Tuesday, August 19, 2008


My Birthday Twin died during the last couple of weeks.   Over a period of years we became quite close to his family at various times and when I became aware of greater details of his life from his son's writings, it made a great impression on me and Iwanted to share it with other similar-thinking folk ....

> My Dad died on Friday evening, aged 91.  I just say here a little about
> him.  I loved him.  He was warm, sincere and optimistic.  There was joy in his
> greeting and generosity in his manner.  People said with feeling that, in
> his zestful presence, their world seemed better. Women, in particular, loved him. 
  He was courteous, dapper and unassuming.
> He appreciated beauty and could find it in an ageing face.  His eyes
> twinkled with a benign naughtiness that could source a laugh from everyday
> things.  And he always remembered important occasions and made an effort
> to celebrate them.  When aged 78, he married my stepmother on Waikiki Beach, Hawaii,
> just before sunset.  He promised her ten years.  They had thirteen years
> and were very good for (and to) one another.  I am grateful for our
> blended family.  He was a dreamer.  I'm sure he dreamed of being skilled at sport, dancing,
> food preparation - and he did courses in these things - but he lacked
> quite the deftness to excel at sport or the practical use of his hands (or
> feet).  His skills lay with ideas, his use of words and his desire and
> striving to include others in his world.  He was ever interested in current affairs and the activities of those he loved. 
  He wrote good letters and could speak well.  His strong sense of duty led to his working hard and ever striving to do
> the right thing.  He was decisive and kept things orderly (Oh where did
> THAT gene go!?).  Just occasionally, too much focus on detail affected his
> overall performance.  He had a low tolerance of frustration but, after one or two thunderclaps,
> the storm would quickly pass.  He was deeply Australian.  Through humour, a sense of fairness, and desire
> to work for communal good he would echo Henry Lawson's words: "... and I
> love the great land where the waratah grows, and the wattle-bough blooms
> on the hill".   He entered hospital on 1 August, breathless and weak with heart and
> kidneys failing.  Through his fitful speech, he talked of ordinary
> things - and the future.  He remained forward-looking and eager for a
> laugh and to know what was happening in the lives of those close to him.
> Determined to be independent, he would struggle to the toilet and shower
> himself despite desperate gasps.  I left him about 7 pm on Friday when he wanted to watch the television
> news.  He said he'd like to doze before viewing the
> Olympic opening ceremony.  He never awoke.  Dad always said he had a lucky life.  Perhaps then it was fitting that he
> died on 8/8/2008

Harry Greenberg
Phone: (03) 9525 0496
Emall: boba.zayda@optusnet.com.au
Blog site: zaydasrandomreflections.blogspot.com

Monday, August 11, 2008

Cousin Bert The Spirited Self-Sufficient Survivor

One of my wife`s favourite cousins was Bert  Rostkier - a bright handsome guy with a direct dazzling smile and pleasing personality - a little older than her.....he had immigrated from Poland, arriving here about 1936. H e was special to her because the 2 families shared the same house in two separate apartments. and they grew up like sister and brother until Marge`s family arrived her in 1934. In Australia he lived with Marge`s family in Brighton while becoming acclimatised and learning the language etc. before going to the country working with Uncle Sam, Marge`s family who had a clothing and drapery store at Nhill at that time.
A part of his work then consisted of hawking - initially walking ther country roads, getting lifts from farmers where possible to whom he would sell direct and take orders, carrying his tightly-packed suitcases full of sheets, pillow-cases, mens` and womens`clothing and then in time, travelling and delivering stock by car.
World War 2 broke out and Bert was accepted as a volunteer for the Australian Army after successfully cheating them about his age, but  on the way to Europe where he thought he was going the ship was diverted to Singapore where he soon became a prisoner of the Japanese in early 1942 - just a few weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbour..then spending three and a half years in the hell-hole known as Changi Gaol and partly on the incredibly infamous Burma Railway including months digging the horrible Hell-Fire Pass.
During these harrowing shocking times, not only did he work on the railway but he also attended the numerous needs of  mates worse off than him as they became  extremely under-nourished and ill with malaria, typhoid fever, and terrible tropical diseases - volunteering every spare moment to nurse them thus placing his own health at risk......
Talking of tropical diseases, I`ll never ever forget when, on the first night of his return to Melbourne, sitting around our family dinner table, I asked Bert what illnesses he had suffered and he replied "Ulcers, malaria etc and VD. When he said "VD" the rest of us all looked at him first - then at each other, and those on either side of him moving slightly away........and he continued
" Everyone in the gaol had it!.........." When I enquired "How did you get VD in gaol - there were no women prisoners were there ?" He flashed a big grin saying "Vitamin Deficiency!" Like most returned soldiers he had a real reluctance to share his horror stories - in those days soldiers were not fortunate to receive debriefing and counselling assistance as thry do today...
If fact his extremely distressing experiences had a strong significant impact on his later life - both the years in Malaya and the malicious murder of his mother, sister and other families by the Nazis made him a very strict uncompromising person, but underneath the tough severe exterior there hid the manifestation of a marshmallow - much appreciated by his children and grand children,( his great gandchildren were too young).
When I think of Bert, I`m reminded of Seneca ( 4BC - AD 65) and his statement - "The most inspiring state in the world is to see a man struggling against advertisity"          Cousin Bert certainly did......
                        `till next time, in about 7 - 10 days

