So…do you know where your corpus callosum is? I know a certain 9-year-old, 6-year-old, and 4-year-old who do. Sunflower has been working on knowing her body parts in pre-K, so we were playing, asking her, “Where is your nose? Where is your knee? Where is your elbow?”, and she’d point it out to us, at least, while she and her brothers were not fully occupied with hysterically dissolving into sputters of laughter calling out, “Where’s your butt?” To be nerdily funny, I yelled out, “Where is your corpus callosum?”, and I was immediately rewarded with puzzled, put-down-your-crackpipe glances from the kids. I explained to them that the corpus callosum connects the two halves of their brains, and now when you ask “Where is your corpus callosum?” (as every ordinary American family does several times a week, at least), the 4-year-old taps the middle of the top of her head with a “duh, where else?” gesture. Hmmmph! How many other kids in that pre-K class know that, I ask you?
The other day I was strolling through a store when, timely enough, I spotted a foam puzzle of a human brain, complete with a labelled corpus callosum! Naturally I snatched this treasure up, and this past weekend the kids and I spent hours conducting highly intricate brain surgery on unfortunate patients whose brains repeatedly fell apart, got dropped, had pieces replaced upside down or backwards, or even had their brains planted into someone else’s head, occasionally a cat’s. I love their imaginations and the anticipatory look they give me as they bring me the completed puzzle, brandished for me to see it was put together correctly, and announcing, “I did it all by myself!” That’s good, because operations tended to go especially haywire when I was assisting.
In other news…I spent the morning with doctors and nurses and the occasional patient, and it left me a few times just wanting to sit and digest what I had seen or heard, and was feeling. I work in a hospice, and death being a subject that is so violently avoided except in horror movies for its gore-laced thrill effect, it is a massive change of pace to deal with it every day, repeatedly. Today I accepted 2 death certificates and carried the files to the doctors’ station to be signed, and as I placed the folders on the table, I had to stop a minute and look at the crooked stacks of multi-colored paper inside each one, chronicling that person’s descent, with the death certificate neatly clipped to the front. I wondered what my own file would be filled with, and my dark, dry sense of humor kicked in as I pictured doctors’ notes like “Patient improves during hockey games” or “Patient sluggish until we begin discussing feminism or other choice topics; then quite animated”. I don’t want to be remembered by a stack of paper in a file. I want to know I lived and died and left something positive behind, inspired change for the better. Even as cynical as I am sometimes, I can’t believe that I was born feeling so intensely about issues in this world for no reason.
That could be the main reason the people working here seem so different from anywhere else I’ve ever worked. They are most in touch with death, see it every day, are reminded every day to kick it in gear while you are still alive and do something.