The Waving Man

There’s this guy who waves at every passing motorist as he walks to and from his job moving boxes around at the Coralville Hy-Vee. He’s been doing it for years and age is beginning to take over the deepening creases in his face. But it doesn’t dim his smile as he waves at every car he can.

He has to cross the street to and from the store parking lot. When the light changes to green he hustles across. His work apron flaps a little. That’s the only time he doesn’t wave. After he’s safely on the other side of the street, he starts waving and smiling.

We figure he walks to and from wherever he lives. We never could figure out where home is for him. It’s hard to see how he ever makes his destination as often as he stops to wave at all of us driving by.

When we lived in the neighborhood and as I was driving to work and driving home, I would wave back—as I kept my eyes fixed on the road ahead of me.

Every once in a while, I’ll google various questions framed around the term “waving man.” I’ll find occasional news items about a waving man in some city. Nobody ever complains about the waving man and most find him to be the bright spot in the day. There’s never an explanation for this behavior, scientific or otherwise. It’s just accepted for what it is—a generous greeting, wishing you well.

When times are good, the waving man is out there. And when times are bad; when the pain and sorrow and loss are overwhelming—the waving man is there.

Go Baby Robins!

We have a robin’s nest in our back yard with 3 nestlings. I can hear Momma robin nearby, nervous about me and my camera. I’m careful not to disturb them too much, not to stay too long. I hope they make it. I hope for a lot of things like civility, peace, love, acceptance. It should be alright to hope for this one little thing extra—that baby robins grow up.

Music credit:

Midsummer Sky by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.



Shine Your Light

It has been a couple of days since my second COVID-19 vaccine shot a couple of days ago. Consistent with what is known about the side effect profile of the second jab, I had one day of the well-described generalized aches and fatigue besides the sore arm, which didn’t limit my activities. It’s working.

I want to thank the University of Iowa Health Care Support Services Building (HSSB) personnel for a kind, well-organized approach to the vaccine administration process for so many people. This was a way for HSSB to shine a light. It was also an opportunity for many to shine their lights—protecting others as well as themselves.

Dr. Patricia Winokur, MD, Executive Dean and Infectious Diseases specialist at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, deserves special mention for her superb educational video presentations on the COVID-19 vaccines. Now there’s a big light—more like a beacon.

Her father was George Winokur, MD, who was a very influential psychiatrist and a past chairman of the University of Iowa Department of Psychiatry. He had a great sense of humor and was fond of reminding trainees that we had a lot to learn. He came up with a set of 10 commandments for residents:

Winokur’s 10 Commandments

  1. Thou shalt not sleep with any UI Psychiatry Hospital patient unless it be thy spouse.
  2. Thou shalt not accept recompense for patient care in this center outside thy salary.
  3. Thou shalt be on time for conferences and meetings.
  4. Thou shalt act toward the staff attending with courtesy.
  5. Thou shalt write progress notes even if no progress has been made.
  6. Thou shalt be prompt and on time with thy letters, admissions and discharge notes.
  7. Thou shalt not moonlight without permission under threat of excommunication.
  8. Data is thy God. No graven images will be accepted in its place.
  9. Thou shalt speak thy mind.
  10. Thou shalt comport thyself with modesty, not omniscience.

I got a shout-out to the University on Match Day today. A special congratulations to the Psychiatry Department and the new incoming first year residents. I know they’re going to let their lights shine, especially if they commit Winokur’s 10 Commandments to memory.

I’m reminded of Dr. Joan Y. Reede, MD, MPH, MS, MBA, who delivered the Martin Luther King, Jr. Distinguished Lecture in January. Her light glowed. By the way, she delivered the 2018 Harvard Deans Community Service Awards to medical students whose lights shone brightly.  

I also remember my former English Literature professor at Huston-Tillotson College in Austin, Texas ages ago, Dr. Jenny Lind Porter-Scott, who carried her lantern high. I have a copy of one of her books of poetry, The Lantern of Diogenes and Other Poems. The lead poem fits the theme today:

The Lantern of Diogenes

by Jenny Lind Porter

All maturation has a root in quest.

