Conversations in my mind

....and occasional leakage into print


California, USA
February 26
I had a blog on 360 (yahoo)..then moved to Multiply when they crashed and burned. Now am dabbling in Facebook. None of it is really what I want. Still working on a Bio--work in progress. Me, not the description.

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MAY 15, 2011 3:37PM

A Life (Too) Briefly Lived......Roads Not Taken

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Larry could talk to anyone. He was someone who could meet people on their own terms.  He could discuss street drugs at a base level, or chemical composition in academic terminology. The night I met him, he was making his way down the hall,  chatting with other patients, stopping when he got to the desk at the nurse’s station. 

 I was two months into  my first year in nursing school. At age 18 I already had two years of nurse’s aide experience behind me (see previous blog), and was working  evening and weekend shifts to  help support myself and my mother while I went to school. Larry  was a patient on 1-South—the orthopedic ward- down the hall from where I was working this night. 1- West was a medical ward, and the endpoint of what was an exercise lap for the patients told to “get out of bed and walk.”


I saw him there, a little over six feet tall in  a double hospital gown, one reversed to become a “bathrobe”. He stood on his left foot and a pair of crutches.  His right leg was missing.  This was not a war injury, even though it was 1969, and many of my own high school classmates were fighting and  dying in Viet Nam. 

 Larry had bone cancer.

 I was to learn that he was 19 years old, a pre-med student at Florida Presbyterian College, and a local athlete and hero of sorts. After that  evening we had a standing “date”.  I would take my break and we would walk, or  visit the cafeteria vending machines. He was learning to handle crutches, and  making mental plans for how his life would now change.  He was optimistic. He could handle it.

 In 1969 they  kept you in the hospital forever. No same day surgery and out the door. Larry was in rehab, working on his balance,  learning how to deal with  daily activities such as shaving without falling over.  A few nights later, he did not show up for our usual meeting.  I went looking for him. He was there, in his bed, back to the door, curled up and silent.  He had had a follow-up X ray that day. He was healing nicely.  For some reason they had also taken a chest film.  His cancer had spread to the lung. 

Gone was the optimism, the hope, the ready smile. They had told him  his life was over, that he would die of lung cancer, and that he should consider how he wished to spend the time he had left.

They had offered him surgery, but had left him with little hope that  even with that  he would be cured. Today it would be different. Today there are more options. But then—and in Florida—things were different, medicine was less advanced, less aggressive, and people had different choices. Larry was in no  emotional condition to choose anything at that point.  I watched him fall into a deep depression.

 Two days later I was surprised to see him crutching his way down the hall. He had not left his room in 48 hours, refusing rehab, refusing visitors.  Suddenly, he was back.  I asked him about it. He told me Eldora came down on him with a vengeance and screamed him out of the bed. Eldora Moore (this is her real name) was a no nonsense middle aged nurse’s aide on 1-South.  She told him she was tired of him feeling sorry for himself when he still had a chance to live so much of his life. He realized he could have countered anything she said—but something resonated, and  her words got him up and living again.


 During his illness, Larry was interviewed by a newspaper reporter named Bob Chick. Bob taped their interviews for two years, and chronicled  the progress of Larry’s illness. For some reason, in the article, there was a drawn picture of a nameless white nursing assistant  leaning over Larry’s bed. . But Larry told me what Eldora..a plump and motherly black lady..meant to him. He credited her with giving him back his hope and determination.  So I name her here, today.

 Larry was discharged, and we began dating for real. I wasn’t certain what I wanted in life, but  I knew it could possibly be this guy. I met his family and his friends. I watched him play timed chess in the park..and usually win. I  laughed while he and my grandfather—a left leg amputee—discussed how they would shop for shoes together and split the pair. We didn’t have a lot of time, but we spent it as well as we could, with me in school  and working.  Meanwhile, Larry was deciding  what to do in his remaining time.

He continued in school..but changed his course of study, taking photography classes. He had long discussions with his family.  He had long discussions with me. He spent time with his friends.

 He was torn, of course. Our discussions actually included the possibility of getting married and  trying to have a child.  Or not getting married and trying to have a child. He wanted that..and at the same time he wanted to  pack as much living into his life as he could. He couldn’t be tied to that  kind of commitment  and do all of the rest of the things he dreamed of doing.

In the end, we came to our senses. We were kids, and everything was immediate and emotional. But  common sense won out, and I supported him in his desire to go out and live. He and a few friends had decided to buy a van and fill it with camping and photography equipment, and just travel the US for as long as they could.  His family wanted him close—but they also wanted him to live as much as he could.  So it was decided.



Larry did not give up. He did agree to treatment, having to stop along the way in  his travels to  receive medication which invariably made him very ill just a few hours after administration.  Eventually he  went to New York for  experimental treatment, but he seemed to know time was running out.

We lost touch. I don’t know the final details. I really only  know what I read in the articles Bob Chick  published after Larry’s death on May 15, 1971. He was 21 years old.  Today marks the 40th anniversary of his passing.  I have even lost the first article of the five published. I am trying to find them in  the archives of the  St. Petersburg Evening Independent.  Bob’s articles were published the following September. I am grateful for them. They fill in a lot of gaps. 

 For today, I just want to pay tribute to a life cut much too short, and a memory of a road never taken.

RIP, Larry  S. Newman.  1950-1971.


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Hated to post this on a Sunday--not exactly good news..but the date is the date, so here it is.
Oh satori..:(
I wish people could understand that life is short.. In case it was way too short.
Lately I have been considering the "what ifs"..and how very different my life would have turned out had we decided differently--or even if he had somehow lived.
Your life would have been very different indeed. Some people live a long lifetime and are never remembered this well. His life was short but very meaningful. And it seems he taught more than a few life-lessons.
You have no idea. But then, I guess nothing ever happens that is not meant to. I keep telling myself that....
No it should be posted on good news Sunday if only to remind us to live and live well for you just never know...He sounds like he was an incredible young man.
@LL2..he was. He was one of those people who touch your life forever. As you can see.
Very good point, M!
Great, moving story...
This story might seem sad on the face of it, but there were a lot of heroes involved. Eldora, Larry himself, and especially you. I have never heard a more poignant love story.

This seemed like a good remembrance, Sunday or no Sunday. Some stories just show up when they need to be told...
@ Patrick..thank you for coming by!
@ Lezlie..thank you for that..and in fact, there were so many more heros..Larry's family, his best friend since first grade Jerry Thompson, Bob who wrote the articles with such compassion and love...many more.
@Takingadvice..thanks so much for coming by to read it!
Hi RJ. That is usually how I respond to YOUR posts! ☺
But there is good news in here, Satori - love and a zest for life. Wonderful tribute. Hope you find the missing article.
Hi Cuss. I've contacted the newspaper. No response yet. I've also tried to locate Bob Chick. He retired, and I think he's in Tampa now. Thanks for coming by!
Wonderful story, I'm glad you shared it no matter the day.
Life seems so unfair sometimes when the world looses people so young. Thanks for sharing. Hugs.
Too short a time knowing him..... lifelong effects. Lucky you to have had him in your life.
Lucky him to have had you in his.
If only we could all live like this . . . instead we tend to think we have all the time in the world to get to whatever it is we think we need to get to. Thank you for sharing Larry with us.
@Bleue..Thank you!!
@JMT..Thanks for reading!
@Chrissie..much too short. Thank you!
@LC..I guess that is our nature. We should not live in fear of dying. But some people fear living. Maybe we all do at some time in our lives, but Larry filled a lifetime.