Friday, August 1, 2008


I was quite surprised recently when telling someone I`d been receiving  treatment for bladder cancer for sometime and their reaction to the word "Cancer!....UGH!", and, as it appeared to be spreading, the need for immediate radio therapy which was planned to end on Tuesday 22 July - after which it could take anything from 2 -3 days to a period of 6 weeks to be directly re assessed..............
Having a few medicos in my family, with my son, older daughter and younger daughter having graduated also 2 of whom having married medicos - when my granddaughter medico presented me with my great grandchild Number 10 about 6 months ago I thought it might be a little unusual if the baby didn`t become a doctor as the baby's grandparents are well-respected eminent doctors.     
When my son Peter`s first grandchild was born I became aware of my age as I wished  him "Happy 65th!" I also thought it a most opportune time to ask him if he had his time over again would he have become a doctor? He never hesitated for a second saying "Yes Dad"....when we were living in Horsham we had a little Australian Terrier called Cobber and our beloved Boba once asked Peter to cut some brains for his dinner...he took one long hard look and replied "I can`t" whereupon Marge asked  "How do you thingkyou will be a doctor?" Peter promptly replied " I suppose by then when I
have to I`ll be able.
A little while later on Tuesday the 21 July while waiting at the William Buckland Centre at the Alfred Hospital being questioned by a happy-looking smiling pretty little nurse called Emma with a Scottish accent so b r o a d she was extremely difficult to understand for some reason or other I thought of a very well known Scottish comedian by the name of Harry Lauder) (later knighted by King George).
When I was a tiny toddler my father was a keen amateur stage performer who used to quote Sir Harry Lauder, in a pitiful voice singing "Oh, I am so downhearted - paid a penny and only farted !" (This was of course in the days one had to pay for the privilege of using public sanitary conveniences.  I thought it amazing that a lovely young lass in her early twenties had heard of Sir Harry who was a world-famous stage star over 80 years earlier...... .
Well, today is Saturday 18th July - cold, windy & showery outside - close personal members of my personal family have now left me in hospital leaving me with another story just dredged up from my random reflections...one family member who will not be named because of a fierce insistence on privacy which I never have or will ever understand was at a recent friend`s funeral and this family member was made aware of the fact that the words of that well-known Jewish song & dance
"Hava -nagillah"had been introduced to him  (a staunch Catholic ) by that family member when he was a little child and he knew at last from whence it came and for some reason or other why it had stayed with him and benefited him in some way ...I really regret my not being allowed to divulge any more information.
One of the doctors manning the 24/7 palliative care hospital popped in for a little chat about my plans on completion of my  radio therapy in a few days - suggestion it could take anything from 2 -3 days until possibly 6 weeks for the success of the treatment to be determined, even suggesting I might like to do newspaper crosswords!
I then realised how much I`d been blessed in my long-lasting life never having been bored.....I take a great delight in my random reflections by which I can keep closely in touch with grandchildren and great-grandchildren all over the world. Firstly, since early marriage at 22 and the needs of a small rapidly-growing family leaving little "spare" time and being fortunate to have the pleasure and ability to gather the satisfactory words together with which to express my thoughts - these random reflections.......
Harry Greenberg
Phone: (03) 9525 0496
Emall: boba.zayda@optusnet.com.au
Blog site: zaydasrandomreflections.blogspot.com