Life’s surprises PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 09 December 2011 15:14
Complete control
is a myth
Complete control is a myth

Tema GouseTema GouseNo one told me that my dreams and aspirations were just that – dreams and aspirations.  Once I was old enough to think I could fulfill those goals, I was too immature to realize that nature and possibilities interfere with probability.

I was 8 when some biddy of a schoolteacher realized that I could not read her writing on the blackboard because I could not see well. She sent a letter home to my parents to tell them that I needed glasses. That was the first of many diagnoses I have received in my very long lifetime.  It was the ultimate insult to a vain, indulged little girl.

But I got the glasses, glasses that I wore and broke on a regular basis. When there was no one around to reprimand me, I would often take them off; it wasn’t until I matured that I stopped resisting their necessity. I realized that I could see more clearly with them than without them. If a boy were attracted to me he would not reject me because I wore glasses.

I married a man who is also myopic. We worried that our offspring would be nearsighted, and of course they are. And then we worried that, with such a strong genetic strain, our grandchildren would be afflicted and of course they are. (God bless the inventor of contact lenses.)

I was the third of three children in my family. My brother took piano lessons because he was the oldest, and my sister took piano lessons because she planned a career in music. By the time I was old enough for lessons, my parents were tired of fighting with them to practice; they decided that two musicians in the family were enough. I yelled and complained; ironically, I was the only one truly interested in learning to play piano. It was one of the few battles that I, as the much-indulged youngest child, did not win. In my retirement, more than 50 years later, I bought a piano and took lessons and practiced. (Carnegie Hall has yet to reserve a date for my concert there.)

Members of the Pomrenze family (that truly is my maiden name) have a long history of gastrointestinal disorders. I did not inherit my father’s intelligence or my mother’s kind manner, but I acquired their predispositions to all forms of gastric disorders. It has kept my life interesting: I love all the foods that “are not good for you.”  (And my cooking skills are at their best when the dish I prepare is tasty and unhealthy.) At the risk of being prematurely optimistic, my offspring seem able to consume rich and spicy food without major disorders.

Besides the aforementioned piano lesson quandary, music has always been an important component in my life. As a teenager, I could jitterbug with the best. Readers who are younger than 40 might ask their parents what jitterbugging is. In my teens, I was also exposed to classical music and find it brings me joy to this day. So like most mothers who want to enrich their children’s lives, I exposed mine to the records of opera and symphony. (It really was for my own pleasure, but I naively thought it would rub off on them. It did not. One son took clarinet lessons briefly; the other was too preoccupied with watching sports on TV.)

During grammar school and high school, I was sure that my future lay in being one of Chicago’s best teachers. But then, you could teach only if you were a graduate of Chicago Teachers College. With the Great Depression still underway and Chicago Teachers College the only tuition-free college in the area, 6,000 applicants were tested. Only 110 were accepted into the school – and I was not one of them.

I went instead to a “regular” university and the rest is history. It is a long story to tell, but I was blessed to enter another profession, one that proved far more satisfying than teaching.

There is an old Yiddish saying – “Mon tracht und Got lacht,” “Man thinks and God laughs.” I used to think that if I wanted something deeply enough, I could always get it or accomplish it. One of the virtues of advanced aging is acknowledging that we are not in complete control of what evolves in our lives.

Tema Gouse, a retired social worker, lives in Cranston. Contact her at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


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