Leading up to Big Emotional Events, I'm full-on anxious and a tad obsessive; on FB, I described myself as "howling" in the days leading up to my sixtieth birthday. I also knew that I would be back to (ab)normal on the actual date and thereafter, and I was and am. There is a history to this.
In 1975 my father had a massive heart attack; he was forty-six; I was a sophomore at the University of Florida. We had gone to Crescent Beach for the day, my first college beach trip. The phone was ringing when we got back to the dorm, and my mother told me to come home. I don't know how I traveled from Gainesville to Miami Beach the next day; I do remember the evening before, sitting at friends' apartment, paralyzed and still and silent.
I also remember seeing Dad at Mt. Sinai the next day. This bull of a man - the only reason he survived, I'm convinced - was tied to a thousand ICU machines but conscious. We could only stay a minute.
Dad managed to stay alive for five years, slowly returning to a four-day workweek at his factory, Martin Wire Company. My brother was diagnosed with dyslexia during this time, and the family was in enough upper-middle-class Jewish distress that we were referred to a psychiatrist, Warren Schlanger. The therapy was prompted to support my brother, but he didn't engage; the rest of us clamored for airtime and eventually began some one-on-one relationships with the doctor, me included.
My mother was so touched to see Dr. Schlanger's name in the guest book at my father's memorial in 1980. And she must have seen the doctor after the death, because she later told me that his perception was that my family began grieving Dad at the first heart attack. Anticipatory grief.
This week I realized that my mental picture of Dr. Schlanger has merged with that of a psychiatrist I saw in the late 80s in Cambridge, Mass., Robert Okin, who I largely credit with saving my life by taking it (me) apart.
At 7.48 am today, I did a google search for Dr. Schlanger - who I have assumed many years gone - and he is eighty-two and in Palm Beach. I need to think about that.