Before Equality’s Crown—
Turn — stem-cell machine.
Before Equality’s Crown—
Turn — stem-cell machine.
The room held a battleship-gray metal desk along with two chairs. That huge chipped and dented desk dominated the small room. For all I knew, it probably saw action during the last world war.
The doctors deemed that my 11-year old tonsils needed yanking out. Doctors in the 1960’s were ready to slice and dice those things out as soon as a kid had a few sore throats.
First they said I needed blood work. That’s how I ended up with that desk sitting in one of those chairs.
An older girl, maybe six or eight years older than me walked into the room and sat across from me.
A enormous needle connected to a huge glass vial appeared on the desk. She took my unwilling arm and jabbed me with the needle. And jabbed and jabbed, dozens of times (or so it seemed). Finally the torture ended. She left and I was sent to my hospital room.
An older woman walked in holding a basket with more needles and vials! She said that the torture I had just undergone yielded no blood work after all. I said impossible, I can’t go through this again.
Before I knew it, the woman inserted the needle in my arm, filled the vial with blood, and left the room. Rather painless.
So I was a guinea pig for a novice in training. That’s what happens when you’re a nobody with no one to protect you, no status, no wealth. Surely those Kennedy kids never got any medical personnel in training.
Life is not fair.
On the Edge
We all have things we need to do to keep an even keel — blogging, exercising, reading, cooking. What’s yours?
I will share some things I do that keep me from going off the edge.
Number one must be exercising. Yoga helps my arthritis and calms my mind. The weight work I do must keep my bone density as strong as it is even at my old age. It also keeps the old arms from flapping too much in the wind. Elliptical machines keep my heart pumping without stressing out the knees. I enjoy watching the plants, animals, and people go by from my bicycle. Going out in the flower and vegetable garden is calming and surprisingly a good workout. Gardening makes me sore in ways that my other activity doesn’t.
A close second is reading. If I only sat and read (tempting at times) I would be depressed. Between contemplating my navel with philosophy and contemplating the infinite universe along with the minuscule particles of physics, I’m sure I would run off screaming at some point. For a necessary easy-going escape, I love my mystery novels and historical fiction. A bad reality or just a boring one can be solved by a book. By reading books written by people very different than myself, I can empathize and get away from myself. I felt like a pile of bricks fell on my head when I read the last page of “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe. I think that is the way the book should have hit me.
Writing must be third. Writing things out helps me learn. People tell me to stop taking notes and just look and listen. I’m not wired that way. The act of writing and rewriting allows me to understand new concepts. Writing is also my therapy to work through bad memories and new stresses. It can modify my thoughts and opinions, maybe for the better. Writing makes me think through ideas and conclusions can change. Writing (and reading) has allowed me to feel that “Cleaving in My Mind” that Emily Dickinson expressed in her poetry. I totally enjoy that.
Tutoring in a literacy program, I would place fourth on my list. It keeps me doing something useful and keeps me from becoming too self-absorbed. Another good reason to get up every morning. I want to share not just the practical aspects of reading and writing with another person, but also the sheer joy. A world without books, paper and pens is in itself too sad to think about.
Gotta go, plants to trim, weeds to pull. Moving farther from the edge.
I keep thinking about Andy Miller’s book “The Year of Reading Dangerously.” I started reading dangerously at a young age.
When I was eleven years old, I picked up an old paperback copy of “Fanny Hill, or Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure” in a used bookstore. This is an erotic novel published in 1748 that became a best seller even though its publication was illegal.
When I read it, I not only didn’t understand many of the words, I didn’t comprehend many of the concepts. A lady of pleasure: I only had a vague concept of what this possibly meant. The author, John Cleland, used tons of metaphors instead of direct prose when describing sex. It was difficult to decipher metaphors for things I was mostly clueless about.
I reread the book about ten years later with a much better understanding of what that pleasure was all about. I realized that commerce was involved along with the sensation.
At the age of twelve, I read “Soul on Ice” by Eldridge Cleaver. Eldridge was a black man in a Civil Rights era America that made him dangerously angry. He ended up jailed for rape. In his eyes, he rebelled against the white man’s law by raping white women. He exacted revenge for the the way some white men historically debased black women.
In high school, my English teacher began talking about appropriate and inappropriate books for children to read. He was all for anyone reading anything and everything.
I mentioned that I read “Soul on Ice” quite young. He said that this is proof that reading never harms a person.
Ah, but he did not know the depth of my wretchedness. I escaped my own personal hell by reading books, and Cleaver and Cleland were welcome reprieves. Would my teacher appreciate the comfort I found in depravity?
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Land of Confusion.”
Which subject in school did you find impossible to master? Did math give you hives? Did English make you scream? Do tell!
Ninth grade algebra made me want to scream. It was a combination of things: my mind didn’t connect with the math and the teacher stunk.
Yeah, I’m blaming the teacher. She hated me. I had long, dirty-blonde hair, wore wire-rimmed glasses, and looked countercultural (early 1970’s and hippie like). She invited any student that was having problems to come in after class for extra help. When I did, she blew me off and said just read the math book, it will explain it to you. She frequently made remarks about how the protesting students on campus were scum and I guess she pegged me as scum.
Besides hating me, she was nearly as clueless about algebra as I was. So many times the smartest kids in the class had to correct her work on the blackboard since she got all confused and couldn’t solve the math problems.
She was short, chubby, and big-busted. And she insisted on wearing sheath dresses from a few years back when she was thinner. That’s how the students gave her the nickname of Boob Tube.
I nearly failed that class. The next year I took geometry and got an A in it. So it wasn’t just me being totally stupid.
In college, I took algebra even though I knew it may bring down my grade-point average. I was averaging an A all through that class until the chapters on algorithms. Then I got lost and ended up with a B. Yet I was thrilled that I understood the algebraic concepts and passed with a decent grade.
I should have visited my old algebra teacher and shoved that B grade into her face. Then I should’ve told her she needed to get an algeBRA.
In the third grade, I fell in love with Nick Naroni. Nick had black hair, green eyes, and was actually a taller third-grader than I was. He also read Greek and Roman mythology or at least versions of those stores that could be found in a public elementary school library. So being in love as I was, I adopted his interests and also began reading mythology. Nick failed the fourth grade and I lost sight of him, but literature remains a passion of mine.
I just finished reading Andy Miller’s book “The Year of Reading Dangerously.” Last year I read “My Life in Middlemarch” by Rebecca Mead. Both of these authors reflect on how a book or books can affect a person’s life. What a goofball I am, I read about other people reading. Or so my husband thinks I am.
In Andy’s book sometimes you can’t make out where the books he writes about end and where his life begins. His book reading propels him through a sort of mid-life crisis. After many years where parenthood, the hectic pace of life and work interfere with his first love of reading, he becomes determined to make the time to read fifty great books (and two not so great). The books truly connect with his life.
One time, Nick did an oral report in class on mythology. He started asking questions about the ancient gods and I answered every one of his questions. As you know, I’d been reading. Then he asked a question about something that I didn’t read about: “Why is the month of January named after the god Janus?” Janus was a Roman god with two faces. The probable answer clicked in my head right away. “Because one face looks to the old year and the other to the new year,” I responded. All my correct answers surprised the teacher and Nick. I was so proud of myself. Decades later I’m still reliving my moment of glory!
Anyway, the books through my life are precious and have become part of my essence. Thanks Andy (and Nick) for providing me with a blog post topic. I’ve got stories about my book reading too.
Santi Tafarella's blog on books, culture, and politics
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