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The Longest Day

September 20, 2009 , Posted by byu at 9:30 PM

By Cynthia Groopman

The marquee on the 14 Street movie theater read The Longest Day." It was a film about the Normandy Invasion, but to me, 15-year-old Cynthia, and my family, that hot July afternoon truly was an emotionally taxing longest day.

It all started as a result of an eye doctor's checkup. My brother, Jay and I always had summer eye doctor appointments. Mine went well, thank God. Then Jay had his turn. When the doctor peered into his eyes with his awesome opthomolscope, the smile on his face became a serious pensive frown.



In a serious tone, the doctor asked my brother if he had an accident or was injured recently. Jay, frightened, replied in a soft voice that he was hit in the eye by two bullies at school with a sling shot.

"Oh," said the doctor, as if his reply was the answer to Jay's problem. "Well, Jay, you have a detached retina and need surgery."

My mother and dad who were in the examing room with Jay, and me were stunned. Surgery so suddenly, and this is terrible for a fifteen year old boy to bear just beginning high school. I began to cry and had to be escorted out of the room by my dad.

Grandmother, who was in the waiting room, was 75 years old and so devoted and attached to our family. When I told her the news she also cried and said that she should have had it instead of my brother, a young man.

Immediate arrangements were made, and on Monday morning, Jay had to report to the hospital, New York Eye and Ear Infirmary.

It was like a nightmare. When I would wake up at night, I would forget and say that it was all right and all a bad dream. We tend to forget our troubles while asleep, but when we face reality, it is a shock.

The Sunday prior to the checking in process was hectic. Jay had to be cleared for surgery and had to take tests. It was one of the saddest Sundays I have ever experienced, such a long day, with such a gloom hanging over it. There were bags to be packed, and grandmother was crying and praying.

This was the first time that my twin brother and I would be separated. We had always been inseparable. Monday morning arrived, and reality set in. Mother, grandmother and I kissed Jay so long and wished him luck as he and dad took the subway to the hospital. Dad had to check Jay in, sign papers, etc., since jay was a minor child. The house seemed lonely and empty.

At that time, surgery was always the day after you checked in. Doctors came in, and nurses prepared Jay. On Tuesday, which is a lucky day for Jewish people, Jay was given a sedative and put onto a gurney. An elderly man named Sam, who became attached to Jay and was fatherly toward him, walked with Jay to the operating room, held his hand, bid him farwell and said blessings to him.

We waited in the waiting room. The subway ride was long, and the train was hot without air conditioning. Grandmother was too distraught to be with us, so and her son, Albert, came to spend the lonely agonizing time with her at our apartment in Long Island city.

Prayers war being said by the rabbi at the local Synagogue. The clock did not seem to move, its hands were just lazily creeping across the solemn clock's doleful face. Minutes just seemed not to become hours. I was reading a book and dad and mom were just there. We were too weary to talk. The operation took five hours, a long time to be under anestesia for a young boy.

I thought of my twin, Jay, as a blessing and a gift from God. He was so kind and loving to all. He was valedictorian at junior high, played clarinet at the graduation, and we were proud of him.

I just sat, thinking of our playing together as children, sharing good times and having fun during the blissful days of childhood. Six hours went by, which seemed like eternity to 3 worried people, then the doctor appeared and said that the operation was successful.

The operation for a detached retina, to our good fortune, was much improved and modernized then from what it was previously. During the 50s and early 60s, the old method was to lay in bed, immobilized with sandbags to prevent movement and turning of the head in a dark room for weeks. But Dr. Silver, a young doctor, had learned a new method called Sclera Bucking. It was easier, and the patient would be home in 10 days, able to walk and do activities except strenuous ones.

We immediately called grandmother at home, and she was relieved. We visited Jay, and he was groggy after the operation. For ten days, mom and I would go by subway to the hospital to visit Jay, and dad would come later after work. We would have dinner out at the automat, and I had bitter-sweet thoughts. I felt happy to eat out with my parents but sorry that Jay could not partake, and that he was in the hospital.

One night we visited, and Jay's mouth was on the side. Mom and dad were silent and said nothing. When we went home by train, we took a taxi home form the station, which we rarely did. When we arrived home, dad told mom that Jay's mouth was on the side, and they were fearful that he had developed Bells Palsy. But they called the hospital and the doctor's remedy was removing the tight bandage. Jay was back to normal. Our prayers were answered.

Jay made nice friends while in the hospital: Barry, a boy of eleven, and two elderly men. They would wait for us at the elevator.

Then it was time for Jay to come home. He lost weight and had to wear a patch and shield over his eye at night. He had to have checkups. But having him home again made our hearts sing and dance again with joy. His sight was restored.

At that time, Jay decided that he wanted to become a doctor. Perhaps that was the way God had instilled in him the desire to doctor others. Now, at 61, he is a renowned pulmonary doctor and specialist in internal medicine.

As I look back upon that week and the longest day, I think of two victories that are deserving of that title. The longest day turned out to be a victory over tyranny in WWII, and for us, to restore Jay's sight and bring him home to us whole safe and sound. God's guidance during both longest days really changed the world.

--Cynthia Groopman Cynthia.Groopman@verizon.net

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