Wednesday, December 31, 2008

EMBALMING





















After my mother, my sister is the smartest woman I know. She has a photographic memory that I thoroughly envy, she raised her son in such commonsensical, but of the highest brilliance, way that it makes me cross myself at least three times a day; she is sharp and good at heart, and great fun to be around. Some six years ago, after having been a head nurse in obstetrics and gynecology for ten years, she decided to embark on an academic career. She studied full time at two different universities while also working full time. So it goes with insomniacs and ‘mnemoniacs’. You hate their guts, really. Of course, she aced everything. In her five-year specialized psychology education paralleled by a three year program in general (Freudian) psychology at another university, not once did she score anything other than the highest. And as tradition has it, of course, she was the one who did the speech at the end. She told me that she was surprised to learn that she had the highest average on faculty level in both universities when she was asked to produce some witticisms at the graduation. I mean, give me a break.

Now she’s coming to Denmark to try her luck at a job here. She’ll be with me for the next three months. She has already started learning Danish – and she’s already pretty good at it. To my distress when I think of my own lot. After 20 years in Denmark, I still have a goddamned accent. Now, although I have other things in store for her while she’ll be here than the tedious task of hunting jobs, I’m excited, particularly as I hope that she will spark some energy into my future. As of late, I’ve been vacillating between ditching everything and assuming the life of a monk in Norway or some other mountain plateau – Himalaya is quite attractive – and putting on paper the couple of books I have in my head so that Roskilde U can make me a full professor by the end of the year. (With the right discipline, I can write a book in a week if I want to, so it shouldn't be a problem – and this I know for certain, because I’ve done it before). But now I’m thinking that my sister may be able to inspire me in other ways than the two diametrically opposed scenarios that I have in mind. If nothing else, she can inspire me to keep up painting, as I’ve started dabbing my brushes into acrylic. She is qualified enough. She once had a drawing exhibition in Arad that was highly praised some 20 years ago, so it may be that we’ll both go visual for a change. This reminds me of an episode, which at least for her, because of its powerful imagery, proved to be very instructive.

When mother died in 1998, she made my sister promise that before she’ll get buried she’ll have an autopsy. As it turned out, according to the doctors, this wasn’t necessary. However, as my sister took care of everything – I only showed up in Arad when she told me that mother was going to live two more days – she was adamant about fulfilling mother’s wish. But the doctors were also adamant. Autopsy was not necessary, they insisted. So what did a smart woman like my sister do? She arranged it with the undertaker that she had to be present when he would come to do the embalming – mother had insisted on dying in her own bed, so the whole formalin affair was to take place in the bedroom. Dictum, factum. After three hours with the dead corpse and an efficient undertaker, my sister came out of the room. (I wasn’t really interested in participating, even though I was offered the opportunity). Her face was pallid. So I asked her: how was it? The only thing she said was this: “if anyone needs their mother embalmed, cut up to pieces and all that, they can call me. I’m ready to do a high quality job.” I believed her. And I think that mother would also have been pleased with the compromising solution. Of course, later she told me that she actually had a bit of a problem sleeping the following month, as images of body parts kept interfering with her otherwise unified and whole peace of mind. But it was only for a while.

Over Christmas old people in their 80s who know my family told me that the women in it have an amazingly strong psyche. While I said that I didn’t think that it was any stronger than the average, now, as I anticipate my sister’s arrival, I’m reconsidering. God only knows what we’ll be capable of!

A happy and strong new year to all of you!

1 comment:

Manna said...

Thank God to have you as my sister. Sometimes I'm wondering: how could I pass through all that, and the answer is: easy. At that moment I thought that it was normal to do what I did. The question is always one of perspective anyway. What is normal? Normal is where we put the limits. If you want to do great things, put your limits as far, far away as possible, and have a little faith. You will then be able to move mountains, as they say.