By Harriet P. Gross
I think we’re fortunate as Jews to have both secular and religious times for making resolutions: Jan. 1 and our High Holy Days. But human nature tends to take over quickly, and well-meaning promises, even to oneself, are often broken almost as soon as they’re made.
Still, some vows are important enough for the hard work that carries them to completion. Cases in point: Two women in our midst have resolved in the past and achieved in the present, and today seems a proper time to salute them for their very personal accomplishments.
The first is Nancy Reuben Greenfield, who has written a meaningful book. The second is Denise Shade, who has become a life master in the game of bridge.
Well, many people have written books and there are many bridge life masters. What’s different about these two women, and their accomplishments, is the specificity of their resolves, and the hard drive (some pun intended) required to achieve their goals.
Greenfield has always written, one way or another. She’s contributed much online to “My Jewish Learning” and published a small, earlier volume for children, “When Mommy Had a Mastectomy,” based on personal experience.
But the book she always promised herself she’d write in that elusive “someday” remained to be completed. Until now. Finally out in print is Nancy’s new full-length book for adults, “The Golden Medina: The Land of Opportunity … Or Is It?”
This book actually has two authors: Nancy and her father, the late Edwin Jerome Reuben. In its introduction, Nancy writes, “It was over a Sunday morning bagel breakfast that my father announced he was going to write a book. I was 13 at the time and offered to be his editor. It has been almost four decades since that day. The last time I saw my father, I was 27 years old, and I promised him on his deathbed that I would finish the book … ”
During the many years since, Nancy worked sporadically with the manuscript he left her, which has “changed, yet remained the same,” she says today. “My father was inspired to create a diamond in the rough that I was privileged to cut and polish. I did the best I could to maintain its integrity. I will always consider it his book that I transformed into a novel.”
The book’s cover announces that it has two authors, “Reuben and Reuben.”
The story is of 11-year-old chess prodigy Marvin Grodsky, who comes to “the Golden Medina” only to learn that, in America, he “ … must juggle theory and reality to make tough choices in the chess game of life, in order to survive … ”
Nancy credits the ease of today’s technology and the acceptance of self-publishing in helping her fulfill her long-ago promise to her father. And the computer is also what helped make it possible for Denise Shade to realize her personal dream and promise to herself.
Denise had been playing casual bridge locally for a long time when she began partnering long-distance with an old friend who also loves the game. She and Glorya Spero of Highland Park, Ill., went to high school together in Chicago a long time ago, then re-met years later when both their daughters were attending the University of Texas at Austin.
Those girls are in their mid-40s today, and the sons of both Denise and Glorya are doctors who practice together at a suburban Chicago hospital. Why not keep the connections going through their favorite pastime? Practicing online, the women set an ambitious goal for themselves: “Some time around our 68th birthdays, we vowed to get our life master status by age 70,” Denise says.
To do so would involve taking the game seriously and playing hard in tournaments of various levels sanctioned by the American Contract Bridge League, which evaluates players’ achievements as they earn the 300 winners’ points necessary for its coveted life master designation.
The two would often be at their computers at 7 a.m. for long-distance practice, then later would meet to play together in person at ACBL’s live sectional, regional and national games. They made their way to — and made their marks in — many places including Houston; Oklahoma City; Tulsa, Okla.; Palm Springs, Calif.; and finally Lake Geneva, Wis., where they both went over the top this past April, beating their target dates by three months: Glorya turned 70 on July 11, and Denise followed on July 20.
A special Shanah Tovah to these two local achievers who are starting our New Year with past resolutions fulfilled.