Looking/Back

My back hurts a lot.

All the time.

My friend Elizabeth who knows about chakras and energy medicine and reiki and tarot and goddess wisdom and more tells me: People with back pain live in the past. It is your past pushing up behind and against you. Let it go.

So I have been reading about quantum touch and energy meridians and natural healing.

“Your memory is not in your mind,” Bert Jacobson says.

He is my gentle and brilliant chiropractor and he is working on my back as he speaks. “It’s in your body,” he continues. “Your cells remember everything and they pass that information on to the new generation of cells.”

I have brought my eighty-three year old mother to see Dr. Bert. Two years after her knee replacement, doctors are now recommending that she replace her hip. I am hoping that chiropractic can spare her this misery.

He examines her carefully and thoroughly, speaking to her softly as he tries to help her get in sync with her own body. As he touches her, he begins to “read” her history.

“Something’s happened to you that’s thrown everything off,” he says. “Tell me the history of your foot.”

So she tells him the story, how at age 37, at the peak of her life, the top of her physical strength, she fell on the ice on a snowy day in 1967 and broke her ankle. It was a very complicated break, one that took several pins and three operations to get “right.”

Only the doctors never got it right. After that fateful day, I never again saw my youthful mother bound up the stairs to the second floor or walk briskly through our neighborhood. She has spent the rest of her life out of alignment, off balance and walking with a crooked gait which finally wore away the cartilage around her knee and now was doing its damage to her hip.

“I can unlock your ankle,” Dr. Bert says taking her left foot in his hands and showing us how it is completely frozen and splayed. ‘This will help to equalize your gait and take some of that pressure off of your hip.”

Wanting desperately for her to give chiropractic a try before submitting to more rounds of cortisone shots, torturous physical therapy and additional surgery, I tell her all that I have been reading about mind-body connection, cellular memory and quantum healing.

Later that night, when the phone rings, I hear that quiet tentative voice she always uses when she’s remembered something or had a new insight.

“You know,” she practically whispers. “You got me thinking about something.”

I inhale and wait.

“When I was a girl, your Bubbe, my mother,” she begins hesitantly, “used to curse me sometimes in Yiddish. “

I continue to hold my breath.

“When I was bad, she’d say, ‘Tsebrekhn dayn fus.'”

“She didn’t mean it,” she quickly adds. “It was just something she’d say out of frustration, then she’d apologize. But it stayed with me, I guess.”

“What does it mean?” I ask, wishing for the thousandth time that she had taught me this flexible and enduring language instead of using it as a form of secret communication with the elders to keep secrets from us children.

“It means, ‘Break your foot.”

The past hangs silently in the air between us.

We both exhale, and I let myself wonder if she is thinking about what things she might have said to me when I was small, what curses may have passed her lips in anger that still live in my cells today.

And as I hang up, I rub my back, trying [not] to remember all I may have said to my daughter in the past.

photo credit: sankofa http://media.photobucket.com/image/sankofa/starrz3058/sankofa.gif?o=2&sortby=sevendaysview

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  1. You have such an interesting and enduring relationship with your mother it seems. I'm not sure how familiar you are with Isabel Allende's body of work, but her memoirs are rife with anecdotes and snippets of conversation between her and her mother, a bond she says goes back to the days of gestation when her mother talked aloud to her in uterine while others thought her to be plain nuts.

    Check out: "The Sum of Our Days," and "Paula" which precedes the former if you haven't already. I think you would really enjoy it, especially as it relates to her relationship with her mom.

  2. I agree with Serg Salsa. your relationship with your mother is very vivid and palpable in your writing. you can see the intimacy of your relationship through this story. mothers are always astute- that will never go away

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