Unexpected Glimpses

The mind is a wonderful and fearsome thing. Mine, for example, dredges up unexpected glimpses—memories, good and bad—of incidents which have shaped my life. Some are events. Some are encounters with people – family, friends, or strangers. All have been emotional, engulfing my heart and challenging my intellect.

There seems to be no order to these glimpses. My mind skips through my life, picks out events, and presents them for my attention. Sometimes they are helpful for resolving a current problem, but many times not. Something just triggers a recollection. Some of the events that my mind will not drop go back to my early twenties.  

Those were troubled times. Canada was still at war, victory not yet sure. The country was short of everything, including trained people to fill the gaps left by those going overseas. So it was in 1943 that I found myself being trained as an assistant for the doctor who ran the Provincial Guidance Clinic in Edmonton. It held three sessions a month, and dealt with a multitude of problems.

Under the direction of the psychiatrist in charge, I arranged each clinic and prepared the necessary paperwork. One day as I sat in the adjoining office, I heard a middle-aged woman crying in his office. Later, as he dictated notes for her file, I learned that she was a lesbian. When I assumed that her sexual choice (as I understood it then) went in the line for “cause of condition,” he corrected me.

“Oh, no. To be homosexual is as normal as to be heterosexual. It is the way that she has been treated by our heterosexual society that has ruined her mental stability.”

Another unexpected lesson came when a mother visited the clinic with her Down’s Syndrome daughter – a happy, cheerful little girl.

“What can I do for you?” asked the doctor.

“Just advice, Doctor. She gives me so much joy, just as she is. It distresses me though, when some people don’t like to be near her. Do they think that being different makes her dangerous? What should I do?”

“You are already doing what she needs: You give her love and acceptance. Don’t worry about those who have not encountered Down’s Syndrome before. Do what you can to educate them, and move on. Jessica’s niche is small, and her gifts precious to those who know her. Be strong, soldier on, and continue to enjoy your delightful daughter.”

I’m reaching a long way back along my path for these glimpses, which are only a few of the memories my mind has accumulated. Did they change me? Of course! I learned to see the world differently, as a more complex place with wider boundaries than I had imagined.

The years slip by. Will I continue to change? I devoutly hope so, for it will indicate that I am still learning. But in any event, the treasure chest of memories my mind has been carefully storing is waiting to be used, both for sheer pleasure and for encouragement and guidance in my dwindling years.

So, in that knowledge, I have just one request of my mind:

“More glimpses, please!

And hurry!”


Filed under This & That

19 Responses to Unexpected Glimpses

  1. Ralph Gibson

    Mom, I think there is no real chance that you will lose your capacity to learn, change & grow.

    Nice piece of writing. Thank you for it.

    By the way, did I know that psychiatrist ?

    • Marjorie

      Thanks for your confidence, Ralph, and glad you liked it. I have a good editor too! Yes, you knew the psychiatrist very well.

  2. Brenda Wallace

    Love those snippets of wisdom that pop up when you least expect them! Our memories can delight or cause pain but always give a measure of our growth. This week I have been remembering two 19 year old kids who married 49 years ago on June 10. What used to be painful to remember, in time has become a cause for joyful reflection. Thanks for your memories, dear friend.

    • Who said, “Tragedy plus time equals comedy”? Perhaps joy should be added, for there seems to be no “bad” thing that happens that, with time and reflection doesn’t make us better human beings, able to empathize and appreciate this tapestry that is Life. That’s why I think getting older and old is so great — we have perspective, and (one hopes) wisdom.
      Marjorie, you remind us of that all the time.

      • Marjorie

        Remember Darwin, Barbara? He is reported to have said that his enemies were his greatest friends. He felt he learned more from having to support his theories from those who did not agree with him, than he would have learned without them. If we can actually be honestly introspective, even part of the time, life does seem less troublesome and more enjoyable.

    • Eveline Goodall

      I write from Africa where our family is inthe last day of a three week trip. Ten days of that trip was on Safari in Tanzania. The remainder of the time has again been in Rwanda were we worked in a wonderful women’s project this time; Chris and I teaching contraception and Janet and Kai and Lauchlann playing with the children In the daycare with the many toys they brought. So it is wonderful to read this entry to your blog because I got my very first teaching and a solid grounding from the same psychiatrist albeit about twenty years later. You bring back many touching memories for me. Much love to you and many thanks for all you do.

      • Marjorie

        Eveline – How fortunate we both are to have known and worked with one who truly was a good man, and an outstanding psychiatrist. Not all are so lucky. His wife mothered all who entered her life, and that spilled over on us who worked with him. The combination helped to shape our lives.

