91st Birthday Talk


 7/16/11 at Arya restaurant, in Cupertino

I’m a lucky man. I have everything I need and some extras too. I have two great children (Lon & Laurie) and a great daughter-in-law, Hollis. Lon & Hollis live close to me and treat me like a retired decrepit king. Laurie does her best from afar. (That’s not the kind of afar that Southerners refer to when a fire engine zooms by.)

I have all the sweeties I need in Florence, who delights in driving me to doctors, telling me it’s time to do something, and warming my bed. She translates other people’s speech for my hearing aid and calls people to make appointments for me. She instigated this party, so if you have any complaints, tell them to me and keep her happy.

I’m lucky that I have had all the doctors I needed. Two neurosurgeons made a hole in my skull and removed a tumor inside that was trying to kill me. I needed that tumor like a hole in my head – and still have that hole to prove it. They also took out my hearing and balance parts that were in the way.

I neded another surgeon and his team to give me a heart bypass and a mechanical aortic valve that requires me to take Coumadin every day. Later I needed a radiologist who killed a prostate tumor 12 yrs ago. In the course of designing the radiation beam, an intern saw an aneurism in my right leg’s artery that was waiting to burst and kill me. They postponed the radiation until another doctor I needed inserted a stent into the artery.

I also needed some skin doctors to remove skin tumors that could have struck me down. I have had all the eye doctors I needed, for artificial lenses, glaucoma therapy, vanished retinal cells, and general clouding (which was cured painlessly in a minute by a laser beam). A painful right eye that resulted from the brain tumor removal made vision difficult for ~25 yrs; this was partially cured by a new eye doctor recently. I needed and found a $1600 enlarger that makes it possible to read newspapers and mail.

Every morning, I find all the miscellaneous pains I need. I take all the pills I need plus some that I may not need (the advertisements say I do). Every Monday I take a pill to keep my bones from breaking and tested its effectiveness by three falls in which my head needed a collision. In the first two it hit concrete but I got smarter and fell the third time on carpet-covered concrete. I must have needed a couple of dents and bent nose.

When I was young, I had all the family love and support that I needed in my parents and sister and close relatives. When I went to school, I had all the teachers and encouragement that I needed for this lengthy, arduous experience. I needed and found a terrific wife who did all the wifely things and operated our little family. All that and become a full professor in the Michigan School of Social Work. In my lab, I did enough good experiments to have a successful career that resulted in a group of drugs that show enormous potential for health. Everyone needs them.

So you see I have had all the things that I needed and continue to need. Things I didn’t need were the interferences put in my career by other scientists. There were also a couple of other problems that you don’t need to hear.

© HBR 2015