 to 16, bursting at the seams with almost 2,500 Spanish refugees like us. My father had war wounds and had lost the sight of one eye. The boat was called The Winnipeg. The rescue operation was arranged by Pablo Neruda.  Read More 
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BLOOD, DEATH AND A MIRACLE IN MADRID

I was at home in Boston when I got a call from a doctor in Madrid who said he had put my mother in an ambulance. Blood was pouring from her mouth. He didn't think she would arrive in the Hospital  alive. My husband and I got on the first plane, via New York, and arrived in Madrid the next morning. She was full of tubes and a mask, still alive. The tests showed she had last stage bacterial pneumonia. Her lungs were a mess, and her stomach kept filling up with blood. She said goodbye to us feebly and told me to call her friends and do the same. She gave me instructions about where her jewels were (they were all gone, courtesy of household help). Our youngest son, his wife and toddler arrived soon after, the others had their suitcases ready, but I told them to wait until I evaluated the situation.
My sister, who lives in South America, was of the view that it was time for our mother "to go." After all, she was 94. The two doctors at the hospital predicted she'd last maybe at most a week, two with luck. My first cousin, an orthopedist, said there was little hope. He said she might last a couple of weeks if movement would cause her to vomit the blood in her stomach, which otherwise would rot.
My mother refused to budge. She kept saying, let me die in peace. In a previous crisis she had said the same thing, and was later very glad she had made it, so I ignored her. As a child of war, later a refugee, an exile and an immigrant, I believe in action to survive. My favorite book as a youngster was Twain's "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court," (read in Spanish translation). I moved into her room armed with an electric juicer and an electric masher. I slept in a small sofa.
After changing her diapers, I would remove her from her bed and dragged her, (not easy, as she weighed more than I do). She kept vomiting blood in the glass I held in front of her mouth. She fought me all the way, telling me off. The hospital staff was shocked, some visitors to the hospital appalled. My husband kept saying, "you must face the fact that your mother is dying." "Not yet," I repeated. Once the blood was out, I spoon-fed her water and apple juice, opening her mouth forcefully when she clenched it. Down they went with the antibiotics. The hospital served her regular meals; thick pieces of fish, beef or chicken, grilled veggies, potatoes or pasta, and a fruit. How was she going to eat that? She wasn't even able to sip with a straw. I ate it. It was delicious. The next day I started spoon-feeding her applesauce and mashed bananas. Her colossal diarrhea, black from blood, improved a bit. Next, she started on small, mashed portions of the hospital food. For myself I got my meals from the Hospital's cafeteria and ate in her room.
After a few days, the hospital said there's nothing they could do for her, put her in an ambulance and sent her home. On the way, my mother said, weakly, "They don't want another death statistic in their hospital, so they're sending me to die at home." Her brain was still working. Indeed, triage made her bed needed for someone with a chance of survival. "You still have a sense of humor," I said, trying to act cheerful. We continued the regimen of blended food; rice, potatoes, applesauce, yogurt, bananas, mashed chicken soup, some cooked fruit, and gallons of liquids. She still resisted the daily, forced, dragging walks. I would ask, "are you animal or vegetable?" "Mineral," she retorted. After a week she was throwing up much less blood. The diarrhea stopped two weeks later. She was increasingly more alert, making slow but steady progress. I added more foods carefully.  Five weeks later she wouldn't even spit blood.
Two months after that call from the doctor who said she wouldn't make it alive to the hospital, she was eating normally; walking around her apartment on her own; going, accompanied, to the park; telling stories, singing songs, laughing and glad to be alive. "I love life," she said to anyone willing to listen. The day before I left, we went in a taxi to her favorite downtown restaurant. A month later, she went with my sister to a resort, where she swam in a spring warm water lake. Several years later she's still with us. Everyone said it was a miracle. I said, helped by that good old, obnoxious, stubborn Yankee spirit as described by Mark Twain.
 

 

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THE TRAVELER SLIPPED ON A BANANA PEAL

Have three hours at Logan airport, six hours of upcoming flight to Paris, look for a plug everywhere to work on my computer, spend an hour trying many, none have juice. I see a man sitting with his computer plugged, one socket free. Ah, finally. Are you plugged

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MOVING TO EUROPE OR TO THE JUNGLE?

From Paris. Given the scrawny dollar and the robust European prices, moving to Europe now is like moving to the jungle. I arrive in Europe, where we have been living one semester a year lately, plus taking many short trips, with suitcases half full with rice, nuts, raisins, oatmeal, beans, toothpaste, Vaseline…  Read More 
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TAXI DRIVERS AND CELL PHONES

For a chicken like me it’s not easy to deal with taxi drivers–-usually young--who chat on their cell phones while driving with one hand, obviously not totally focused on getting me to my destination as fast and safely as possible. They  Read More 
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On Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD

Spaniards in general see themselves as nervous, physically active, excitable people, with a heightened capacity to feel emotions, great joy, great compassion, great indignation, great admiration, great sorrow and so on. Spanish has a term for those who lack this passion, “sangre de orchata,” having bland orchata juice in their veins instead of blood.
My father’s side of the family embraced with gusto their hyperactivity, creativity, athletic abilities and histrionics. From an early age, I took this as a way to be that was neither an asset nor a handicap. I was fidgety, energetic, zestful, impatient, enthusiastic, easily distracted, had a hard time focusing, but did intensely when something fascinated me. What really frustrated me was my total geographical-spatial disorientation, which caused me to get lost all the time, though eventually I always managed to get where I needed to be. My mother told me constantly to “calm down,” and her mother complained, “she’s a clown like her father,” but most teachers accepted me as I was, and gave me enough positive feedback to make me want to excel academically and to be accepted socially.
I was determined to listen in class and to lectures outside of school that interested me. I sat with a pencil and pad, focused on the teacher’s words, determined to follow to the end. Within five minutes, my mind was wondering elsewhere for the duration. I went all through school, and on to a Harvard PhD without once having been able to listen to a single lecture.
It greatly surprised me, therefore, by a flurry of publications and media reports during the 1970s in the U.S. that described me, and many extremely accomplished people I knew, as suffering from “a disorder” that had to be medicated. In my estimation, this view got down right hysterical in the 80s, and was established as gospel truth in the 90s. In my experience, private schools and those in affluent neighborhoods have been particularly prone to label some of their students as sufferers from this “disorder,” causing their parents to send them to doctors who suggest medication.
No doubt there are children who are too hyperactive and are aggressive, and need treatment, and scores of psychologists are going an excellent job treating them. But many children I know, who are like me, can perfectly well manage, unless they are told they have some sort of medical or psychological “disorder” that has to be medicated, which causes them to feel they are handicapped. It’s even worse when allowances are made for them due to their “condition.”
Since my arrival in the US, many decades ago, I have seen medical fads come and go. Among them are “thyroid dysfunction;” when there was none; “Recovered Memory Syndrome;” unnecessary bypass operations, hysterectomies and Cesareans. Some of these fads go away, come back and go away again, some disappear.
I suppose the excesses regarding ADHD shall pass too, I hope without having done too much damage to children who are simply full of zip, restless and creative and need to, one, be accepted as they are, and two, get the same limits and demands that are imposed on everyone else.
For interesting views on this subject see, Tara Parker-Pope “Can attention deficit be framed as a gift?” The Global Edition of The New York Times, Thursday, November 27, 2008.
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