Just a hint about one thing that affects Mary the rest of her life.
Mary recoiled, breaking free, but he caught her hand and started talking in a low, secretive tone. Mary couldn’t move, not just because of his hand gripping her, but because her mind refused to work.
“This stays our business,” he murmured, “we don’t talk about this to others, Mary, okay.”
Mary nodded in silent assent, pulled away, and the old man let her go, this time.
The feeling of terror, and guilt, and helplessness now forever part of her.
Before her seventh birthday, her family arrived in Alaska from the “Lower ‘48”, after driving over fifteen-hundred miles of unpaved highway on “The Alcan”. Summer bloomed when they moved into an age darkened log cabin on Sixth Street in Fairbanks.
“Mom, my tooth hurts.” Mary’s Mom lay on her side of her parent’s bed, facing Mary, in the one bedroom that the family of six shared. Mom’s face moved slightly, burrowing further into the bedding.
“Mom? It hurts,” afraid that her Mom would not respond; also afraid of Mom’s impatience and annoyance. Mary put her small hand on her Mom’s shoulder, and nudged it, just a little. Mary’s mother’s head lifted, her eyes squinted in the dark room as she woke.
“My tooth,” she put her little hand back on her left cheek. It hurt so bad, she wanted to cry, but held back tears, and felt the tightness in the back of her throat from the effort.
Mary padded behind her mother, out the door-less bedroom area, to the bathroom, where she retrieved the aspirin. Through the living room, then into the kitchen they slipped, across cold floors, patches of linoleum and wood, with the occasional interruption of thick rag rugs.
Mary choked to get the aspirin down, “It hurts my tooth.”
“Think of swallowing M&M’s,” Mom turned away from the table I sat upon.
She reached high on a shelf by the big black wood-stove, shuffling metal spice tins around. Dodging the table, she retrieved a few wooden toothpicks from above the sink. She wet the ends of a toothpick under the water faucet, dipped it into the red and white tin of ground clove, turned to Mary, and said, “Open now, cloves take away pain”, as she packed cloves into and around the offending molar.
It didn’t help much. Mom, up all night applying ground Clove and dispensing aspirin, did not get much sleep. Nothing helped for long. The next morning, the two of them went to the dentist.
The tooth area hurt terribly, and then the dentist stood above Mary, reclined in the dentist chair. The silvery needle with the syringe of Novocain rested between the dentist’s fingers, thumb poised for depressing.
“This may to hurt a little,” he lied.
Mary’s nose wrinkled at the smelled of the alcohol and pain killer, as the dentist forced the fluid into the swollen tissue around her tooth, and tears squeezed between her clenched eyelids. He withdrew the needle, turned away, then back to her with another full syringe.
“You’re doing fine,” he lied again.
Back at home, Mom tucked the patchwork quilt snugly around Mary in her bed, and came back to check on her often, bringing things to drink and more aspirin. Pain came later, after the Novocain wore off, but not as painful as the Novocain injection. Mary loved having her Mom’s attention all to herself that afternoon. Rare, with three siblings, and her Dad around for her Mom to take care of also.
“Life feels good,” Mary thought, “Mom loves me.”
This excerpt from my fictional auto-biography is dedicated to my Mom, Vivian Eileen (Foster, Orrison) Greenway.
What’s wrong with me? No one is helping me! I feel awful, I hate feeling hopeless! I want to die! These are my thoughts as I walk around the kitchen, pacing, opening the fridge, closing it, open a cupboard door, then another, then back to the fridge.
I have had it. My whole life, nothing helps these awful inner feelings. Then my husband–my dear fourth husband–my true forever man, comes home for lunch.
“Please, call that doctor, I can’t make myself even dial a phone number.”
Crying and near hysterical, I feel like hitting anything; the wall, my husband; a kitchen chair, anything.
By now my face is etched with lines from my tensed muscles. My husband backs off, his arms stretched out in front of him, the palms of his hands facing me.
Through the red heat in my ears and eyes I hear him say I have to make the call myself. The damn clinic has said for me to make the appointment on my own. They will not take an appointment from a second party.
I want to grab the phone and jerk it out of the wall, but I can’t. I can’t do it. I can’t help myself. What’s wrong with me, I shriek to myself, I just need to die, but I’m such a coward, I can’t even do that.
…Later That day
I walked to the phone, picked up the receiver, and dialed the number from the slip of paper the nurse at the clinic had handed me last week.
Why was it so hard to do this earlier, I thought. My moods are so unpredictable. I can’t plan on anything.
…At Last, Appointment Day
I got in the car and my husband drove. I stared off into nothing for a while. It was 60 miles to the nurse practitioner’s office. Then, restlessness set in. I lifted my purse from the floorboard, wrestling around in it for something. Candy, Smarties, how many rolls are left, I wondered. I rummaged around until I found them all. Five should last awhile. I twisted the cellophane off one end of the roll and popped one sweet wafer into my mouth.
“Would you like some?” I held the opened roll across the console to my husband. He held out his hand and I dropped a few into his hand. He tossed them all into his mouth at once. So we entertained ourselves all the way to town with candy.
That was the first of many trips to the lady that saved my sanity. It took months on end to find the antidepressant that worked for me. I tried to go off of it in 2011. Big mistake. A year and a half of mental anguish, trying to save my liver because I thought Cymbalta was bad for it. Turned out my liver was the least of my worries.