How long thy wick has burned, Diogenes!

I see thy lantern bobbing in unrest

When others sit with babes upon their knees

Unconscious of the twilight or the storm,

Along the streets of Athens, glimmering strange,

Thine eyes upon the one thing keeps thee warm

In all this world of tempest and of change.

Along the pavestones of Florentian town

I see the shadows cower at thy flare,

In Rome and Paris; in an Oxford gown,

Men’s laughter could not shake the anxious care

Which had preserved thy lantern. May it be

That something of thy spirit burns in me!

St. Patrick’s Day Reflections: COVID-19 Vaccine 2nd Jab and More

This morning I got my 2nd COVID-19 vaccine shot at the Health Care Support Services Building (HSSB)—just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, as luck would have it. Sena got her first shot yesterday and is scheduled for her second next month. I forgot to wear green, which worried me a little while I was waiting in line when the lady ahead of me poked a lot of fun at a guide for the same sin. He pointed to something bright green on the sole of his shoe, which I didn’t inspect too closely, and which didn’t pass the lady’s inspection.

After my first shot last month, I had some swelling, soreness, redness, and itching in my left arm which didn’t limit my activities. Today, the nurse affirmed that my symptoms after the first shot were not uncommon and that I might have more symptoms after my second shot—or none at all. Like my first experience, the process was very smooth and fast.

I didn’t pay much attention to the type of vaccine I got. I felt lucky to get it. All three, Johnson and Johnson, Moderna, and Pfizer are effective. According to a recent news report, about 88% of Americans who got the first dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine completed the 2-shot series, based on a CDC study of 12 million people.

In other important news, just this past Sunday I spread crab grass preventer and fertilizer on our lawn. On Monday, I shoveled snow from our driveway. Sena assured me that the snow would not hinder the lawn treatment. In fact, things are greening up nicely for St. Patrick’s Day.

The robins have probably been around for about a week. I noticed a robin standing in the street Monday while the snow was coming down. It was mesmerized and seemed to be thinking like me, “Just my luck. Now what?” But the robin didn’t have to shovel a driveway. Luck comes and goes.

I nearly got a 29-hand playing cribbage with Sena last night. She nearly always wins. The odds of getting a 29-hand are 1 in 216,580. In my hand I had the jack of spades and 3 of the four 5 cards. All I needed was a spade 5 cut card, which I did not get. Some players think cribbage is 2/3 luck and 1/3 skill. You need both.

Me and the robin keep looking for the warmer spring sun, and any other good fortune which is coming—and not dependent just on luck.

Messages of Hope on the Terry Trueblood Trail

Spring was in the air as we took a turn around the loop of the Terry Trueblood Trail. There was something different about it since we were there in late December. The wind was not as blustery. What leaped out at us were messages of hope written on the sidewalk in brightly colored chalk. The messages said things like “This Way to Greatness,” “Enjoy That View,” “Go Go Go,” and “Stay Strong!”

Along with these written messages were other signs of hope. One of them was a beaver slapping its tail in an unfrozen section of the lake, near its lodge. Snow-white geese and gulls sat further out on the ice, heads tucked in their wings—for now gathering strength before thundering into the sky.

It has been a long year. The pandemic of coronavirus and corrosive social and political upheaval exact a heavy toll on the spirit. It’s hard to see beyond what is callous, pathetic, and catastrophic.

The walks along the Terry Trueblood Trail are often healing, even if only in a small way. It made me wonder who Terry Trueblood was. I found a description of him on the web. Among his many accomplishments, he was Iowa City’s Director of Parks and Recreation. The Iowa Park and Recreation Association unanimously renamed its highest professional award the “Slattery/Trueblood Professional Award.”

Terry Trueblood was a very dedicated professional but more than that, he was devoted to his family. He had a great sense of humor. He was compassionate and generous. He was fair, honest, and was “the definition of integrity.” He “benefited every life he touched.” There are no signs in life pointing the way to greatness. Terry Trueblood found the path anyway.

It’s easy to ignore or deplore the countless common stones we find. We need to see the rare diamonds of hope in the spring.

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