Showing 161 - 170 of 220 annotations contributed by McEntyre, Marilyn
The narrator, Frank, an aging man with cataracts, heart murmur, and diabetes, reflects on the life he now lives with Francine, his wife. They have been together 46 years and time, he muses, "has made torments of our small differences and tolerance of our passions." They know little of one another’s daily lives; he doesn’t even know what conditions her array of pills on the breakfast table are meant to treat. Frank has taken to reading poetry.
Francine claims she has been hearing an intruder outside the window at night. She finds poems on the window sill. She is mystified and a little frightened. At her request Frank stays up all night one night to watch for the romantic intruder. Midway through that night he takes her for a walk in the frozen street. When they return to bed, aching from their respective debilities, he turns to her for the first time in recent memory, holds her, and kisses her as he used to, clinging to her fingers, "bone and tendon, fragile things," knowing he will die soon, and that life can still surprise him.
Annie, about to finish high school, is still struggling with the long-term grief and confusion that has changed her family life since her sister, Mog, was killed by a car thief just before her own high school graduation two years ago. Annie wants to talk about Mog, but her mother remains in insistent denial and turns away from any mention of her; her father is protective of her mother and keeps his own long silences; and her brother, eager to get on with life, is willing, but unable to sustain much of the kind of conversation that might help.
Mog’s boyfriend, who was with Mog on the night of the shooting and sustained an injury but survived, offers one source of help in Annie’s process of emerging from grief, but the help becomes confused with romantic attentions that eventually, with the help of a therapist, Mog realizes she needs gently to renounce. Her belated decision to see a therapist comes at the suggestion of a friend’s mother who sees how stuck the family is in their evasions of the grief process. She initiates the visits on her own steam, with the approval of her rather passive but supportive father, and with a rather tense policy of noninterference from her mother.
Eventually, as Annie starts college, she finds herself able to move along toward remembering Mog and speaking about her freely while also reclaiming her own life and ambitions without guilt for leaving her sister "behind." Her father assures her that her mother will "be alright." In the meantime, Annie realizes not everyone has to heal the same way, and she has, with help, found a way that works for her.
Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise), a young businessman aggressively pursuing his fortune in collector automobiles, hears that the wealthy father from whom he has been estranged for years, has died. He attends the funeral planning to remain only long enough to hear the will and receive the fortune he believes is coming to him. He is shocked to learn that most of the fortune has been left in trust to someone whose name is not disclosed. Investigations lead him to a home for the mentally handicapped where he discovers he has a brother, Raymond (Dustin Hoffman), an autistic savant, who has been housed there since Charlie's early childhood.
Charlie kidnaps him, planning to keep him "hostage" until the institution delivers the half of Raymond's inheritance he believes rightly to be his. On the road, two things happen: 1) he is baffled, angered, and confused by the paradoxical behavior of this genius with no emotional vocabulary and no social skills and 2) he uncovers early memories of Raymond as the "Rain man" who comforted him when he was very small. He takes Raymond to Las Vegas to exploit his card-counting skills, wins enough at blackjack to get kicked out of the casino, and ends up calling Raymond's guardian out to California, hoping to be entrusted with his guardianship.
He is finally convinced, however, that Raymond is indeed incapable of progressing in relationship much beyond where he is, and that he, Charlie, is not sufficiently equipped to care for him. He sends him back to the institution, committed to maintaining relationship not for the money, but for its own sake. Mystified as he is by the brother whose humanity he can't quite fathom, something like love has been awakened in him in the course of his painful journey in caregiving.
This varied collection of short stories and poems is unified not so much by theme as by their appropriateness to the intended listening audience--the bedridden or homebound elderly. In a brief but moving preface editor Carolyn Banks recalls her work in an adult day care center where she was expected to entertain those who were recovering from strokes or suffering from Alzheimer's disease.
Reading aloud provided sometimes startling moments of contact with patients who were incapable of sustained conversation. Banks realized that while there are many story collections for children and general adult audiences, no one had done a collection for a group with these specific needs.
The collection includes 52 stories--one a week for a year--that cover a range of life situations. Not all focus on age or illness, though some do. In several a grandparent plays a crucial role in a grandchild's life. Some are set in the 1930's, 40's and 50's--periods likely to trigger memories for those now in their 70's and 80's.
Several stories focus on situations of widowhood and other losses, and some on death: Banks insists that death "is not a taboo topic." Many of the stories are comic, since, she comments, laughter is "an important response to court." All are short enough to read in a half hour or less, and "not insultingly simple."
Motivated at first by an attachment to her strict and demanding ballet teacher, as well as frustration and disgust with her own body compared to other dancers', Francesca develops an obsession with weight loss and increasingly ritualized forms of self-discipline in eating and exercise that lead to severe anorexia nervosa. It takes her family several months to see and acknowledge what is happening in front of them, during which she has trained herself to eat less and less, to throw up after meals, and to push herself to the point of exhaustion.
She becomes secretive, isolates herself from friends, and puts up a wall between herself and her parents, who are unable fully to understand the degree to which her behavior has gone beyond her control, but are worried. A compassionate male therapist with clear boundaries and a non-judgmental approach finally succeeds in disengaging Francesca from the mutually destructive downward spiral of family conflict around her illness;
he helps her to envision and desire her own health and to take responsibility for recovery. The story is told in the third person, but from Francesca's point of view.
