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A Piece of My Mind
November 5, 2003

Galileo's Grapes

Author Affiliations

A Piece of My Mind Section Editor: Roxanne K. Young, Associate Editor.

JAMA. 2003;290(17):2235-2236. doi:10.1001/jama.290.17.2235

The sun, with all those planets revolving around it . . . can still ripen a bunch of grapes as if it had nothing else in the universe to do .—Galileo Galilei

Not one given to visions, I still feel as if I actually saw them, there on the deck as I swam at the old Fitzsimons Army Hospital pool in Colorado. They were young men, their bodies pale, translucent, and incomplete. Each had part of an arm or a leg missing or had some other wound inconsistent with the perfection of the rest of the body. They were World War II GIs recuperating in the 1940s from battle injuries, as so many veterans at Fitzsimons had before the base was recently decommissioned. Most of them sat on a long wooden bench, silently gazing at the water's reflection. A few moved clumsily for short distances along the deck, some embarrassed by their awkwardness, others visibly frustrated. As I swam I wondered what it had been like for them to be there and what had happened to them after they left. I felt very sorry about what had happened to them in war and deeply grateful for what they had done for me, unborn, so long ago. Then, they were gone, at least from sight.

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