so there was this

You feel helpless.

You are teaching your evening class and sneaking looks at Facebook when you see what your sister’s husband has written as his latest status.


ambulance ride

emergency room

being admitted.

He is understandably incredibly distressed but responds to your FB message.



She can’t sit up.

You thought you knew for vertigo, having had it a few times in the last several years – came on suddenly and then 20 minutes of the room spinning around while you lay on your bed, eyes closed but the world still spinning.

But this, this is different.

This is eyes spinning up and down and side to side.

And nausea.

And being debilitated.

Updates come and for almost 48 hours nothing changes.

Nothing improves.

A diagnosis is suggested.  One that is eventually manageable but always random and sometimes discouraging and depressing.

What can you do.


You feel helpless and angry that you feel helpless.

You picture her lying there, eyes closed, terrified.

You are actually doing some subbing with some lovely Chinese immigrants and the theme for the month is health.  So you bring up the potential diagnosis and one student calls you aside later and tells you that is what she has.

Wow, you say.  She explains a bit.  You thank her profusely.

I just need to check my phone every five minutes for updates, you tell the students.

Okay, they say.

But FB isn’t opening for some reason and the Wifi keeps coming and going.


The emotions you feel are somehow akin to grief even though you know that what is happening is definitely not in any way life threatening.

But still.

What is that.

You chastise yourself for the anxiety.

Since your mother died nearly a year ago you realize how much more emphasis you have placed on the almost daily e-mails – one liners most times, funny e-mails, some ridiculously hilarious about your shared father who now lives in the same city as your sister in assisted living.  You realize you have come to count on these.  You are surprised by the depth of your feelings.


Helpless.  You research quite a bit about the potential new diagnosis and you get every praying person you know to pray please.

The evangelicals.

The non-evangelicals.

This is what you turn to in times like this and the prayers respond and they pray.

You’ve never read about Jesus having vertigo but you never know, some bits weren’t recorded.

Or maybe it was lost – “Jesus had severe vertigo for two days and lay on the ground and his good pal John sat beside him the whole time, even while he was vomiting hour after hour.”

“It will be okay,” Peter said upon visiting, “We are all praying.”

Your brain wants to get in there with well how come some people are healed and some aren’t but you request the prayers anyway.

You feel an ache because your sister has had more than her share of health problems in her life and now this with dad just having moved near her and all of the accompanying stresses.

You know that the past has been tough and that that is a difficult thing but you’ve seen your sister care for your dying mother in a way that made you weep when you weren’t pacing the room in overwhelmingness.

Then in the most unlikely of all events ever, more unlikely than a Jewish lesbian pope in a wheelchair, your father agreed to move to assisted living in Ottawa.  And they set him up and visited the heck out of  him so he wouldn’t self destruct in his own pile of anxiety that rises higher than the sky.

They would watch All in the Family together (the ones before Edith died, you asked.  Yes but also sometimes Archie Bunker’s Place) and sometimes dad would laugh out loud because he was vaguely relaxed and not from valium.

Just before the 911, the evening before, you had e-mailed your sister to tell her that you thought she and brother-in-law were enabling your father to show his true personality that is beneath his crap for the first time ever because he is feeling safe.  You are rather stunned by that.  Dad is still dad of course, you say, and when the cable went out that was a whole thing but generally, yeah look what you are doing.

My grandfather sold cloth, he told them one evening.  In your entire life you had never heard a thing about your father’s family.

What miracle is this, you wondered.

Guilt over your own inaction wants to slay you.

Dramatic that last line really.

Finally, two days in, the vertigo is slowing down although not completely stopped.  A wonky right eye and balance not restored.  A normal MRI but more of a hospital stay.

Talk of just a virus and not that other diagnosis.

You are thrilled for them and relieved and filled with big feelings.

You even get an e-mail this evening from the one with vertigo to say that while she has to type with one eye closed she is doing okay.

But it was terrifying, she says.

And you write write back and say hurrah and it must have beepin sucked and every day I think you will get better and better.

You know you have more invested and that is hard.  That is big feelings.

But this, this return from vertigo, this

This makes you weep.

You realize that you are making it sound quite dramatic.  a.) you are a dramatic person b.) you are a dramatic person c.) you allow yourself this depth of feeling for a sister you are really just starting to get to know in a way.  You acknowledge all of the other feelings and guilt and blah blah and say yup, there you are but look – she is getting better!


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