The Healing Art of Writing Conference in San Rafael, California this year was blessed in so many ways. I met many wonderful new writer friends; received the go-ahead, after minor changes, for the first chapter of my memoir; was nourished by the many craft talks, workshops and discussions with guest authors; and enjoyed rich conversations with so many participants.
One conversation with my friend Madeleine and Rachel Naomi Remen, author of Kitchen Table Wisdom and My Grandfather’s Blessings, stands out. As we walked to lunch after our writing workshop, I was asking Ms. Remen how I might get the word out about the connection between infant surgery without anesthetic and PTSD when she told us this story. Ms. Remen was born prematurely, put into an incubator and made to go without human touch for six months. How did she survive? She developed a special way of listening, she told us, of intuiting the people who were undoubtedly nearby but could not come near. She survived through intuition. She became, if you will, one who sensed (my words). She was giving me insight about my own experience.
As we walked, I thought about my own experience of separation from my mother at twenty-six-days old in 1952. According to my mother, after the surgery, I lay in a crib fitted with an oxygen test in a single isolated room and she stood watching out for me from the hallway day after day, looking through a window. It was anywhere from two to three weeks until I was reunited with her in the flesh. I am sure though that I sensed her presence. When I think about how I could have survived the operation, the recovery, and the separation from my mother, I do believe that I too developed an uncanny empathic sense. Had I not been able to sense my mother’s presence, would I have survived?