What I Remember

I remember

1957_Laurie age 3

Mom at the stove,
I’d come up behind her, arms around her waist, hugging her
(how old was I?). she was my pillar.

In quiet moments she would turn to me. Hold my face in her hands, look in my eyes, and say, her eyes sparkling,

“shayna punim”*

The measles. In my room in bed, under a sheet. Burning and aching sleeping waking then back to sleep. She sits by my side, bathes my neck my back in alcohol or something.
Gentle, cools my fever. Comfort.

Her total confidence in me – helping me believe in myself as she believed in me.
“You can do whatever you want to do”

Max and George in the glow of summer times (without us).
Just Nanny and Poppo – my mom and dad.
Love, a bond forged. Safe in the arms of second parents.

And I remember

Watching Ken Burns’ The Roosevelts. Her memory fading but reassured, engrossed.
FDR still vivid, remembered. Side by side we (all of us) watching again and again as if the first time.

A realization, loss, grief. “I can’t read!” “Who am I?” “What’s happening to me?” So I read poetry, A Child’s Garden of Versesjust as deep in the past she read to me.
Bed in Summer, My Shadow, Time to Rise:

A birdie with a yellow bill
Hopped upon the window sill,
Cocked his shining eye and said:
             [I pause, she chimes in]
“Ain’t you ‘shamed, you sleepyhead?”
             [Her face lights up. She remembers.]

IMG_1567 small
Later it is music: The Andrews Sisters, Pink Martini. Holding her hand I dance. On the couch she nods, hands sway, feels the beat.

shayna punim

Always forever beautiful. Graceful. Kind.


She laughed when Jamie laughed at Poppy.

“My darling girl,” she said twice, rests her hand on mine, brushed my face.

She always recognized us – Kim and me – when we entered the room. Gave us kisses, “I love you” Hands cradling my face, or resting her hand on mine or stroking my hair

Friends, family come to say hello (or goodbye). She welcomes them too with a smile.

When she woke, Melva was by her bed and said “hello.” Mom gazed back.
She said “hello,” put her arms out hands cupping Melva’s head. Melva kissed her.

I lay down curled around her with a kiss.
She put her arms around me in a light hug and stroked my back.

A dear friend wrote: “Wondering when she cupped my chin … stared at me, was it a purposeful gesture, or spontaneous movement. Doesn’t really matter. I was with her.”

Debrah: “Mom woke and said “I’m back.”
I leaned over her. “You don’t have to come back.”
She said, “I know”
Me: “You can say goodbye.”
She said, “I know”
Me: “Kim and I will be fine.”
She said, “I know”

I brush her cheek, kiss her hand, stroke her forehead.
“I’m here.” She said, “I know you are.”

Her eyes looking deep into mine. mine into hers.
Staying like that for ever, searching.

Mom looked at the picture next to her bed, puzzled. Pulling herself up. So weak but strong pointed and asked, “What’s that? Water?”

I knew. She was looking beyond here, now. Closer to what was awaiting. Getting ready.

I remember when I was little

I’d wrap my arms around her. Without words, she offered the strength I needed to find my way in the world. Here, now, as one day became the next, she was drifting away. No longer able to find her way in words, touch became her language – and she was fluent.

My last day with her 

A brief smile. I saw her eyes and she mine.
Raising her hand to my head, stroking my neck. I imagined her offering wordless love.
Still, gentle, her hand slid to the pillow, still stroking.
Did she think the pillow was my neck, or my neck the pillow?

Was she comforting me, or was she drawing strength for her journey?
I think both.

Mommy, I miss you already but will always feel your arms around me. 
I love you

shayna punim: beautiful face (Yiddish)
†Robert Louis Stevenson



A preening fish, a boy making waves, and other oddities of consciousness

An eclectic selection of pieces on consciousness, cognition, and brain injury

For years, I’ve been collecting articles that have fascinated (and distracted­) me–from the web, by email, and in newspapers. The ones I chose here are a mixed-bag, on a variety of subjects, and among my favorites. Enjoy!

Brain Injury and the Civil Right We Don’t Think About
Joseph J. Fins, The New York Times

“We now can anticipate that there are large numbers of people…who have the potential to communicate but are sequestered — indeed, segregated — in chronic care, isolated and abandoned by society.” (Fins, J.J.) See also:

Joseph J. Fins’ Rights Come to Mind: Brain Injury, Ethics and the Struggle for Consciousness
Arthur L. Caplan, Ph.D, Book review in Cerebrum

Rights Come to Mind is a wonderful book; perhaps the best book ever to emerge from the young field of neuroethics…. Like any provocative book, Fins’ work offers plenty to argue about…. I may well be wrong, but without this thoughtful, compassionate, and principled book, I would never have realized my obligation to worry about who is right.” (Caplan, A.L.)

The First Concussion Crisis: Head Injury and Evidence in Early American Football
E.M. Harrison, SM. American Journal of Public Health.

“The present Rugby game of football as played in this country is a very risky pastime, carrying nearly the same risk that a soldier [assumes] on the battle field. (1893, The New York Times)

Fish Have Feelings, Too: The Inner Lives Of Our “Underwater Cousins.”
Interview with Jonathan Balcombe by Terry Gross, NPR Fresh Air

“In his new bookBalcombe presents evidence that fish have a conscious awareness–or ‘sentience’–that allows them to experience pain, recognize individual humans and have memory.” (Gross, T.)

For the Boy Who Makes Waves
Joe Blair. The New York Times

“Can I, being alive at this time, love this boy? Can I listen to him? Can I be a good father to this boy?” (Blair, J.)

Science of Time: What makes our internal clock tick?
Melissa Healy, Los Angeles Times

The interval of time that we perceive as now, “may help explain why attention might be the most important — and most fragile — part of our internal clocks.” (Healy, M.) It is also most likely to be altered by neurological illness or brain injury.

This Is Your Brain on Silence: Contrary to popular belief, peace and quiet is all about the noise in your head
Daniel A. Gross. Nautilus

“Freedom from noise and goal-directed tasks, it appears, unites the quiet without and within, allowing our conscious workspace to do its thing, to weave ourselves into the world, to discover where we fit in. That’s the power of silence.” (Gross, D.A.)

Striking a nerve: TBI up close and personal
Maria Romanas, MedPage Today

“A physician who suffered a severe head injury as a teenager pleads for a new approach to treatment and rehabilitation.” (Gever, J., MedPage Today)

Becoming Disabled: Roughly one in five Americans live with a disability. So where is our pride movement?

Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, The New York Times

“Becoming disabled means moving from isolation to community, from ignorance to knowledge about who we are, from exclusion to access, and from shame to pride.” (Garland-Thomson, R.)

Last, but not least…

I am compelled to include this book by A.R. Luria, the “most significant and fertile neuropsychologist of his time.” (Oliver Sacks, from the Foreword). Luria was a prolific scholar and author of “classical science,” but this book is something else. It is, in his words, “romantic science”–the living reality of one patient, a soldier returning from World War II with severe brain injury.

The Man with a Shattered World: The History of a Brain Wound, by A. R. Luria

“It is a remarkable document, affecting in its simplicity, its pain, its inexorable determination.”  – Time

“The product of…two remarkable men, one a world authority on the brain, the other his unfortunate brain-damaged patient…a fascinating and valuable review of the strange but precise working of the brain for both the general reader and the scientist.”  – Library Journal

“Science became poetry.”  – Oliver Sacks