Yaffe Ruden Chronicles Resuscitated
by Vera Mehta, Ed. D. August 2006
Among people who keep up with news and announcements on the Yaffe/Ruden Web site are those kind readers who enjoyed reading The Yaffe/Ruden Chronicles, a series of about 16 short pieces I wrote starting somewhere around the end of the year 2000. The last essay was April 2004. In the two years since, I’ve been asked several times why I stopped.
First of all, let me say how honored I feel by their interest and encouragement. Thank you. To answer the question, the reason they stopped is because I am very happy with my life the way it is today. When I started the Chronicles, I was not. I was stuck in the kind of hideous situation many people, especially women, find themselves trapped by when they are no longer “young” on the outside but still burning with the ferocious, undirected energy of youth and realizing there is less and less time in which to expend it.
I was in a marriage where we, the couple, were living, essentially, as strangers sharing accommodations in a boarding house. My children were grown, living away from home and, for the most part, unenthusiastic about visiting. Besides my work at the office, I had part-time teaching positions that drained more time and energy than the intellectual or financial compensation they provided in return. I had an exhausting daily commute to work from a home that had turned into the kind of suburban prison fitting every sociological stereotype ever invented.
In February 2002, my husband died suddenly of a heart attack that should never have happened. Like many men, he was vehemently opposed to the idea of preventive health care and considered medical doctors, one step removed from snake oil salesmen or voodoo practitioners. (That, by then, I had been working in a medical office for close to 16 years and could have got him in to see any specialist in the city at a moment’s notice is another of those ironies laden with the sort of psychological symbolism with which marital counselors would have a field day.) His death set in motion a series of changes that hardly caused a ripple in the world outside my head. For me, my family and friends, it was nothing short of revolution. And I mean this in the complete political sense of “overthrow of a ruler or political system”.
In the first year, following my husband’s death, I found myself struggling to understand the language of lawyers, accountants, real estate agents, moving companies, landlords, financial advisors-in short, an entire army of humans who represented the “transactional” side of conducting oneself and one’s affairs in the “real” world. I blundered through it all as best I could, with the help and support of an extraordinary support network of family and friends (among whom I count the many wonderful people I have met and worked with at Yaffe/Ruden) and somehow managed to emerge happier than I had been in my whole life.
I moved into an apartment in a section of Brooklyn that I adore. I planted a garden. I discovered the joys of walking in Prospect Park with my beloved Rottweiler, Sophie (who died 2 years ago) and, after her, my equally amazing Cocker Spaniel, Hector. I dated. I traveled. I took French, and later, Spanish lessons, and tried out my new skills in Paris, Guatemala and Mexico. I became a grandmother to the most beautiful little girl on the planet. I fell in love. I now go riding on the back of my boyfriend’s motorcycle every weekend and fantasize about having my own Harley some day. My health has never been better. I’ve never felt “sexier” in the total sense of that word. I am 58 years old.
The Chronicles provided me with an outlet for some of the “undirected energy” I referred to earlier in this piece. The energy is now better directed and I have finally come to the realization that writing and living do not have to be mutually exclusive activities. Dr. Yaffe and Dr. Ruden celebrated their 20th Anniversary as a partnership on July 14 this year. Their partnership has resulted in one of the most unusual, dynamic and interesting medical practices in New York City. This is my20th year with the practice also, and I have witnessed the immense changes it has undergone at the same time as my own life changed. As long as the doctors are still willing to indulge me, and you, the patients, are still interested in my ruminations about life, culture and health, (both physical and mental) I plan to take up this column from where I left off in April 2004.