Sunday, June 29, 2008

The daily pain of thinking about my father and his death is now exacerbated by the approaching Jahrzeit, July 16-19.

Today, I bought a translation of Oliver Sacks' book - The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat: And Other Clinical Tales. I remember looking at it a number of times in the past few years, during my father's illness and following his death, but I didn't have the guts to buy it then. I leafed through it once again today, then went ahead and bought it. Read a chapter and a half, feeling that perhaps now there was a safe distance between myself and my emotions, and that I might finally be able to attempt understanding at least a little bit of what had happened to papa, even though the cases described in these chapters weren't even close to his.

But then, for some reason, I decided to search for Sacks' articles in English, and found a story about a condition similar to papa's - a post-stroke aphasia patient's story - published in the New Yorker around the time I came to Kyiv to give birth to Marta, in the Oct. 31, 2005, issue. Papa had the first of his three strokes half a month after Marta was born. On Dec. 17, 2005, or sometime around that date.

I haven't finished reading the text yet. It's a torture. Not just because it's like getting a glimpse of what may have been going on in papa's mind while he was not able to speak. As overwhelming is to compare the kind of treatment he was getting in Kyiv to that described in the article. The treatment that doubled the horror and the humiliation of his condition. I was spared from observing much of it, thanks to Marta, while my mother had to go through that hell all on her own.

Other thoughts keep popping up: how papa managed to return to work two months after that first stroke - and how he was crushed again in August 2006; how we tried to teach him to write again, using some silly elementary school textbooks - and how he resisted these attempts; how unbearably kind he was in his last weeks.

Not sure why I'm writing this. It's not that I don't have things to say. I just don't feel like saying much on this subject. But the New Yorker piece has caused a little spillover, that's what it is.


  1. It was a cruel summer for you and your family.

    Time heals, but then again, it hurts every time you think of it. The fresher the memories, the deeper the wounds.

    I recall standing outside the ICU the night my grandpa died — on my mother’s birthday — due to gross negligence on the part of hospital personnel.

    That was in July 1991; I was 11, grandpa was 73.

  2. I think about these issues a lot from the other side because my son's life was saved by good surgeons in the States as an infant. I doubt he would have lived--or he would have turned out very differently--in many parts of the world. Even other parts of the US. It really makes me upset that things are so unequal. Even that if we hadn't had private insurance (which we were planning to cancel because of the cost), my son could have ended up with brain damage or worse at the "charity" hospital that wanted his case. My heart goes out to you and your family, Veronica.