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To the Girls Down the Hall: Ave et Avete

special guest

by Susan M. Silver


Twins on Bikes


Dear Hope, Brooke, and Felicity:

Yesterday, when I spotted workers hauling huge wardrobes and other unwieldy boxes from your apartment with none if its residents, human or canine, in sight, I realized your family had already departed for your new home in Vermont. I heard your father recently obtained a professorial appointment there in religious studies.

Yes, you may have noticed that I did not stop in recent weeks to wish you luck and bid you farewell, or take down your new address, or even exchange e-mail addys with you. Face it, for several years now, since my illness, Environmental Injury, became “visible” to you, we have been at odds.

You: moving from winking sneakers and blinking skates and top-of-the line tricycles to sleek skateboards and pricey pink two-wheelers, often parked in the hallway. I: stripped of toys like makeup and hair dye, allergic to my much-loved musty books and electromagnetically challenged by my PC, often assisted by a surgical-style breathing mask and occasionally a cane. You: developing, octopus-like, in every direction, growing in physical and intellectual strength, pragmatic savvy, and networking skills. I: struggling in solitary to survive the challenges of life in a labyrinth of toxins, ticking down the clock washing chemicals out of clothes, identifying and remedying symptoms (racing heart, choking sensation, blurry brain), researching new protocols, counting out supplements, figuring how to get to Whole Foods (an unimaginable 10 blocks away!) with my shopping cart in the rain.

Your squinted, disapproving stares and head-snapping, pointed avoidances have not been encouraging or healing. I daresay your attitudes are rooted in your strong Christian Science beliefs. Did you judge me guilty or sinning or failing to understand the true nature of a higher being? If so, I can assure you that the toxins entered into my bloodstream without regard to religious affiliation. (You never did ask, but I will volunteer that I am a proud Jew.)

By my estimate, you twins, Hope and Brooke, are now 10 years old; Felicity, 9. Remember the golden good times, when we sat together chatting on the tattered old grey corridor carpet (“Susan, can we play with your hair, please, please? It’s so long and black and shiny”)? You did not realize it, but the pink teddy bear I left at your door one day, with a “Please adopt me, I’m homeless” note affixed, was a symbol of a smashed heart. That toy had been placed by me in my mother’s hospice room—someone to watch over her—and she had died the previous day. Within several weeks, I was on this increasingly isolating journey toward a higher stage of wellness.

I know enough about the Bible to remind you of the oft-cited “Judge not…” and the more refreshing “Judge not by appearance….” And I am familiar enough with Latin literature to share a quotation from the playwright Terence that has unlocked many mysteries for me over the years: “I am a human being; therefore nothing that is human can I consider foreign to myself.” True faith in my view surely includes compassion for another, whether or not you feel fully capable of empathy for his or her plight. A true violation of faith would be to dismiss a suddenly challenged person as no longer worthy.

Belatedly, I wish you a blissful blossoming into adolescence in your verdant New England Eden, far from the chaos and confines of the Big Apple, and likely a much more pristine environment – provided you don’t encounter heavy pesticiding. Enjoy the great outdoor pleasures now available to you. I’m sure you will sample the skiing. Be careful not to break a leg.

Yours,
Susan

© 2009 Susan M. Silver. All rights reserved. May not be republished or shared electronically or otherwise without permission.

Note: Ave et Avete, a phrase in the title of this essay, means Hail and Farewell in Latin


Susan SilverBefore developing full-blown EI/MCS, Susan M. Silver was a professional writer specializing in personality profiles. Her byline appeared on hundreds of articles in such publications as People Weekly, Us Weekly, The New York Daily News, and The Saturday Evening Post. She also ghostwrote a column for The New York Times. Susan currently resides in New York City.

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Comments

  • earthwalker

    October 28, 2009 at 6:05 pm

    I find your essay brings to the fore the heartbreaking rejection most of us who develop severe MCS experience as friends, neighbors, relatives, spouses, co-workers, and community members ostracize us for that which is not our fault. When it comes from “innocent” children the cut is only that much more deep. What does it say about our society when those that are well cast off those that fall from wellness? It’s a terrible predicament to find oneself in and you capture the heartbreak and disappointment well. May you find other people and ways to nurture your heart. ;-) Julie

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