    • Marjorie

      Always great to hear from “old” friends! Don’t know about the wisdom, Brenda, but my advanced age I have a least covered a lot of ground, and experience the good, bad, and indifferent — and am blessed with abundant memories. May you enjoy yours, as I do mine.

  3. Kate

    Hi Gram
    It’s nice to read those memories, and I think you were lucky to get to work for someone who was as open minded and thoughtful as he sounds to have been.
    I’m sure it influenced your thinking and empathy,

    • Marjorie

      You hit it right on the nail, Kate! I just finished writing a response to a woman who worked for the same chap, some twenty years after I did! Some peoples’ lives are like rocks thrown in a pond. The rings spread out, further and further across the pond and affect all they meet.

  4. Leone Jobson

    As always I loved this post. Though the story is new to me it brings me warm remembrances of very special people. So many treasured memories involve your family and mine.

    • Marjorie

      We were friends when I worked in the clinic, but very much as the professional and the assistant. As soon as I left the office, and married, the four of us became close personal friends for life. We watched each others families grow, get married, struggle with life’s ups and downs. He died far too early, but she lived long enough to see our first great-grandchild! Not surprising that they pop up in my memories, and in the family-feeling I now have for their middle-aged kids!

  5. Dorothy

    Thank you Marjorie for those glimpses of a psychiatrist that I also knew well. 🙂 It’s been so long since he passed and I never really got to hear his wisdom, but the ripples of it and the loving outreach of his wife resonate in my life, and now I have proof that they resonate for others too.

    • Marjorie

      Dorothy – The memories of our unnamed psychiatrist, and his dear wife, indeed resonate in the minds of many, many people. The responses to this short essay supports that belief. From my son, Ralph, to a friend of mine who worked in the clinic long after I left. Rest content. They are not forgotten.

  6. Yvonne

    Marjorie, this is a comment on the post before this one, “The Memories Life Triggers”. (I missed the cut off time for posting under it so I will do it here.)

    The Memories Life Triggers post really struck a cord with me. As you know I grew up on the coast and now call the prairies home, the opposite from your sequence of residences. From the moment I arrived on the prairie as a 17 year old coming out to go to school I recognized the beauty it had to offer and that initial feeling has never left me. I equate the rolling fields of grain to the rolling waves on the ocean. I love the expanse and motion of both.
    The question of ‘beauty’ has come up with my family when they have visited us from the coast. I will always remember a visit from my parents years ago. It was a cold winter day and the prairies were covered in a frigid blanket of snow. I was out driving with my dad and as he looked out from the car
    window he suddenly said, “It sure is desolate isn’t it?”. I laughed at
    myself when I enthusiastically replied, “No, it’s beautiful!”. When I couldn’t fathom how he didn’t see the ‘beauty’ I was seeing from the car window when we looked out at those frigid cold fields I realized I was officially a prairie girl. What dad saw as ‘desolate’ I saw as peaceful, pristine and sparkling with light just for us.
    Even though I grew up on the coast every time I am out there visiting my parents and family I am taken aback by the beauty, colour and lushness that that climate has to offer and am so grateful that B.C. was where I started out. And each time I return to the prairies I take a deep breath as I drive east, drinking in the beautiful blue sky and relishing that ‘room to breath’ feeling that I always get when I come home. The very same feeling I experienced on my first drive out to college all those years ago…
    So as you say, beauty is beauty, it presents itself in many ways, how fortunate are we to have such a variety to choose from!
    Love Yvonne

    • Marjorie

      Yvonne, I thoroughly enjoyed your comments after you read “The Memories Life Triggers”. As you probably guess, our reactions are very similar. Vancouver is beautiful beyond easy description. Oceans and beaches, trees that bloom, flowers year round – and a “winter” which feels like fall to a prairie girl. I am happy here. Still, when I return to the prairies, I take a deep breath and whisper “I’m home again! There’s nothing like it!”

  7. Judith

    What a wonderful essay! It also reminds us that we can continue to have a positive effect on the world after we’re gone, as this psychiatrist clearly has. Thank you again for making the effort to share your thoughts so eloquently.

    • Marjorie

      Yes, Judith – the psychiatrist and his remarkable wife left positive vibes with those they encountered. They were good people, well trained in their fields, easy to meet and enjoy. Age-wise, about ten years older than Sheldon and me – enough to make good mentors, and close enough to be dear personal friends. They left their mark on us and on all those they knew.