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Coming to terms with my father


A wonderful life
Sherwin Nuland Surgeon
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[Q] It seems sort of redundant to ask you this, doesn't it, because you've touched on it, but so you're 80, and you just think well, what… you know, what kind of a life have I had? What do you say to that?

I've had a wonderful life. I've got four of the best young people… well, two of them are middle-aged now, the other two, Sarah's two, are… one's 29, the other's 26. I've got this great foursome of kids. I can't begin to describe my pure luck in discovering the woman I spent the last 36 years with. Just imagine walking into an examining room and seeing some kid of 26, when I'm in my mid-forties, and just because she looks at the Hippocratic Oath and says, that's not a very good translation, we end up being married for 33 years.

I've not had a boring moment, or even close to a boring moment, in 36 years. We've travelled all over this… well, I shouldn't say all over. Asia, many times to Asia. Many times to Europe, three times to Israel. I mean, we've been… you know, we've been in all these places, we have interesting friends in a lot of places, and this community of friends, not just from the synagogue, but elsewhere. My community of friends from Yale, my community of friends who live in New Haven. And it's been a life without an endpoint, in the sense that each of us feels… I'm sure of it. I'm sure I speak for her when I say this, that we've both got a lot of growing to do, that there's not going to be an end to our growing, except with death. The one thing that is of great concern to me is she is 17 years younger than I, and will probably have to go a long time in widowhood, unless she marries again. You know, my experience with people who marry again is that the people who've had the best first marriage, when a spouse dies, they're the most likely ones to get married again. So maybe she will. She's such a fascinating woman, between her acting and the other various things, and her directing and other things she does, she would be fascinating to any man with any sense. But, you know, while I'm alive, she still tells me, I could never marry another man. Well, who knows?


Sherwin Nuland (1930-2014) was an American surgeon and author who taught bioethics, the history of medicine, and medicine at the Yale University School of Medicine. He wrote the book How We Die which made The New York Times bestseller list and won the National Book Award. He also wrote about his own painful coming of age as a son of immigrants in Lost in America: A Journey with My Father. He used to write for The New Yorker, The New York Times, Time, and the New York Review of Books.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is a London-based television producer and director who has made a number of documentary films for BBC TV, Channel 4 and PBS.

Tags: Asia, Europe, Israel

Duration: 2 minutes, 58 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2011

Date story went live: 04 November 2011