I love stories about clever solutions to thorny problems. Here are two of my favorite family stories about creative problem solving.
THE DIVORCE DILEMMA
My mother was a psychologist. In the ‘60’s, she got a call from a famous divorce lawyer in New York City. His name was Louis Nizer and he wanted her to testify in a society divorce case. He represented the wife who was suing for divorce. The problem, to put it bluntly, was that her husband only liked having sex with her shoes. Not with her.
Nizer wanted Mom to testify to the severe emotional distress the wife was suffering because she was being deprived of her “conjugal rights”. But the lawyer was worried because the judge was an old school, devout Catholic. Nizer was afraid that his argument would fall flat on this particular judge because of his religious beliefs, which didn’t include women “needing” sex.
Mom thought for a minute and suggested that Nizer change his tactics. She asked “What is the only time conservative Catholics believe that sex is appropriate?”
The answer is, to have children. Children, who will be raised as practicing Catholics. So, my mother argued, why not claim that the reason the wife needs a divorce is her husband’s practice of ejaculating into her shoes is depriving her of children. Good, Catholic children.
Nizer thanked my mother profusely. He used her argument and won the divorce case on motions. No trial and no need for my mother’s testimony. No credit for her brilliant idea either. But we know the truth!
THE MEDICAL DILEMMA
My mother’s first husband was a physician. His name was Abraham Otto but he was always called A.O. A.O., who was Jewish, had a Jewish friend who was overseas as a soldier in World War II.
A.O. received a letter from him asking for medical advice. The friend had been told he needed non-emergency surgery – a gall bladder or appendix. Something minor today but which required major surgery in the 1940’s. His friend wanted to know if he should let the field doctors do the surgery or if he should request a flight home to the states for the procedure.
A.O. felt strongly that his friend should have the surgery done in the states, but he also knew all letters were read and censored by the military. He worried if he told his friend not to trust the overseas military doctors, the letter could be confiscated and would never reach his friend at all. So, A.O. wrote a glowing letter about how wonderful the overseas army doctors were and the total faith he had in their abilities.
He signed the letter “Dr. Kim A. Hame.” “Kim a hame” in Yiddish, means “Come home!”
A.O. knew his friend spoke Yiddish. The army censors didn’t. Problem solved!