Showing 551 - 560 of 681 annotations tagged with the keyword "Illness and the Family"

Dire Cure

Matthews, William

Last Updated: Mar-27-2001
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

This long (11 stanzas of ten lines each) poem takes us through the--at first faulty--cancer diagnosis, treatment, and recovery endured by the speaker's wife, and witnessed by the speaker. The poet personifies the tumor because to do otherwise would mean that he would "have to think of it as what, / in fact, it was: part of my lovely wife." The poison of chemotherapy that renders his wife "averse to it all" is contrasted with "perky visitors" and the flowers that they bring.

The poet imagines that the tumor of which his wife has been cured now resides in "Tumor Hell" where it lies "bleak and nubbled like a poorly / ironed truffle." The doctors who practice in teaching hospitals show the students how to deal with tumors: "batter it . . . strafe it . . . sprinkle it with rock salt and move on."

Now that his wife is better, the poet and his friends consider how he has fared. At first he was unable to concentrate, made lists, "wept, paced, / berated myself, drove to the hospital" and was "rancid with anger." Yes, it was awful, but he rejects pity--even self-pity. Only his wife has the right to give a name to the experience: "let her think of its name and never / say it, as if it were the name of God."

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Late-Blooming Flowers

Chekhov, Anton

Last Updated: Mar-20-2001
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Young Prince Yegorushka has managed to squander his family's limited resources and now lies in a drunken stupor. His mother (Princess Priklonsky) and sister (Marusya) reluctantly send for Dr. Toporkov, the elegant and highly successful physician whose father was once a serf on their estate. The cold, haughty, and uncommunicative Toporkov appears, gives a few orders, and rushes away. Yet, the princess views the man as a savior and exclaims: "How considerate, how nice he is!"

Marusya also falls ill, and Toporkov makes several house calls, "walking importantly, looking at no one." Old Princess Priklonsky tries to ingratiate the doctor by providing him with a hefty bonus and inviting him to tea. But rather than warming up, Toporkov lectures them "with medical terms without using a single phrase which his listeners could understand."

Some time later, a matchmaker arrives with an astounding proposal--the doctor wishes to marry Marusya for a dowry of 60,000 rubles. (The truth is he will marry anyone for that price.) The Priklonsky family immediately turns the down proposition, ostensibly because of Toporkov's peasant background, but really because they don't have 60,000 rubles to their name.

Meanwhile, as time goes on, Marusya falls in love with the doctor. As she becomes sicker with consumption, the family's financial straits become worse. Finally, with her last five rubles, Marusya seeks help from Toporkov, throwing herself at his feet and proclaiming her love. The astounded doctor experiences an epiphany. He suddenly realizes the worthlessness of all his money-grubbing in an outpouring of love for the dying woman.

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Ear Ache

Smith, Dave

Last Updated: Mar-20-2001
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

A young boy lies "coiled in my stale bed," suffering from an intractable ear infection, "overwhelming cures / with sourceless pus." His "coarse, cursing, and door slamming" grandfather comes into the room and lays his "scar-sizzled" hand on the boy's erythematous ear. The old man leans over and blows cigarette smoke into the child's ear. [44 lines]

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The Shell Lady's Daughter

Adler, C. S.

Last Updated: Feb-23-2001
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

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.

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The Seed and the Sower

Van der Post, Laurens

Last Updated: Dec-20-2000
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This post-World War II tale is a joint reminiscence rendered by two Englishmen who have survived the war in the South Pacific, including concomitant internment in a Japanese POW camp. They meet over the Christmas holiday after a separation of five years.

The first segment has to do with Lawrence's memory of his relationship with Hara, a terror of a camp commander. The central portion of the work shifts to a document that has been saved by the narrator-author (the second of the two survivors) and was written by a mutual comrade, a South African officer who was not able to leave the prison camp alive. This is the longest and most detailed of the sections and dwells largely on the officer's relationship with a disabled brother and his assessment of how the guilt engendered by this relationship affected his entire adult life.

The third and final section is Lawrence's recall of the last few days of his service prior to his capture by the Japanese and a strange and wonderful few hours with a woman whose name he never learned. Lawrence's decision to share this very intimate secret with his host and hostess is stimulated by his view of their son sleeping with a play sword in the same room with their daughter who is cuddled with a toy--and the unavoidable reflection on the gender significance of this scene. The holiday is over and Lawrence returns to his service, leaving the narrator and his wife to review the three days they have passed together.

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The Night Listener

Maupin, Armistead

Last Updated: Dec-15-2000
Annotated by:
Wear, Delese

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Gabriel Noone, a late-night radio personality ("Noone at Night" on PBS) who reads his semi-autobiographical stories to millions of Americans, has just separated from his lover Jess when a publisher sends him the proofs of a memoir written by a 13-year-old boy with AIDS. Peter, the young author, has suffered heinous sexual abuse from his parents and hoards of strangers; he lives with his adoptive mother Donna, who was his therapist. Gabriel, shaken by the memoir, calls Peter, a conversation (all via phone, almost all at night) that begins a relationship that quickly becomes an intense, father-son-like relationship that grows deeper as it grows more unsettling as Jess and others begin to cast suspicion on the actual existence of Peter.

