Over two decades ago, I was close to a couple in Texas whose
infant had a terrible form of leukemia. During
one of my visits, the mother took the little girl (about 2 years old) to the
hospital for yet another treatment, and I accompanied them. The treatment involved shots. I cannot forget
how that little child responded. She lay
still on the table. She had had so very
many injections that she knew what was coming and knew how to behave. But the pain was real, and she knew it all
too well. I remember being with her when
the shots were administered. She lay
quite still as we held her little hands, while she moaned an incantation: “OWEE!
” over and over and over again, but barely moving.
Years later, I had my own pain, emotional and
psychological. I remember holding my
arms around myself, and echoing that little girl’s cry. I couldn't be more articulate than to say “owee”
again and again and again as I rocked back and forth, back and forth against
Yesterday, I had to take my cat Neko to the vet. A week ago, I had noticed she seemed to have a
sort of abrasion near one of her eyes. Yesterday, I noticed it was dotted with
blood. I called the vet and made an
appointment to take her in. Based
on past experience, I gave her "kitty Xanax" 3 hours before the
appointment. When I bundled her up for the appointment, she was seriously
stoned, barely able to walk. I thought that meant this would be a stress-free
vet visit. But, no. Once we got there, she turned into Linda
Blair. Much blood was shed by me and the vet assistant. The vet
determined we would have to sedate her fully in order to do an exam. In the process of trying to subdue Neko for
the sedative injection, Neko screamed like I can't describe – like a woman
being flayed alive. The volume and pitch of it were something I’ll always
recall but can’t describe. I wish they'd
given me a sedative, for I couldn't help crying when I saw her so terribly
Today, I've found myself thinking about the emotional and
physical pain we suffer and how we respond.
How I respond. To physical pain, I generally just whine, but pain meds
take care of that. But my response to
emotional pain? Sometimes I’m able to
respond like that little toddler, crying “OWEE” over and over, rocking
myself. I have never had the nerve to
respond to emotional pain like Neko did yesterday. She was screaming in fury and outrage. Her behavior was primal and true. I've never had the courage to do that.
Mostly, I just weep quietly and alone.