Saturday, June 16, 2007

A Few Words About My Dad

Ben Sokolec, Spring 1980

At a French coffee shop for breakfast during a recent trip to New York, Steve and I sat across from a father and his ten year old son. Dad ate his omelet while working his Blackberry. The boy concentrated on his laptop game while he nibbled a slice of toast. Neither spoke. The check came, the father paid and they left. The boy held the laptop open, still working the keys as they climbed into the car.

For many years, my Dad, Ben Sokolec, sold wholesale meat to local butcher shops and spent more time than he cared to at the stockyards. His days began at five in the morning, by two his workday ended, then he’d play a round of golf and by the time I got home from school, he’d be napping on the sofa, listening to the radio. I’d nestle alongside him in what I remember as a safety zone. We didn’t say much, but the connection was there. He’d ask about my day, my friends. Mostly we’d just listen to an afternoon baseball game or the Jack Benny show. Then I’d do my homework, we’d have dinner, maybe take a walk. With television came the Friday night fights and Milton Berle.

Dads are supposed to hold expectations for the child, encourage high grades in school, success in business, excellence in sports. My Dad didn’t emphasize those goals, probably because he didn’t have much ambition himself. He preferred to focus on honesty and integrity, telling the truth and not using foul language. He was a tall, thin man who rarely, if ever, lost his temper or judged others harshly. Ben played silly games with his grandchildren, imitating puppies, stretching his arm, stealing a nose. He had a twinkle and the kind of humor that made listeners groan. If he had any lost dreams, he never shared them with me.

Ben was a man of few words:
How to play golf. “Keep your eye on the ball, your head down and follow through.”
How to drive a car. “Drive.” We were parked in an empty parking lot.
How to get a date. “Tell the boy he’s handsome, smart and strong.
How to dance. “I’ll lead, you follow.”

My Dad died sixteen years ago, a victim of Alzheimer’s Disease. He disappeared from our lives over ten years, vanishing into a quiet, desperate end.

Every spring, when the weather warms up, I think about pulling out my clubs and playing a round of golf, to feel close to him again. I wonder if, years from now, that little boy will feel the same way about a Blackberry.

Thursday, June 14, 2007


Want a little magic in your life? Try Reiki (pronounced ray-key). Until last week, I knew very little about this healing system, other than it existed. Then my sister, Sandy Wallman, attended a workshop and came back raving about the experience. I had to try it for myself and am very glad I did.

Reiki emerged from the Tibetan culture more than 2500 years ago. This ancient healing technique was discovered by Dr. Mikao Usui at the end of the nineteenth century and has been passed down to many Reiki Masters, one of whom is Bernadette Doran, who lives in Chicago and offers workshops and trainings in her home. In just a few hours, she transformed me from a skeptic to an enthusiast.

But what is it? A physical, mental, spiritual and emotional healing system that channels energy, bringing with it balance and harmony. Every living thing, including plants and animals, contains its own personal energy. Once a person is attuned by a Reiki Master, the energy flow from the cosmos increases and can be used to heal herself and others in a gentle, natural and surprisingly simple way.

Okay, okay. I know this sounds hokey. But I’ve been giving myself and others in the family treatments for nearly two weeks, and while I’ve absolutely no apparent control over any of it, something is definitely occuring. My sleep has improved, my energy level increased, my cataract has cleared a bit. When I hold my hands two inches apart, I can feel the heat. I’m more relaxed, less frantic.

And then there’s my dog, Emma, with arthritic shoulders who takes forever to walk across the street. When I gave her a treatment, she snuggled up closer, rolled over on her back, licked me profusely, then followed me around for the rest of the day. Since then, she sits at my feet with a soulful look until I hold her limbs.

The other night, I babysat with Zoe, my four year old granddaughter. After her bath and story, she was wired. When I asked if she’d like a Reiki treatment she said sure, even though she’d no idea what I was talking about. Zoe stretched out on her back and closed her eyes as instructed. After I placed my hands on her head, the child took a huge breath and went limp. Ten minutes later she said, “Night, grandma,” gave me a kiss and went to sleep.

I’m something of a workshop junkie, having taken a slew of programs: Pathways, Fully Embodied Woman, Woman’s Circle, Journey into the Creative Soul. I’ve co-created and facilitated Moon Lodge for Moms. All these experiences have been magical in many ways.

But Reiki really is magic.