“Did you ever feel as though a part of you is missing?” Elsie asked in an abstract manner.
“What do you mean?” Dr. Glassner responded, adjusting her horn-rimmed glasses.
“I mean that sometimes, I feel unfinished. I can’t quite explain it”
“How long have you been feeling this way?”
“I don’t really know. I think I’ve always felt it. And the feeling became stronger after I left West Virginia, after I married Terrance in 1988. My mother was against our coming to Chicago, but Terrance knew that in order to carve out a future, he was not going to make it in Farmington.”
“Maybe you’re missing your parents?” the doctor suggested.
“No, I don’t think it’s that. I speak to my mom twice a week. My dad’s been gone since I was small. I see my mom every summer for three weeks. The kids used to come with me.
“How’s family life coming along?”
“Fine” Elsie said. “The twins are away in university now, and quite self sufficient, as well as being inseparable. Terrance is doing well at Spivack and Johnson. There’s talk about making him partner. Everything’s fine. It’s just this nagging feeling of ‘something missing’.”
“Do you think it might be the twins?”
“You mean, ‘empty nest syndrome? Oh, no. As I said, I’ve had this feeling for years…all my life really.”
“Well” Dr. Glassner said, glancing at her wrist-watch, “This is certainly something that we can explore in future sessions.” The doctor stood up from her chair and offered Elsie her hand. “We’ll talk more about this next week. I don’t think it’s anything serious.”
When Elsie called her mother that night, the conversation drifted to Elsie’s childhood.
“But you were a gorgeous child,” her mother said. “Everyone loved you!”
“Mom, I’m sure something happened to me, but I don’t know what it was. I go about feeling as though something is not quite right. I get lonely, even when I’m with Terrance. Did anything happen to me?”
“Nothing happened to you dear. You were a happy child.”
“Yes, I know mom, but why am I feeling this way now? What is happening to me?”
Her mother hesitated.
“You must be missing the twins. I’m sure that—”
“I’m not missing the twins. Mom, what happened to me?”
“Elsie”, her mother said. Maybe you should come home for a few days.”
“Chicago is my home, mom!” “Why can’t you talk about this to me on the phone?”
“Can you leave Terrance for a weekend?”
“What is it, mom?”
“Come home, dear.”
Sitting across from her mother, in the old farm style home that her parents had bought shortly after their marriage, both women looked intently at each other.
“I was giving birth,” her mother said, her eyes glazing over. “Old Mrs. Brenner was assisting me in the bedroom. Your father was sitting in the kitchen, awaiting any instructions that might be given him. Suddenly there was a terrible explosion that literally rocked the house. The earth trembled around us. Dishes fell from the plate rail in the dining room, crashing and breaking on the floor. It was early morning, about 5 o’clock.”
“The terrible coal mining explosion,” Elsie said, “Not far from here. Yes mom, I heard those awful stories when I was growing up. It happened on the day of my birth.”
“There were two of you,” Elsie’s mother continued. “You came first.
Then a boy…he didn’t come out properly. Was twisted and ugly, with the ‘baby cord’ choking his neck and mouth. Your father was beside himself. After Mrs. Brenner cut the cord, I begged him to take it to the hospital but he said there wasn’t time. He had to get to his friends at the coal mine.He took the tiny thing, wrapped it in his leather jacket, and filled the pockets with stones.”
“Oh, Mom,” Elsie cried out.
“Mrs. Brenner watched it from the window.”
“What did he do?”
“She said she wouldn’t tell a soul.”
“Mom, what did Dad do?”
“The well in the back field. Your father sealed it up the next day. Layers and layers of wood planks. Told everybody that it had run dry, and he didn’t want little children playing around an empty well.”
“Little children,” Elsie repeated, standing up, walking slowly towards the living room window and staring blankly into the darkness of the night.
© lionel walfish, 2019. All rights reserved.