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Summary:

Second Opinions, Jerome Groopman's second collection of clinical stories, illuminates the mysteries, fears, and uncertainties that serious illness evokes in both patients and doctors. The book is divided into 8 chapters, each a clinical story involving a patient with a life-threatening illness, plus a prologue and epilogue written by Groopman. The stories focus on people who face myelofibrosis, acute leukemia, hairy cell leukemia, breast cancer, and marrow failure of unknown cause. Two chapters are Groopman's personal accounts of his firstborn son's near fatal misdiagnosis, and of his grandfather's Alzheimer's dementia.

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Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Journal

Summary:

This memoir of a clinical psychologist (also a professor of psychology) chronicles her own depression over a period of a year and a half, from early symptoms, through near despair, electroconvulsive therapy, and hospitalization to recovery. The journey is detailed, not only in its treatment of her emotional states, but of her struggle to maintain family and professional life, keep her house and office organized, and attend to a dying friend.

As her bouts of panic and disorientation grow more apparent, first to herself and finally to others, she seeks refuge in spiritual retreats and in conversation with colleagues, ultimately submitting to treatment. She names the emotional "undercurrents" suggested in the book's title with moving precision: panic over sudden disorientation, anxiety about what to keep secret, frustration with her own unreliability, dread of small duties and ordinary appointments, heartache over her faltering efforts to be a good and present mother.

The consent to hospitalization costs a great deal in humility, in risking a controversial treatment, and in letting go of a professional persona she doesn't know whether she'll be able to retrieve. But clearly the book is written by a woman whose clarity is a testimony to regained mental health and exceptional intellectual clarity. It is not a professional record, but an intensely personal memoir of what was both an encounter with serious mental illness and a spiritual journey.

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Vigil

Shapiro, Alan

Last Updated: Aug-15-2000
Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Alan Shapiro, poet and professor of English at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, chronicles the life and death of his sister, Beth, who died of breast cancer at the age of 49. Beth lived the last four weeks of her life at a hospice in Texas--this memoir traces those weeks in particular and refracts them against decades of family dynamics, turmoil and triumph. The memoir is composed of 14 tersely named chapters ("The Death," "The Joke") followed by "Afterwords": six poems about Beth.

Alan is the youngest of 3 siblings; Beth was the oldest and David, an actor is the middle child. Despite, or perhaps because of their age difference, Beth and Alan were very close. It was he whom she asked to write her eulogy and it was he who stayed the entire 4 weeks of hospice, save for a brief trip home. From Alan's love and devotion grows an admiration for Beth's integrity in life and death.

Beth married an African-American man, fought for liberal causes, and suffered complete estrangement from her parents due to her choices. Her husband, Russ, must deal not only with the loss of his wife and their daughter's loss of her mother, but also with the prejudice of the Shapiro parents and the medical establishment. At one point Shapiro describes how, whenever he accompanied his sister and her husband to the doctor's office, Alan, not Russ, was treated as the spouse and decision-maker.

Shapiro vividly depicts the poignancy of parent-child relationships. Gabbi, the seven-year-old daughter who loves horses, gallops through the house with grace and abandon not possible at the hospice. Alan's anger at his father's actions and his forgiveness of his mother's accomplice role are also strongly demonstrated. A great strength of this book is the choice of detail: the mother completes a book of crossword puzzles during the vigil; the brother becomes infatuated with a particular joke he wants to memorize; nurses leave a solitary rose on the bed of the newly dead at the hospice.

Shapiro is keenly interested in being with his sister right at the moment of her death. He describes the end: "one long, deep, and profoundly eerie moan . . . That moan, I'm certain, marked the end of Beth, the end of life, though the body went on breathing for another minute or so, each breath a little fainter, weaker, the body's electricity guttering down, dissolving, till there was no breath at all." (pp. 111-2)

He also analyzes whether this was "a good death." There had been many gifts: Beth's recognition of her importance, her reconciliation with her father, and her acceptance of her mother's devotion. However, Shapiro also keeps the reader cognizant of Beth's suffering and the now motherless child, the spouseless husband and the myriad other ways that Beth's death marked a void.

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Cold River

Larkin, Joan

Last Updated: Aug-15-2000
Annotated by:
Davis, Cortney

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

This collection's first section contains eight poems that address AIDS. "Inventory," a listing of the author's acquaintances who have died of AIDS, catalogs a variety of responses to this illness. Other poems are stark portraits of death in progress ("Waste Not," "Photo") as well as evidence of the love and coping skills a diagnosis of AIDS elicits ("Althea," "In Time of Plague," "Sonnet Positive"). "The Review" ironically compares a popular movie about AIDS to its reality: in the movie, family members do not flinch from kissing their infected son.

The second section addresses coming out as a Lesbian ("In the Duchess"), domestic violence ("Beatings"), and Lesbian sexuality and relationships ("Hunger" and "Want"). "My Body" is another effective "list" poem, a catalog of the female body and how its physical dimension becomes the visual history of a life "healed and healed again."

The final eight poems examine the difficult relationship between a daughter and her dying mother. The book comes full circle as the "swift river" (death from AIDS) of the book's opening poem becomes the "cold river" the speaker now swims in, a metaphor for internalizing a mother's "bitter edge" as well as the accumulated deaths of friends and lovers ("Cold River").

"To Spirit," "Journey," and "Here" regard the daughter's deathwatch over her mother. The remaining five poems serve to balance loss and hope, especially "Legacy," in which the narrator accepts how age is transforming her own body into her mother's, "her scared eyes shining in triumph."

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