Volume 3, Number 171
'There's a Jewish story everywhere'

Sunday-Monday, August 16-17, 2009

Book Serialization

I'm still here ... Memoirs of Laura Simon, 103

Mayo ... Read more Doctor Oakton ... Read more

Editor's Note: Today San Diego Jewish World continues the-weekly serialization of I'm Still Here by Laura Simon, a San Diego resident who is still going strong at 103. She wrote this book to mark her 100th birthday.

We will maintain a list of links to the installments of her story on Laura Simon's archive page, which can be accessed any day of the week through the "authors" pulldown tab below our masthead. Laura, who once painted canvases in vivid colors, today is legally blind, so she is unable to read e-mail. However, she says anyone who wishes to contact her may do so through the e-mail of her son, New York playwright Mayo Simon at mayosimon@aol.com The book may be purchased via its publisher's website, www.montezumapublishing.com or via Amazon or Barnes & Noble's websites.

Link to previous chapters

By Laura Simon


By the time I was having my first baby, we were living in Palmer Square. I was ignorant of what a woman goes through in having a baby. After an all day, all night struggle with labor, the body endlessly fighting—is that my mother screaming in the corridor?

“You! You were teaching that woman at the wheel to drive over the sidewalk into the crowds.

On Potomac Avenue I'm across the street, I’m dying with them you’re crushing my children into the candy store window and an old man killed too, my baby girl more lucky, so now you’re here for thisone?”

Mannie at my bedside trying to comfort me, when suddenly rushing to the doorway he stops her from coming in.

“Is this the only doctor she could get? He killed her little brother. Of all the doctors in the world she had to pick him?”

Just then a nurse appearing takes her by the arm. “I’ve got a nice cup of coffee for you, Mrs. Silverberg.” Leading her away. In the delivery room I am trembling and shivering . . .

I open my eyes. I’m still in this world and Mannie is at my bedside, a soft kiss to my forehead.

“It’s a boy,” pointing to the echo, “It’s a boy,” the nurse said, bringing my baby. I put up my hand, “take him away,” turning. “He’ll be your pride and joy,” Mannie said, the nurse saying, “If you don’t want him, I’m putting him in this drawer.”

“Leave the drawer open,” I was about to say. She was already gone.

“He weighs nine pounds,” Mannie said.

“Nine pounds?”

“And he’s got blue marks on his forehead.”

“Oh.” An instrument baby, wondering if the damage would last forever.

It hit me. A drawer bed may be too hard for him. What must it be like to lose a son?

“Look – you’re not deaf, Laura.”

No, I thought, I’m not deaf and I screamed the world down. The nurse coming in to see if I had a change of mind, getting the baby and giving him to me, Mannie with a sigh of relief must have been thinking he’s going to be stuck with him.

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“Look – he’s trying to grab your finger.”

“He trusts me,” I said.

“Laura, what should we name him?”

“Mayo,” I said.

“Laura -- nobody in all this world will ever love you as I love you.” Bending over us to get his kiss.

Doctor Oakton

Three months later I take my baby wrapped in a white shawl to his pediatrician, Dr. Oakton.

“You’ll be next,” he said to others waiting their turn, sliding the doors closed. After taking a look at the baby, he said, “Laura, you didn’t even call me to come and hold your hand.”

“Oh -- nothing to it. I don’t know why I’m so tired.”

Thoughtfully taking his time, his hands folded to his lips temple-style, “You look good,” he said, his eyes, his expression still wondering, “well, maybe I’ll give you some iron,” looking to his closet pharmacy.

Later I’m back again, alone.

“You must be wondering why I’m here,” I said.

“I was just about to ask you that,” he said. “Take your time. No hurry. Just as I told you thelast time. You’ve got to give yourself a little time. You’ll get your energy back. I don’t see any problem.”

I knew there were people waiting out there for him. My head was down. I didn’t know how to start. I started.

“My mother’s divorce was all my fault. I know, it was 17 years ago, and maybe it’s ridiculous for me to say anything about it now, but I don’t see that her life is better now that she’s remarried.

Same hard times, same problems. Now she’s got two more little children to worry about.”

I’m back on the witness stand. The lawyer was saying to me “Did your mother hit your father with this?” holding up long underwear.

I said, “I didn’t see any buttons” and everyone started to laugh.

“You see this scar?” my father jumping up to disturb the chief witness, me. “This is what she did to me.”

“I didn’t do it.” Ready to cry, my father still ranting and raving and they’re telling him to sit down, the lawyer saying, “Then what did you see?”

I was getting scared. “It was dark. He just came in. He pulled a pillow out from under her head and she started to scream. ‘Women! You got women!’ And he was screaming. And he took the pillow. He threw it all over the house. A real snowstorm.”

A man jumped up. “Women? That’s adultery!”

“That’s a god damn lie,” my father got up to say. “Men have their rights too. She’s not getting a divorce. She’s got to take care of the house; there’s the children. She's an Upstairsika busybody and a Downstairsika too.”

Laughter again fills the courtroom.

Dr. Oakton interrupts. “You’re a grown up now. You have your husband, your child, your own relationships. You are blaming yourself. Give yourself permission to stop. What do you want to do now, give your mother the sun and the moon because she put you on the stand to help her? You
were just a child.”

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