I think it’s a tear. Shoulda been a hook for a country song. Maybe I’ll write one. But right now, all I can do is try to conjure up some tools out of my vast Bipolar Toolbox to deal with this latest version of Sharp Stick in the Eye.
Sundays in Amerika have come to be “family day,” in the short time I have been here. I moved to this tiny community in the mountains of Western North Carolina emergently last January to help my very elderly parents, who were floundering without help. It’s a long story and I might tell it in some other post. Suffice it to say that I moved here from Jerusalem, which is, for me, a very easy place to live because everyone else there is crazy too. It’s the only place on earth that I actually feel normal.
I did live here in Western North Carolina one other time, in the late ’90’s and early 2000’s, and ended up on the psych ward twice, which had never happened before and I hope does not happen again. I have a few more tools in the toolbox now, and one of them is this blog.
Since today is supposed to be “family day,” I called the house around noon to see what was happening over there. Dad moves very slowly and is often just getting around to breakfast at noontime, so when the phone kicked over to the machine I left a long and leisurely message because it takes Dad a long time to get to the phone and he is always grateful if I wait for him to pick up by talking to the machine for a while.
When no one answered the machine, I got a bit concerned and called my mom’s cell phone.
“Hi, Honey, we’re just winding up at Dad’s birthday brunch up at School,” Mom chirped. Huh? Birthday brunch? My dad did, B”H, have his 87th birthday last week. We had all gone out for dinner.
“Oh, I have to go, there go Caramel and Krunchie and I have to thank them for coming.”
“Wait a minute,” I commanded. “How is it that there’s a party for Dad and I wasn’t invited?”
“Oh, Muppim and Tuppim organized it. They probably just didn’t think of you.”
“So why is it that you didn’t remind them that I am here and would probably appreciate being invited to my father’s birthday brunch?”
“Oh, Laurie, you know the brunches at Endland are VERY EXPENSIVE and they paid for everyone–oh, there go the Singletrees, I have to go, call you back, bye!”
She did call me back half an hour later. There, I thought when I saw her number on my phone, she’ll be contrite and tell me how sorry she is that she didn’t think of some way of including her only child who has recently given up her happy life on the other side of the world in order to help her parents, in a festive event that might have broken up the otherwise dreary isolation of this G-d-forsaken part of the Universe.
“Oh, Laurie, you know those Israeli antacid pills you gave Dad? They really work. Could you please look and see if you have some more? No rush, you can bring them over next time you come, in a day or two.” Yup. Yeah, sure. Glad to know they helped.
I groped around for something that might catch me from the fall I was in, falling, falling into the spinning dark of the rabbit hole of my illness, just wishing there was something handy to break that I wouldn’t regret later, and my eye rested upon my little dog. No, I would never think of breaking my DOG, chas v’shalom! My dog Noga is my short-stop. She stops me short when I feel like smashing every window in the room, slamming the single door so hard the glass shatters, bashing all the chairs to smithereens, stuff like that. I have never actually done anything like that, but the older I get the more I want to. Having a dog helps, because I know anything in that vein would terrify the poor little thing and I don’t want to do that. So I don’t.
Instead, I pull out the tool that goes, “think back, feel back and back till you remember the earliest time you felt like this. Where were you? What was happening then?”
The time machine zoomed me instantly into a clear glass box in a dimly lit room, soft footsteps squishing to and fro on rubber soles, and I am wide awake and aware. I am in the premie nursery, where I lived the first month of my life, alone in a box in the dark.
The exact medical details of why I ended up in the preemie nursery have never been clear. What is known is that 1) I was born by emergency Cesarian due to fetal distress; 2) I was under four pounds at birth; 3) my mother was medicated with Dexadrine prescribed by her doctor to prevent excessive weight gain, and supplemented with Maxwell House and Marlboros. She gained fifteen pounds, which all went away after the C-section, in the form of me and my accompaniments. She doesn’t know whether I was early or just small.
Soon after birth my lungs went bad. Family legend has it that the nurse took me out of the incubator and gave me a bath, and I “caught pneumonia.” More likely, I was just small and had immature lungs, as might be expected. Anyway, they stuck me back in the incubator and cranked up the oxygen. Something must have been leaky, thank G-d, because I didn’t come out of there blind like so many babies in the ’50s. Paradoxically, oxygen in high concentrations is toxic to the eyes (and the lungs).
So there I lay, in a glass box, in a dark room. No one was allowed to touch me. That’s the way it was back then. And I lay there and watched the lights go on and off, and listened to the soft nursery sounds, and sucked my thumb. The plan was that when my weight reached 5 pounds, I could go home. But things kept going the other way instead. I dropped to three pounds, and started creeping even lower. Until one day my Nana had enough of my imprisonment, and according to legend, blew into the nursery under full sail, announced that she was taking me home, and did.
My mother, who was well along in a crushing postpartum depression, suddenly hand her hands full of a wide-awake, worldly-wise munchkin who had already learned to rely on only one person: her infant self. It was a mutually unsatisfying arrangement. Still is.