NOT DINING WITH THE
18 June 2002
I may have mentioned that Dr. G....I'd say suffers from, but I suspect he enjoys
it...let's say "is affected by" ADHD. His brain operates in several different
dimensions at once. He knows everything about everything, and if he doesn't, just give him
five minutes and he'll have mastered it. In addition to being a physician who belongs to
most of the professional committees and organizations around, a gardener who seems to have
an inexhaustible supply of roses, a sports buff who does an hour of vigorous exercise on
his lunch hour, should he take one, and plays team tennis at night, a father with kids
ranging in age from 30 to 6, an author with a book in progress, and probably a bazillion
other things I have yet to discover, he also built a house with his own hands on a year
sabbatical and, I learned today, was the first bearded physician in the operating rooms of
Stanford Hospital. Among other things.
I don't know if the man ever sleeps. And it's been a real education trying to keep all
those balls he's juggling in the air when he passes them over to me. I think I've come to
a kind of simpatico with him and know what I need to worry about and what I can let go for
I've often wondered what it must be like to be married to someone who operates on full
tilt all the time.
Today, I discovered that his wife, Birdie, is just as hyperactive, only with a bit more
emphasis on the active.
This is a lovely woman, with a big caring heart who has taken it upon herself to
attempt to bring national attention to the plight of the Bennett children, about whom I wrote a couple of days ago. Briefly, the
three children are dying of a somewhat rare condition known as Sanfillipo syndrome. Cost
of treatment for the two who still have hope of improving (it's too late for the 6 yr old)
will run over $1 million, which the family obviously does not have. And so Birdie and some
of her friends have organized a committee to attempt to raise funds for the children, by
attracting the attention of the national media in the hope of finding an "angel"
Last week she asked if I would help with publicity, and I agreed.
I wasn't quite prepared for the whirling dervish that burst into the office this
afternoon, papers flying everywhere, the copy machine set to to cranking out press
releases, lists, phone numbers. Ideas all seemed to be continuously flying out of
her head like electrical current.
The plan was that we were going to have a pre-meeting at the office and then meet her
committee at a restaurant downtown. I didn't go home in between the end of work and the
beginning of the pre-meeting because they kind of ran together. Dr. G has the flu and is
moving slowly, for a change, and moaning a lot, so the day kind of ran a little long. He
was slinking out the door as she was bouncing in. The work day ended and the committee
She was probably on such a high because she'd talked with a director at Good
Morning, America who is very much interested in doing the story and she was all jazzed
about that. Rightfully so.
We went over all the materials with a fine tooth comb, honing the press release and the
fact sheet, dividing up the list (who will call Montel? Who will call Oprah? Who will call
Katie?) and then it was time to race off to meet the rest of the committee.
The meeting place was a lovely European restaurant, with a lovely outdoor courtyard,
next door to the typing service where I began my return to work umpty-ump years ago. So
many memories of all the jocks whose term papers we helped to write, the pre-med students
we helped get into medical school, all the papers about the !Kung and Trobriand tribes,
and the personal triumphs and tragedies that we all went through in that little brick
building. Nice memories.
Birdie was seated at the table when I arrived. As it turned out, only one other
committee member was there, a delightful woman who quit being a lobbyist when her child
was born, but who had tons of ideas on the government side of this issue (since their
insurance company has denied their plea for medical coverage for the procedure).
Like the Energizer Bunny, Birdie was still going and going and going and I marveled at
what it must be like in a house with two of them at such a fevered pitch all the
When the waiter handed us our menus, the other women indicated that they'd already
eaten (it was 7:30, after all) and just wanted wine. I ordered sparkling water and
sat there till 9 p.m. wondering if I was ever going to get anything to eat.
The ideas were flying fast and furious, with Birdie and her friend talking a mile a
minute and I was monitoring my inner self and realizing that while I cared what happened
to these kids, I just couldn't get myself worked up into the state necessary to do an
effective job. Maybe I've just come to an inner peace--or inner stalemate--about causes
like this, finally. I remember when I was Birdie, flying here and there
doing 1,000 things at once. To some it may seem that I'm still doing that, but I'm really
not. There's a whole new person inside here. Maybe I've changed my energizer batteries for
a cheaper brand. Or maybe after nearly 60 years, all batteries start to wear out.
Oh, I'll do my assigned tasks (I agreed to call Katie and Barbara and Oprah) and I'll
be happy when Diane Sawyer airs her piece on the kids and I really hope they are able to
find the proper funding, but I was not sorry when the waiter brought our check and I could
beat a hasty retreat home to get a bit of yogurt for dinner.
Sometimes I just feel there are so many good causes and so little money. No sooner had
I come home than I read Throcky's
link to this site, another
child in desperate need of funds nobody has enough of.
I guess Birdie has the right idea after all. The secret is just to keep going and going