When it Began

This is the beginning. I mentioned a book I was writing my last post. There are two. One is fiction. One is memoir.

This is the first chapter of the memoir. It’s a little rough, so please forgive me. But I like it. Especially the first half.

September 25th, 1970

A small, screaming baby arrived as fast as she possibly could. There was no waiting, no intense pushing. She wanted the hell out.

It was nine months to the day of Christmas Day. In which the story told is that that this baby was conceived that night by her parents who were under an immense amount of strain and wine. Their 3 yr old daughter had been sick with a virus and the concern was beyond overwhelming. That night they created this shiny and fast moving human being.

This was me.

My mother always told me that I arrived in a hurry. I had places to go and people to see. That the Doctor had to keep me from falling off the birthing table I was in such a hurry.

I was the third child born to Dorothy and Richard. They were childhood sweethearts on the south side of Chicago. He was four years older than her yet they had known each other for most of their lives, Richard had even briefly dated Dorothy’s older sister Mary.

Dorothy was dark Irish with shining eyes and the hopes of one day becoming a veterinarian. She and Dick had become engaged when she was 15. He was just graduating high school and hoping to go on to a career in business. She lived with her parents and younger sister in their small bungalow. By this time her older sisters Patty and Mary had married. As had her older brother James. Her and Jimmy were the ones that shared the closest genetics. They took after their father’s French/Irish side while their fair haired/ blue eyed sisters all took after their German mother. Their father was a policeman who eventually went on to own a very popular tavern on the south side called Flaherty’s. The mascot of the bar was a 6 foot snake that often slept in the basement of their home.

Dick in the meantime grew up from her just a few blocks over. His father was a fireman who passed away two years before I was born.

Upon my birth there seemed to be a problem with coming up with a name for me. My grandmother Dorothy(my maternal grandmother) wanted to name me Susan. My mother wanted to name me Jennifer and my father wanted to name Winifred. Now considering this was 1970 both Jennifer and Susan were crazy, popular names. My mother won this war.

Looking back I would have taken my father’s choice just due to the fact that now I could have at least had an inventive nickname.

Trying to give me a first name proved so exhausting for my parents that they skipped over that whole middle name thing.

Which at the time was fine, for a defining moment in my life came when I was 13 and watching the Live Aid concert in my father’s living room, I turned to him and decided that my middle name was to be Cristiane. The French version of Christine. At that time my parents were telling me that I could decide on my own middle name, as I truly felt like a fish out of water, as all my friends had really awesome ones like “Marie” and “Cecile” and “Catherine”. I was just plain “Jennifer”.

Although I wasn’t always just plain Jennifer.

I was the third of four kids. Before me came Richard and then Carolyn. When I was five Christian arrived. He damn near killed our mother. She spent several days in the hospital after his birth and I have these odd recollections of my father crying, trying to be strong for us knowing that my mother damn near bled to death giving birth to Chris. I instantly was pissed off by this little interloper who almost took her away from me.

My mother and I have always had an intense bond. It probably began the day I stood up in my crib and screamed. I was just a little past one at this point. And as it has been recounted to me it goes as follows:

I stood up and screamed. My mother came in, in time to see me put my hands over my ears and my eyes to roll back into my head. I fell backwards.
My parents took me to the emergency room. I was diagnosed with possible seizures. These graduated over time to psychomotor seizures. They became repetitive. They came on in force during times that I was experiencing colds or other illnesses.

A particular story my mother told me about occurred during one of my frequent hospital stays at Children’s memorial in Chicago.

It happened when I was about five years old.

I was having another one of my episodes. Which is what we used to call them. Mainly because not everyone knew when I was having a seizure. One of the oddness of a psychomotor seizure is that while my world is being turned upside down, very few would know something was wrong. With a psychomotor seizure the patient could come across very normal but removed from the picture. I would become very vague, almost as if I was daydreaming. But inside my head it was a completely different story. My neurons were misfiring at a rapid fire rate.

There were strange triggers for my seizures that went beyond the cold and flu. Often if words were spoken very slow or very fast it could trigger one. Lights that blinked too fast.
I would have these visions of a ladybug on a slow moving log or someone coming at me as if in a fast moving dream.

They were disturbing and having to recount them to dr’s was equally as petrifying. The dr’s had brought in several interns to observe. And a couple of the interns decided to diagnose me as Schizophrenic. Now this couldn’t have been as far from the truth of the situation going on. My mother was beside herself and became very angry with these people.

Which now that I’m a parent I understand her vigor in defense of my condition.

As the years went on the seizures never tempered themselves. Couple this with inner ear problems and you have a childhood that was less than ideal.

I spent so much time within the hospitals that I my only recourse was to learn how to read.
There are always stories circulating that those with seizure disorders are more prone to early learning and special abilities that transcend the normal.

At a young age my parents knew I was one of them.

When I was three I was bound and determined to learn how to read. Both of my older siblings were in school and I wanted to go with them as well. So I taught myself how to read.

According to my mother it happened very naturally. I also had the inane ability to understand people, to read into their thoughts just by being in the room with them. I was called Hypersensitive. It was so powerful that as I grew older there were times that all the sounds and feelings from all the kids within a classroom would overwhelm me and I’d run out of the room crying.

I had a hard time keeping friends. I had no problem making them. From the outside I was like every other little girl out there, it was just that on the inside my brain was fighting against me.

I made the best of it and retreated to my books & the stories I made up when things were tough. As often as I look back and see how alone I felt during those formative years I know now that I wasn’t. I had days & perhaps weeks, but for the most part there were those who did seem to get me.

Although it was when I hit my teen years I really came into who I was and when I met people who understood what I was going through.

The seizures abated when I was in my mid teens. In fact I took myself off the medication by the time I was 14. I was done with the monthly blood tests. I was done with feeling like a freakshow. Which was honestly how I felt back in the early 80’s.

They stopped. Not completely though. There were a few rare occurrences with them in my early 20’s. After that I never felt them.

Only as time had proven, this was only the beginning of my neurological issues.


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