Wittmann Family Christmas Letters

Christmas 2002 (e)

Merry Christmas 2002

We wrote our last Christmas letter two years ago. Last year, we were needed a bit of peace because we were so worn out by our 2001 activities; building our new house on Casey Key and moving for a second time in a short period and trying to escape back into surgery.

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Heidi made an attempt to write our Christmas letter in spring 2002. It was, however, never mailed and so we filed its German version on our website

.The skies are gray on this first Sunday of Advent in Florida, reminding us of the contemplative days of advent in the north - in Hamburg and also in Brookfield. First of all we would like to whish all our friends merry holidays and happy new Year and good and peaceful days in the now already 3rd year of this millennium. May you remain healthy and may all your small and big whishes be fulfilled

On May 29, just before their move to Sarasota, Meike Eleanor was born, a healthy and meanwhile merry girl. The house where Mark lives with his four pretty girls only 20 minutes away is beautiful, spacious, practical, and has a pool, and a garden with lots of palms and orange trees. Lisa amiably steers the young family well, which does not hold her back form additionally working part time as pediatrician. Often the whole family comes to visit us, particularly because the small girls love to swim in our spa and to play with various present dollhouses in our attic.

The first issue worth mentioning is about Mark's family. He finished his training in summer 2000 at Johns Hopkins and, after a smooth transition, now gently guides his mainly cardiac patients through their surgical procedures at Sarasota Memorial Hospital.

We were happily involved in their search for a new house, in their move from Baltimore to Sarasota and in helping to organize their small problems particularly because Lisa was due for her 3rd child right then.

Annemarei is about to complete her residence at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. She continues to be cheerful and satisfied and may decide to stay in academia for life. For the time being she will stay for another year at the University of Virginia as a fellow. Since this summer she lives with John in a country house, that supposedly is small with a beautiful garden where Anna grows flowers and vegetables. John is intressted in music and philosophy and utilized his exceptional knowledge of digital interactions in a law publishing company. Both appear to be very happy. They have visited us twice this year. We plan to go there for Anna's 30th birthday in January.

Now to us: The decisive, our life in Florida determining event of the past two years was intense building our new house. It required more energy and struggle than we originally had planned and than we were ready to give. Pronto, the result is a beautiful house on the picturesque island Casey Key with a tropical garden and a panoramic view on the Gulf of Mexico in the west and southwest, and the Intracoastal Waterway in the east and northeast. Initially we were carried away with excitement and published photos of each building step on our website to inform friends who were intressted in the progress. Half a year later the desire to report progress faded away and was asphyxiated in the struggles and distress that is obviously comes along with constructing any house. It is only these days that we refocus on our website for update. We apologize to many of you, who were wondering about our website. We promise change.

We were about to obtain the occupancy permit for mid October. When we were all but ready to move in, the railing company informed us, that they could not mount the railing before December or even January. It was ordered in June! Without railing, no permit - and - we needed many feet of railing. So what to do? That was the question. The Internet - was the answer. Dietmar searched the web and found a company in Georgia that delivered the railing within two days. With Mark's help he then mounted the railing within a week and we got the permit without any major queries. The last adventure could begin: Moving from our Venice house and the storage place in the Gulf Winds Way dwelling, By the way the process is not completed yet. For example, all books are in the shelves in our library all right but not totally sorted and the OK look hides the chaos.

Heidi had to endure quite a bit of the post moving sweat, because Dietmar left to go back to the Marshfield Clinic. He had promised to return to Marshfield earlier that year when he tried to escape from Florida to do something he knows better than building houses. He had taken a locum tenants job and the Marshfield surgeons tried hard to keep him on a permanent basis.

Heidi had to endure quite a bit of the post moving sweat, because Dietmar left to go back to the Marshfield Clinic. He had promised to return to Marshfield earlier that year when he tried to escape from Florida to do something he knows better than building houses. He had taken a locum tenants job and the Marshfield surgeons tried hard to keep him on a permanent basis.

In spite of our intensive course in house building some time was left over for traveling. In May and April of 2001 we spent some time with old friend in Europe and in Hamburg where Dietmar had scheduled lectures about surgical infections. Later in September we traveled with our dear friends Pat and Charlie Aprahamian to South Tyrol in northern Italy to attend Ursula Käseborn's weeding with Martin. Ursula, an old classmate of Mark studied Medicine in Hamburg and Wisconsin and became a friend. We then visited the real Venice in Italy, relatives in Graz, Austria, went to Vienna, and to post cold war Dresden and Berlin. It was impressive to witness the reconstruction of communist negligence.

Dietmar enjoyed tremendously his come back to surgery, working with residents, operating, taking care of patients and running the ICU; in short doing all those things that he liked to do and he knows better than building houses or living in retirement. Yes - after a fulfilled professional life it is not that easy to be a retiree. Making sense of retirement must be learned. It is quite a task particularly when you loved your profession. Heidi had mastered the "retire from your profession" situation with composure because she had experienced withdrawal from her beloved profession much earlier when we left Hamburg. Just two weeks ago she attended a reunion in of one of her classes that she lead to graduation. She proudly noted that all her pupils are working in sound jobs and seems to be happy with their lives.

In May 2002 we traveled for the first time to Madrid and Toledo to attend the first joint meeting of the American and European Surgical Infection Societies where Dietmar had two presentations with his Marshfield Residents. Madrid and Toledo impressed us with their bright architectural beauty and profound cultural tradition. After Spain, we went to Hamburg to meet old friends and family and then were happy to return to our beloved island Casey Key.

Last but not least we have to include the distressing events of 9/11 in our reflections on the last two years. In the lobby of his hotel in Karachi a fellow American told to Dietmar upon his return from a lecture in Hyderabad that something bad was going on with the World Trade Center. Dietmar rushed to his room and there he saw the unimaginable steering of the second airplane into the World Trade Center and the subsequent collapse of those huge buildings with the entrapped human beings. It appeared like a bad dream and was nevertheless reality happening directly in front of our eyes. This mass killing is on the same level as Killing in the Warsaw Ghetto and Treblinka by so convincingly described Marcel Reich-Ranicki in his memoirs.

The green Christmas tree, a symbol of piece and hope is decorated with lights that should open our hearts. We would like to share with you that tree as it shone during last year's Christmas in our new house. We hope that it will gather our family every Christmas for many years to come.

Dietmar was scheduled to deliver a lecture at the famous Agha Khan University right next morning. As a first reaction to 9/11, he did not want to go and teach Moslems who at first he emotionally perceived as being responsible - but then changed his mind, of course. The next morning, the Dean personally showed up to demonstrate solidarity and warm sympathy and to condemn the 9/11 events in the name of the civilized world and to show that 9/11 was not only an American tragedy but also a grief for the entire Moslem world. It was an intense atmosphere and Dietmar saw himself, in his first part of his presentation, acting as a messenger of the free world addressing politically oriented words of solidarity in the fight of all humans against inhumanity. It must have been a success, because never before did he feel himself so much at home in the Moslem world as during the impressively vivid open end discussion after his lecture.

After that diabolic acts cruel mercilessness let us hope that George Bush and his elected advisors and helpers and responsible politicians abroad may have a lucky hand guide human being to humanity.

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