There’s something in my eye

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.

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12 Comments

  1. Peter Baum

     /  October 31, 2011

    My therapist had an ingenious idea for me when I was in the depths of despair and self flagellation. As the child who could do no right and was to blame for everything, I grew up in a very unsafe and lonely world. With no safe harbor in the form of an adult to protect me, the frightened child has remained within me, trapped. My therapist said that, I, the adult Peter, had to be the grown up to protect the child still living inside, and perhaps be the impartial guardian as well. As I have a 40 minute commute each way, each day, I ran with the idea, and relived the life of the child me, 40 minutes at a time, with the adult me in attendance, to comment on whether I or the world around me , had been in or out of line, or merely clueless. I still work on this, years later, whenever those feelings pop up, or some bad memory re-appears. The only draw back is not being able to actually wield a 2×4 at some of those people.

    Reply
    • Peter, that is BRILLIANT! I have the trick of being my own adult/parents, and can therefore process these silly situations where NO ONE seems to be “the grownup.” But re-running your whole life, with yourself as a really truly parent? I love it. Am I getting this right, though? Is this what you meant?

      Reply
  2. Peter Baum

     /  October 31, 2011

    BTW, I know how you feel about your not being told about your dad’s party. Not to play “can you top this”, but, in my mother’s last months, my sister invited our entire family to her home for a sort of farewell dinner. Our family being rather small and clustered around New York, everybody came. I only found out about it just before she died.

    Reply
    • I’m so sorry that happened to you. Peter, this just blows all my circuits. Even my perverse imagination boggles at that one. All I can think of is hideous streams of curse words that you already know, and that I am trying to “swear off.” Ouch.

      Reply
  3. D'Alta

     /  October 31, 2011

    Stating the obvious, it’s so hard to grow up without an adult to protect and show one the way. Years and years ago my mother told me that even as a baby I never cried…

    I’m sorry that you weren’t invited to your father’s birthday brunch. Enland has been such a significant part of your family’s life. Who knows what … lingers in the minds of moms… My mind wants to run through the how dare they, why didn’t they, what were they…but it doesn’t really matter because in your mother’s mind, it made sense.

    And, Peter, I’m sorry that you weren’t invited to your mother’s farewell dinner. Even with the death bed in the room–or maybe it’s especially with the death bed in the room, family still can’t let go of whatever it is that divides them.

    Laura, thank G-d for your Nana. When you moved to Israel, you were Nana, rescuing and taking yourself to a safer place. Along with your blog, where else is your safe place now?

    Reply
  4. Dorothy, that’s interesting that you never cried…did you know that it was useless, wouldn’t get you what you needed anyway?

    My safe place is and will always be Jerusalem. Jerusalem is more than a cartographic speck on the globe. Jerusalem is the access point in this universe to the Divine. It’s a lot easier to be there physically, but it’s still right there, and I can feel it from anywhere. You can too.

    Reply
    • D'Alta

       /  November 1, 2011

      I didn’t know that I didn’t cry. I can only guess that something inside me said that crying was pointless. What I do know and remember is that when I was older I would only cry when showering or “soaking” in the bathtub where no one would see or hear me.

      What joy to experience more than moments of the Divine and then to bring those moments into the present wherever we are…

      Reply
      • Rabbi Shlomo Eliyashiv, who lived and wrote around the turn of the 20th century, wrote an essay called “The Diminishment of the Moon,” which was a commentary on a midrash (traditional rabbinic story/commentary) on the doings of the Fourth Day of Creation (Genesis 1:16), where two luminaries were made, a big one to dominate the day and a smaller one to dominate the night.

        Reply
        • I started to write this comment on my Galaxy Tab and my fingers rebelled, so I will finish it here. So R’Eliyashiv (known from now on by his acronym, the Leshem, after his classic work “Leshem Shevo v’Achlamah”) explains, the midrash says that the two luminaries were created equal in size on the Fourth Day. But the moon said, “How can two jewels sit side by side in the Heavenly Crown?” So the Creator said, “Then diminish yourself.” And that is the Kabbalistic root story IN OUR TIME of why women have traditionally occupied a “lesser” social position relative to men. My revered teacher Sarah Yehudit Schneider has written a wonderful book covering this and other related texts, “Kabbalistic Writings on the Nature of Masculine and Feminine.” Highly recommended for anyone who wishes to understand these issues from INSIDE. No previous Kabbalistic knowledge needed, everything you need to understand is provided. Anyway, back to the Leshem and the Moon. The Moon, he writes, is the Heavenly embodiment of the Shechina, Who is the Indwelling Revealed Presence of the Creator, Yitborach (may S/He be blessed). And so She shines to illuminate the black night of the soul, that She may search out and find Her children who have fallen into the dark cracks and hidden places. She hears their voices crying out to her, and she goes and seeks and finds them. The Shechina NEVER abandons Her children, the Leshem repeats over and over in his essay (I counted seven times, but could be more, it is archaic and difficult Hebrew and mine is not that good). He says manifestly that even if Her children (that is US) have fallen into such a state of dis-grace that we are crusted over with spiritual slime and muck, the Shechina will search until She finds us and brings us home. Because even if our human mothers were overwhelmed with their own inheritance of bad parenting, the Shechina IS our Divine Mother and SHE is the one who hears our silent cries (and even our not-so-silent ones)!

          Reply
          • Yes, that is the way we [women, and men with healing energy] heal.
            My mother was more of a healer than she knew and I, her son, the mini-healer, dwells in her shadow. I live in the grace of women who have healed me. Many of them can’t understand their power, but they have it nonetheless.

            Reply
  5. I’m a retired hypo-manic psychotherapist stroke-surviving blogger One more strike and I’ll match you in gallows humor Olympics. Nice to meet you!! I just started blogging last week. My colleague ‘Fitch’ {he’s a chasid] and are have been supporting each other thru thick and thin for over 40yrs…divorces, anger management issues, eating disorders, drug addictions, the whole Bipolar gamut… ….. We’re on top of our issues, but you know, its always a live wire. I admire your honesty. My main blog is but my browser is on the fritz…and I’m a Gestaltian and I should know. Keep Writing!! As will I.

    Reply
    • Welcome aboard, Taxi Dog! Nice to have you along for the ride. Your sidekick is a Hasid? How very interesting! I’m looking forward to checking out your blog. This month of November, as you may know, is NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, in which we attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in 31 days, minus for for those who keep Shabbos. So my blogging activities will probably take a bit of a hit, as it were, our even as it weren’t. Laura

      Reply

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