Katie is a promising figure skater whose divorced mother drives her relentlessly to perfect her skills, at almost any expense. What her mother and coach don't know, but her English teacher begins to figure out, is that when Katie gets to an emotional edge, she hides and cuts herself; the pain and blood help focus her mind. Not until she goes over that edge one day at school and begins slamming her locker door on her hand and then banging her head on the wall does she begin to get the professional help she needs.
After a couple of false starts, she finds a psychiatrist experienced in working with teens in trouble who enables her to tell truths she hasn't for years been able to admit to herself or speak of to anyone else. Her mother resists other adults' help and almost succeeds in getting her out of therapy, especially group therapy with girls her mother labels "delinquents." But Katie finally manages to make some choices against her mother's wishes--an immense step out of the depths of years of co-dependence.
As the story ends, she has come to realize the girls in the group are capable of being real friends--something she hasn't had for a long while--and she is capable of making choices toward her own healing, the first of which is to seek and accept real help and to distinguish it from pleasing adults who are using her to assuage their own pain.
The story begins as an MRI technician assures Baily that "Contrary to popular opinion, . . . this is not a torture device." The test was ordered because her arm suddenly went numb and she suddenly lost most of her vision during algebra class. With no idea what's wrong, Baily speculates about the possibility of a brain tumor, about how disease will change her life, about early death. She is uncomfortable with her mother's cheery reassurances, which consist mostly of simple theories like the possibility that Baily was reacting to missing lunch, but wants them, nonetheless.
Since the pediatric wing is full, she is put in a room with an old woman for observation overnight. The nurse runs her through a series of highly irrelevant questions about her physical health from drug use to dentures. Then her mother is required to leave for the night. In the morning they take her for an EKG before her mother can get there; Baily returns to her room in a state of morbid conviction that she's dying, which is finally overturned when the doctor comes in to explain to her that she had a classic case of severe migraine.
This first-person narrative of a runaway girl's short stay in a residential mental health center develops her impressions, resistances, and accommodations from her admission ("I can see right away it's a nuthouse") to her release. These include reluctant interviews with the staff counselor, uncomfortable encounters with nurses, observations of other patients' erratic behavior, and efforts, finally, to communicate with a very detached roommate.
"Stevie" speaks from a place of anger and mistrust. She attempted suicide in the girl's bathroom by slicing her wrists, but regards herself as otherwise quite competent. A turning point comes for her when her silent roommate sings a song she's written which ends with the words, "Don't forget to cry." This moment of vulnerability, which also unveils surprising talent and beauty, moves Stevie from anger toward curiosity and sympathy.
She takes steps toward friendship with her roommate, and finally toward reconciliation with her mother who, she realizes, really wants her home. As she leaves, Zena really addresses her for the first time, reminding her, "Don't forget to cry."
Divided into three titled sections: "What Man Might Kill," "The Nurse's Task," and "The Body Flute," the poems in this volume detail moments in the life of a nurse who is also a mother who once [in imagination] dragged her daughter from a wrecked and burning car; a daughter who stood on the stairs and listened to her mother's voice; and a lover who is aware of how her own trained clinical gaze and the gaze of desire sometimes intersect.
The poems range from a whimsical reverse-reel footage of memories that reach back to the moment of conception in "The Smoke We Make Pictures Of" to a scene from childhood when she was rushed to the hospital and came home vowing to love like the "women in white bright enough to burn / running with me in their arms"--a love she describes as "Fierce. / Physical," to a poem that imagines the life of the murderer, to poems that let us into the intimacy of a nurse keeping vigil by the dying, cleaning shriveled bodies, attending women giving birth. "I Hear the Cries of Women" is a litany of memories of "Women in the clinic waiting room" who "wanted to please / wanted to be whole / had no choice / couldn't speak / wasn't heard."
Stark and striking, these poems revel in language that calls suffering by its many names. They alter the distances we keep on pain, reframe what we are repelled by and honor the gritty, sometimes gory work of nurses who are willing to imagine the lives of their patients and lean close over the stink of decay to bless the dying.
Fourteen-year-old Kelly is torn between being "best friend" to her mother, who, though she is sprightly and lovely, seems to have withdrawn from adult relationships, and pursuing her own friendships and life at school. Her father, a pilot, is gone from home a lot of the time, so she and her mother live a fairly isolated life.
It is not until her mother is suddenly whisked off to the hospital at the end of one of the father's visits that Kelly learns there is something seriously wrong with her. No one, however, will tell her precisely what happened or what's wrong. She is sent to her grandmother's in Florida to wait out her mother's hospitalization, and for a time isn't even allowed to communicate with her mother by phone.
Eventually she learns that her mother is clinically depressed and has been suicidal. In the meantime she learns a great deal about coping with loneliness, uncertainty, and new adult relationships, with a strait-laced grandmother and a senile grandfather as well as a disabled young man, a neighbor in Florida, who takes her seriously and helps her find a new self-assurance in spite of--or perhaps in part because of--her difficult circumstances. Faced with a choice of boarding school or returning to a mother still in gradual recovery, Kelly firmly opts to live with her mother and learn about both the responsibilities and the limits of caring for a parent who needs love but not co-dependency.