PIECES OF MY MIND
Being an essay on the verities of my brain function from cradle to the grave, and a companion to My Body; In Parts.
I’m different. Different than what exactly is hard to define specifically, but generally I am different from most regular people. Granted we are all different, even twins, still there is a range of behavior accepted as normal out in the world. This is usually where I insert a graphic with a doctor pointing to an x-ray of my spine saying, “this is where the hubris is coming in.”
Claiming difference while preferring to wade around in the mainstream is hard work. Many writers and artists prefer the margins, often finding link-minded people…um like minded people to share their disdain for normies and the mainstream. My brain is not functioning well today, but better than yesterday when I forgot my morning meds.
- FIRST CONTACT
My first contact, my brain’s first contact, with reality happened when I was six months old.1
My Mother left me in a large brown baggy buggy with big wheels and no brakes. The weather was fine, and I was sleeping, so she filled a pail of water from the kitchen pump and hurried out to wash her new Studebaker.
My father was in his garden.
Sometime later, likely five or ten minutes, I woke. I tried to pull myself up and started shaking the pram. The pram was left in front of the door to the basement which was left open. I was rocking this pram, and it rolled toward the basement door, likely a few inches, and then, gathering speed, began its descent.
It didn’t get far.
My pram’s wheels caught on the first two stairs pitching me forward and with gravity’s assistance to the bottom of the stairs which ended a step short of a brick and mortar wall. My mother always hated the old house because none of the floors were straight and cited this as a likely factor in the pram’s rolling to the stairs. Following my launch, my face from my forehead to my mouth made hard contact with the brick wall. I have no first hand memory of this, some indication I was not yet three, and I was never in a pram after 18 months and walking. The confirmation comes from my sister.
“I remember this very clearly. Mother had sent me to the Co-op to get something, and said to take you in the pram for an airing. Wasn’t long before I was on Main Street and a group of boys looked in the pram and began to tease me about your face, and how it could be so black and blue.” While this comment had been tolerated by mother from her loudest older brother, my sister did not take kindly to this taunting.
“I stepped forward and punched the biggest one of them hard in the face. I didn’t break his nose, but it was bleeding and soon he had a shiner to explain. Hard to admit he had been bested by a girl. As far as I can remember it’s the only time I ever punched anybody.”
My sister barely 11, was rarely bothered again. It’s likely that a baby’s six-month-old brain has more resilience than mine has today, or so my mother must have thought. There was no trip to the doctor or check for a concussion. My flight into our basement brick wall was one of the earliest stories told to me to remember from my infancy; and in the original telling she did say I was six months old. It was also when I started living under my sister’s protection, until I was six.
MY LEFT HIP (Notes for an essay, MY BODY; IN PARTS)
And then in 1969 we moved to the City. I had always wanted to move to the city. The city was sophisticated, the country town was not. Or so most of the stories went as rural depopulation began at the turn of the 1960s. A friend that had got to the city the year before came over with windowpane acid one weekend when my parents were away which is the one and only time I tried it, just amazed at Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin and my warped reflection in a brass scuttle holding kindling for the fireplace. I would have been fourteen.
My left hip hurt. I went to the doctor several times who couldn’t find anything wrong, so the diagnosis was I was having adjustment problems, trouble fitting into my new urban environment. Maybe this is the first time my parents believed there was something not quite right in my head. Of course I was having trouble fitting in: I had started using the cane my parents had bought in Germany to help me walk. The kids in the new school thought I was a nut case. (Author’s note: There are many different names, even the pejorative one easier for me to accept than mental illness.) Turns out they may have been right.
What they were wrong about was my hip. After one pitiful crawl home from the bus stop one fall I was put on the bus to see the doctor the next day. This time he did one simple test, sent me for an x-ray and admitted me for the first of my three surgeries at the hospital next to the river. I had a slipped hip, the pain my parents had ignored for the better part of three months was real, after all. I did not spare the guilt, then or after, this one I thought they owed me, one for which I did not have to blame myself.
Ten days in the hospital, three four-inch pins in my hip, and three and a half months on crutches and everything was better. Except for one thing, the disconnect with my parents was complete. I no longer wanted to live with them or live by their Mennonite faith and protestant work ethic. (Author’s note: But I didn’t tell them.) I asked to go to the one Mennonite boarding school, back in the town in which I grew up and had felt persecuted. What I knew was there. And now I was a city kid going back.
FAST FORWARD 2009-10: The cast is coming off my leg on Tuesday. I slipped and fell on an icy street and broke my ankle, eventually needing a plate and seven (much shorter) screws in a day surgery repair. After this repair it was back to the Ambulatory Care Clinic, in the health centre by the river, no longer a hospital, but still a place I go to get fixed up unless I’m seeing a psych.
I COULD STOP now and you’d already have enough of a picture to believe that at some point in my life I would be diagnosed as a depressive. REPEAT. Bad genes (predisposition from the factory), a sexual molestation, and parental neglect. Shake well. This, of course, is reductionist, but these are the scabs I keep picking, in one case quite literarily as I have developed a skin condition on my scar on my hip. Go figure.
- Mother’s revisionist memoirs posit my age as 3 years for this accident, ridiculous considering I wouldn’t have even fit in the pram and would’ve been walking for 2 years.
About the Author
Calling Love & Surgery, his 2019 collection, a bitch and moan about love, loss and amputation, Victor Enns says, “I’m donating my body to science one limb at a time.” Victor Enns lives in Gimli, Manitoba, Canada. Love & Surgery is the latest of four collections published since 2005. He completed rehab from seven surgeries in 2018. He can still walk, albeit with a fake leg. He has suffered from depression since puberty, if not earlier. He makes his second appearance in the June issue of Rattle; “Pieces of My Mind” is his first publication in Wordgathering.