What’s in That Head

I’ve been looking at drawings like these lately; I find it calms me. When I was in massage school I bought this book of drawings by one Frank Netter, believed to have been the greatest anatomical illustrator since Leonardo. (That’s Da Vinci not DiCaprio – and by the way you’e never supposed to say ‘Da Vinci’ in spite of the blockbuster book and the Tom Hanks movie. That would be like calling Mark Wahlberg DeBoston.)

Anyway this is what we look like on the inside. You know when they say “What were you thinking?” Maybe this is what they do to find out.

As I’ve  examined the workings of my own head lately I have come to see that all I wanted was for people to feel better. It’s why I’ve been writing that mostly light-hearted newspaper column since the fall of 1980: I didn’t want anyone to be sad, at least not for long. I wanted them to laugh and blow their nose and have a nice dish of ice cream. It’s also why I started to study the body: I wanted to understand how to comfort people that way too. We had just had a death when I began at the Massage Institute of New England and I never again wanted to find myself standing by the hospital bed of someone I loved and be at a loss.

Here’s what you can do when you are in that situation: you can hold the person’s hands. You can stand at right angles to him and lay your hands on his tummy or his legs. You can cradle the eggshell of her head that holds all the amazing scaffolding you see here picxtured.

When Uncle Ed, who is pictured below, had his last bad bout of congestive heart failure in June of 2006, he lay in the ER for eight whole hours waiting for a room. He was 85 at the time and didn’t tell any of us he was feeling funny; just drove himself to the hospital, the dickens. It wasn’t until I went to his house and found it empty that I put two and two together and called the ER. Yup, he was there all right.

I hurried right over. They were taking fine care of him only he felt cold. I had my mom’s old fur coat on so I put it over him. Then I sat the edge of his bed and held his feet. It’s not rocket science; it’s just human touch.  When the day comes and I am at my own end with a mind quickly emptying I hope someone comes and sits by me, of course I do. But I hope even more that they get to think a minute about the miracle of life that carries us from youth to old age and lets this delicate vessel the mind carry its cargo of memories the whole voyage long.