Title: Moving up to the nut ward
Author: Sydney L. Keniston
Occasionally as we go about the strange little improv plays we call our lives, someone comes on stage and shakes things up. They change the way we look at the set, the other characters and the audience. The other day I had the opportunity to get to know a little better a woman who did just that.
I had known her for a while, but never really known her. I knew she was from Germany and I knew she enjoyed talking but that was about it. The day started out with light conversation, “How is your school doing? Are you done yet? Are you interested in any young ladies?” It went on like this until she started to teach me German, then Russian.
“In Germany they made us learn Russian, just enough to get by.”
She never said who made them learn Russian, or why.
“Those Russian girls sure have pretty accents.” She went on.
After a while she stopped.
“That reminds me, I need to make an appointment with my nut doctor. Could you take me please? It’s not far.”
So I drove her to her doctor. I was a little confused about what a nut doctor was until we pulled up to a large brick building on a quiet back street by the hospital.
“This is my Psychiatrist.” She explained. “I forgot to make an appointment and they get worried about me here if they don’t hear from me for more than a week. I won’t be a minute darling.”
She opened the door to my little blue car and practically hopped out. After only a few minutes she popped her head in the window.
“Is this the right car? Oh good! I was worried I’d never find you again. My direction is terrible. Then where would I be if I didn’t find you? I’d have to walk home and you’d just sit here!”
She climbed in and buckled her seat belt then shut the door.
“Have you had breakfast? I didn’t. Well, I had a banana, but you know how those are. Did you have anything?”
“Nope, I woke up late and didn’t have time.”
“Well dear! Why didn’t you say so, we need to get food! Where do you want to go? I’ll buy.”
I felt bad about having her buy me food and said so, but she insisted.
“I said I want to buy you coffee break and I mean I want to. I won’t hear anything else. It will make me pleased. Now where do you want to go?”
We had some coupons to a chain coffee joint and suggested there.
“Oh, that’s perfect! I love going there, I go every day! It’s good, let’s go.”
On the way she explained her psychiatrist.
“Ever since I cracked up the first time they made me go there.” She said. “I was in for my heart and then I went crazy and they sent me up a few floors to the nut ward. It’s bad up there. Men and women together and they make you keep the door open to the bathroom so you don’t kill yourself! It’s disgraceful!”
She said this all without a trace of self-pity or expectation of a reaction. It was simply fact. It was simply life. Sometimes people go crazy and have to get moved up to the nut ward.
“They said it had something to do with the war. I was only 14 when it ended you know.”
That was all she ever said to me about the war. It didn’t seem like she deemed it that important. It was just something that happened, something bad, why dwell on it? Why discuss it? She moved on to how she came here and her husband.
“I was young when I came here, just 21. Things were different. Women tried to look nice and wore long pretty Aberdeen coats in the winter. The men, they worked. Their clothes were strong and flannel. They looked very much like Maine. It was nice then. After being here a while I met my husband, he had been through a bad marriage but he was a nice man so I married him. He still is a nice man and I must go home to make him lunch soon, the poor dear, he can’t do anything for himself anymore. He is on pain medication and he sees things that aren’t there and he gets so scared, but he always knows when I am there.”
She paused for a breath here. By this time we had received our orders and found a seat. She took a sip of her coffee and ripped her sandwich in half.
“Every day I thank God for him, out loud too, so he can hear. Here, you eat the rest of this dear, you need it more than I do, you are so skinny! You need to wear your glasses that you have so you can look older. No wonder you can’t find a job! And you need to shave only every few days that will help. It looks good like this, scruffy.”
I had forgotten to shave that morning so I had a one and a half day growth. She patted my cheek.
“If you do that it will make you look older and smarter. People will hire you. We all know you are smart, but how will they know? They don’t always talk with you, you know. So you need to do that and they will hire you dear.”
At this time she paused again and took another sip of her coffee. The only time she wasn’t talking it seemed was when she was drinking or eating, it was nice because I don’t always like talking myself, and with her carrying everything along I didn’t have to. She kept her eye on me while she sipped and I could tell she was getting ready to say something as soon as she swallowed.
“You remind me, I need to see my kids. I would love to visit them, but they live so far away, and I can’t leave my husband. He has nurses but he gets so lonely and scared without me and I just don’t feel right about it. He doesn’t like the nurses to bath him, it embarrasses him. But I haven’t seen my kids for four years now. Can you imagine? I want to go back to Germany once before I die, too.”
Suddenly she decided it was time to leave. She gulped the last of her coffee and got up swiftly.
“Well, I have to go make lunch and you don’t want to get a parking ticket, so let’s go.”
I drove her home and she showed me her gardens they had allowed her to plant behind the assisted living home. They were beautiful.
Later that day I was thinking about her and the morning we had together; I wish more people were like her. There is almost no one of this generation that has that same sense of character, of depth, of balance. It’s like she is a real person and we are all just cheap knock off models, the store brand to her name brand. By her conversation she makes it very clear that she knows she is not perfect. She lets you know straight away that she has flaws, but she doesn’t have a problem with this. She accepts them and then works with what she has. Life is life, some things are good and some things are bad. We are all humans and I think we forget that sometimes, especially my generation. When anything goes wrong we expect special treatment like no one else has ever had anything bad happen to them before, we are the only ones.
Why should we be treated differently?
Why should we be treated differently when everyone else is going through just as much as we are? There are a million different people who have most likely been through exactly the same thing we have, or at least something similar.
That’s not to say we should all be jaded and heartless though. We need to be compassionate, that is one of the redeeming qualities of humanity. Love and compassion should be shown, but never demanded. We need to find a balance. This generation has been so coddled and sheltered that it screams and moans to be held in someone’s arms every time something doesn’t go according to plan.
We need to realize this is life, this is fact: Sometimes you go crazy and get moved up to the nut ward, you’ll live. Trust me. Trust her.