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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Firebright excerpt

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Phil was just getting over his shoulder surgery, when our son had to have surgery for an inguinal hernia. I had taken the baby to our family doctor in July because I observed strange symptoms when I changed his diapers, but the doctor told me that I wasn’t cleaning him well enough. I knew that it had to be something more, but I thought that it could wait. I never said anything to Phil, but I did plan to go back to the doctor and ask him to check more carefully. One morning in September, Phil was taking one of his frequent naps while I cooked breakfast. Christopher was still in his crib, babbling happily while he played with his toys. Phil got out of bed and walked down the hall, calling to me to get the doctor. At first I thought that Phil needed medical help, but then he told me that our baby had an inguinal hernia and was in danger of dying if it strangulated. He looked as if he were in a hypnotic trance. Now, Phil did not change diapers, and I had not discussed this with him, but he said that he had heard our son telling him about the hernia. Christopher knew a few words, such as “Dada” and “Mama”, but he was only fourteen months old and couldn’t possibly have said anything about an inguinal hernia.

The family doctor referred us to a specialist who said that the baby could have died if we had allowed him to cry, as many parents do when they want their babies to start sleeping through the night and skipping the two o’clock feeding. The stress and muscle contractions of crying and screaming could cause the hernia to strangulate, cutting off the blood flow and killing him. We had tried to ignore the baby’s crying in the middle of the night, but we couldn’t stand it. We had shared an intuition that this baby must not be allowed to cry, even if it meant spoiling him and losing sleep, ourselves. The surgeon repaired the hernia and removed two hydrocoels, a type of liquid-filled cyst. When Phil wrote about this, he demonstrated a total lack of knowledge by stating, “it popped the hydroseal”. Yet when he had told me to call the doctor, he had everything right.

Shortly after our son’s surgery, the electronic equipment was removed from the apartment next door and two young men moved in. Phil experienced his final “pink light” vision shortly before then. First he saw the cover of a classical music album appear on the bedroom wall, framed by a border of pink light. Then he saw a huge cat’s paw rake its claws across the bedroom wall, drawing a musical score in pink light across the album cover. He couldn’t read the title or composer of the music, but the conductor’s name was Herbert Von Karyan. Phil haunted the record store until he found an album with that cover, and he brought it home and listened to it for hours on end. It was a Schubert symphony, but I don’t remember which one. He insisted that the instrumental music (it had no vocals) contained some kind of code.

You can read more when you purchase my book Philip K. Dick: Remembering Firebright
through the link to my Amazon store on the right or from Barnes & Noble, as well as other online stores.

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