We got married in Rome (Italy, not Georgia).  Went there in February, 2009, before the season.  I had been there before in February when the weather was lovely.  This year it was colder than normal.  Didn’t matter.  We rented a Vespa and toured around for two days like teenagers, one with bad hat hair (that would be me;  Glenn has no hair).

We visited the American embassy and many Italian government offices.  We were prepared to be married there.  The officials were surprised at how good our paperwork was.  We started the process, as necessary, by taking two friends to the Italian embassy in Chicago to swear that we were not married to others.  Chicago was the closest presence Italy had to St. Louis in the United States.  It was a fine but cold day, and when we were done swearing at Italians we went to the Obama’s favorite restaurant there for lunch.

It is interesting to do things in another country which are not the habits of tourists.  Sit in waiting rooms, try to talk to bureaucrats.  You get a different feeling for a place.  Already Rome divides itself between the ancients and the Renaissance in terms of art and architecture.  For a morning you can hover around the year 72 on our calendar, and then in the afternoon revel in the enlightenment of the Renaissance, around the year 1500.  Or, if you intend to do something significant in Rome, you can visit solid stone buildings with renovated interiors that look like the 1960s.

Our planning went well.  We found a venue for the wedding, an ancient Roman relic of a building which was used just for such things, and booked it for an hour on a Friday.  It was a shame that we were just two, with no families;  it looked like a storybook.  Translation was a huge expense throughout the whole process, from Chicago to the actual wedding.  The Italians wanted us to know what we were doing, and we wanted to know what they were doing.  It made sense.  The charming girl who checked us into our room at the hotel served as our translator and therefore was part of our ceremony.

By Wednesday of that week, we were ready.  Of course, early in that week, we sandwiched tourist visits between bureaucratic visits.  Wednesday and Thursday could be just tourist fun.  It was on Wednesday that we went to the Palazzo del Popolo, to see the almost twin churches, and the great Caravaggio painting “The Conversion of St. Paul“.

the conversion

It is a breathtaking Baroque style painting where Caravaggio appeals to what is human in us, as Saul, the Roman soldier falls from his horse, his breath knocked out of him.  It is as if Caravaggio is saying to us, “this is the power of conversion; it is like being flat on your back wondering if you will get your breath back or not”.

detail conversionCaravaggio used known street people for his models and created quirky compositions like this one, which in large part features a horse’s huge be-hind.

twin churchesAbove are the almost twin churches.  They are not exact twins because of a space problem.  The basis of design of one is a circle; the other, an oval.  Someone, somewhere screwed up.

It is here at the Palazzo del Popolo that we begin to discuss healthcare.  On Wednesday of our wedding week, we came to visit.  Not a long walk from the hotel.  We had bought stuff for our kids, we were laden.  Glenn saw an Egyptian guy renting out Segways to tourists.


He HAD to do this.  The Egyptian guy quizzed him until he was convinced that Glenn could handle the machine.  Then he was off.  Across the plaza, I viewed him through my camera, taking pictures.  Suddenly, Glenn was flying, landing flat on his back on the bricks.  He caused a scene.

By the time I got there from my picture taking distance, heavy with gifts, two women had already called an ambulance.  An Israeli father and son, both docs, came to look.  The father asked Glenn, on the ground, where he was.  He replied very precisely, “Palazzo del Popolo, Rome, Italy”.  The he asked him to squeeze his right hand and then his left.  Glenn could do that.

He was loaded into the ambulance, I followed in a cab.  We went to a nearby hospital in a Renaissance building.  I began to worry about insurance cards, fumbling through Glenn’s wallet.

Glenn was seen immediately.  Sticking out like a sore thumb,  I noticed the setting around me.  Filled with middle class people, the setting was not like emergency rooms here.  One woman in a wheel chair spoke English.   Do all use this facility?  Some of the very rich might not, they might pay to go somewhere else.

The hospital was just fine.  It had a drab interior again from the 1960s, and an exterior from 1500.  Glenn had an x-ray, and all examinations necessary to determine that he would hurt for our wedding, but not permanently.  We left with a prescription. He had had a shot and felt better.

There was no business office in the hospital.  We did not pay for this care, no one does.


5 thoughts on “HEALTHCARE

  1. Should you and Glenn wish to re-affirm your vows, Brad is a Justice of the Peace and I am an MD – both professions covered. Oh, and we love Vespas too!

    Medical care – a right in almost every other country.

    I do enjoy your blogs and admit feel more like a voyeur than a participant.

  2. This is wonderfully written. Danny and I could use a vow renewal as well since we had no attendees at our wedding either. We thought about rome but it was too pricey for me 🙂

    The painting of the soldier fallen from the horse is striking to me. Every time I’ve fallen my horse has come up VERY worried – like the horse seen in the painting.

    I have a lot to say about this healthcare mess, but I’m sure you already know the gist of my thoughts.

    Beautifully written piece, mom!

  3. thanks brady and tracy, for reading and commenting. every set of eyeballs is a gift, and a comment is a treasure! ok, i can see this vow renewal now: brad and tracy on vespas, lee and glenn in a WWII jeep, and brady and danny on horses. vows renewed, the parade starts!

  4. As someone who has spent an enormous amount of money for healthcare in recent years I am always saddened that other countries seem to get this so right when we get it so wrong. I have friends who were being treated for cancer at the same time I was in European countries and Australia. They were left with absolutely no debt and they are all doing just fine. Somehow we equate socialized healthcare with the poor and with poor care. And that simply is not the case.

  5. nikki: i watched a hospital being built in st louis county, mo., in 09. incredibly elegant, all pink marble throughout. all private rooms with built in furniture, accessories and beds provided for within each room for family members. teak wood. why? why? why do the buildings all have to be marble? there ought to be a law!!

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