June 2017 Reunion
We had planned to have a reunion in October 2015 in Palo Alto but Yus took a bad fall and I had a pinched nerve and could not walk. We canceled. In mid-2016, Yus, Dave, Sam, and I began talking about setting another reunion date. I traveled to Pittsburgh in December and spent five days with Yus and Nancy, had dinner with Sam and Hannah, and attended a Sunday morning book club discussion of a new graphic novel. Yus and I talked a lot about a possible reunion in Palo Alto in the spring.
Those discussions continued after I returned home but became more than talk when Yus’s son Bruce volunteered to go with Yus and Sam on the trip to help his Dad negotiate the walking in airports and around my home. Had Bruce not decided to join his Dad, the reunion would not have occurred.
And that brings me to another AK reunion of octogenarians taking place in Palo Alto in June 2017.
And what a four days and nights it was! The time we were together consisted of long conversations around meals at home and in restaurants (my daughter Janice joined us one evening), taking walks in the neighborhood and at a nearby park, sitting on the patio sunning ourselves as we conversed and in the living room in one-on-one discussions about family, friends, politics, and life in general as AKers. Bruce, the youngest of all of us, walked with us and joined in these discussions. Once a day, Yus, Sam , and I would use my phone to do FaceTime with Dave in LA to see one another and talk.
Talk about losses from both age and disease in what we can physically do—one of us is on a walker, another has a pacemaker, another uses a cane—and dealing with the emotions accompanying such losses wove in and out of our conversations. Sometimes the talk veered into the bits of wisdom we had accrued over the decades. And, of course, there were the inevitable health reports. The latter, however, was minimal.
Yes, there were nostalgic moments about our Jewish youth group and that club’s enormous influence on our lives—nicely supplemented by photos and articles that Sam had brought. We looked at photos of Victory members in the late-1950s and saw those who had died, asked about what happened to so-and-so (usually answered by Sam who has an encyclopedic memory of the Pittsburgh Jewish community over the past three generations). The closeness that we felt with one another and the openness in conversing about family, friends, end of life issues, and what is important to each of us in our daily lives is what I mean by intimate friendships.
Intimate friendships, such as ours, are secondary to family ties. While family bonds often trump close pals, the glory of friendship is that it is not chosen for us as blood lines are; we choose who we want to be close to year after year. And the four of us, two in Pittsburgh and two on the west coast, have remained together out of a group of about a dozen since our early teens. We are grateful to one another for the continuing friendship. I, especially so, for what I learned from my friends about life and living it fully.
This is that story as I remember it. These are the people I have learned from for nearly three-quarters of a century. What an education!*
*For Joel “Yus” Merenstein.
Joel H. Merenstein, MD is Emeritus Fellowship Director for the University of Pittsburgh Faculty Development Fellowship Program. Dr. Merenstein does consults with residents, fellows and faculty on an as needed schedule.
Dr. Merenstein is the founding Chief of the Division of Family Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and is presently Clinical Professor in the School of Medicine and the Graduate School of Public Health. He has published reports on “Educating Residents for the Future” and was recognized by the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine as the recipient of the 1994 Excellence in Education Award and the 2012 Marian Bishop Award honoring individuals who have significantly enhanced the academic credibility of family medicine by a sustained, long-term commitment of family medicine in the academic setting. In addition to over 50 published articles, he has recently co-authored a book, The Human Side of Medicine.
Dr. Merenstein is married, has four children, six grandsons and two granddaughters. He maintained a clinical practice in the same community for over 42 years.
Dr. Joel H. Merenstein, on Friday, Sept. 27, 2019. Beloved husband of Nancy (Weintraub) Merenstein. Caring father of Gary Merenstein, Bruce Merenstein (Karen Strand), Danny Merenstein (Traci Reisner) and Beth Merenstein. Brother of Sherree (Marc) Drezner, the late Hershey (late Zelda) Merenstein and the late Dr. Jerry (Bonnie) Merenstein. Brother-in-law of Reva (Stanley) Horn. Loving Zaydie of Alex, Carter, Zachary, Simon, Jordan, Levi, Maya and Caleb. Also survived by many loving nieces and nephews.