Want happy children?
Be happy parents.
Chapter Twenty One
Is intuition real?
How do you know?
I feel it in my gut.
Later that morning I tell Sis, “The condo across the hall is going to be sold soon.”
Susan, “You know this how?”
“I talked to my friend’s parents.”
Susan, “The one you’ve been waiting for?”
“We’re finally going to meet her.”
Chris, “Meet her? When?”
“They scheduled an appointment to look at the condo tomorrow, then they’ll come here and we’ll all enter the Twilight Zone, de do de do de do de do dooooo.”
Susan, “Wait, don’t skip ahead. You talked to her parents?”
“Yes, it was neat. She’s been telling her folks the same stuff I’ve been telling you. In order to prove it to them, she got me to call, while they were sitting next to the speakerphone. I told them what they were wearing, what the room looked like and read some of a book my friend pulled off a shelf at random. It was fun. They were pretty cool about it. Nobody fainted or anything. Personally, I would have appreciated a little more drama.”
Chris, “A little more drama, like what? This actually happened?”
“Just a little while ago.”
Susan, “So you met her parents, on the phone?”
“Yes, Sis. I knew they were looking to move to this area, and I told them about the Bloomfield’s place and Mrs. Svensson said it sounded like what she was looking for, so they made an appointment to see it, tomorrow.”
Chris, “Well, this will be different. What do you know about them?”
“Her dad is a prominent psychiatrist. Her mom is an artist, a Scandinavian blonde. You are going to like her parents. They’re very cool.”
“Does your friend have a name?”
Chapter Twenty Two I
“There is no use trying,” said Alice; “one can't believe impossible things.”
“I dare say you haven't had much practice,” said the Queen.
“When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day.
Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
The doorbell rings, Chris opens the door, a lovely blonde woman and a tall thin man stand there silently smiling. Next to them is a girl of with pure snow white hair that falls to her shoulders. Chris thinks to herself, ‘such a striking young lady. If Daphne has any competition in the beauty department, this girl is it.’ She isn’t as tall as I, but has the beginnings of a very cute figure and intoxicating sapphire blue eyes.
“Hi, I’m Kara Svensson and this is my husband James and this ....” before she can finish, I am at the door, “and this is Janah.”
We embrace, then step back and take each other in, embrace again then stand holding hands. Janah looks at her mother and smiles. She introduces me to her parents.
I shake hands with James and hug Kara, “This is so cool, finally meeting everyone.”
I continue to James, “Janah tells me you are a distinguished psychiatrist. You have your work cut out for you here. My moms don’t seem to understand the depth of attention I need. When you have a moment, could you explain to them how a fragile adolescent needs presents, expensive presents and lots of attention in order to maintain her sanity in an increasingly insane world? You may want start right away, they can be difficult to reason with.”
James grins, “And you, Daphne, are exactly as Janah described. I look forward to getting your parent’s side of the story before I plan an approach.”
I look to Janah, “I think we can work with him. Let’s go get Sis.”
We walk together towards Susan who is just coming out of her office in the back of the condo.
“Janah, this is my mom, Susan Sylk. I call her Sis for obvious reasons.”
Janah steps to Susan and takes her hand. She says in a voice so soft she is almost whispering, “You could be sisters, you’re as beautiful as Daphne.”
Susan hugs her, “My new very best friend. Thank you, angel.”
She stares at the white haired girl. How in the world did I know her? She is, as I said, positively adorable. Susan feels a sense of calm wash over her. Suddenly, it is as if everything has fallen into perfect place.
Susan says, mostly to herself, “You were right, Daphne, you were exactly, precisely right.”
Sis is still as a stone, I awaken her from her reverie, “Her parents are waiting to meet you, Sis.”
Susan blinks back into the moment, and returns to the living room trailing Janah and me.
“Sis, this is Dr. and Mrs. Svensson, they’ve already met Chris, this is my other mom, Susan.”
The exchange of common pleasantries didn’t mask the bewilderment. They did, as they are designed to do, help make the transition from complete stranger to acquaintance. That done, it was easy to see there was much more to discuss.
Chris moved things along, “Honey, I think you and Janah might like to visit in your room. If the Svenssons have time, I’ll make coffee, maybe Irish coffee. I’m feeling the need for a drink. We may want to talk for a while, so go away.”
I take Janah’s hand and we head to my room.
The parents silently stare at each other, Chris, “I see you’re as dazed as we are, we have things to talk about. Please sit, let’s try and sort this out.”
They gather at one end of the large table, James, “You are both exactly as described. I am floored.”
Susan, “Since you’re a psychiatrist, do you think we can get a break on group therapy?”
James shrugs, “As long as I’m part of the group, not the therapist. I’m out of my league on this.”
Susan looks at Kara, “According to my daughter, your husband is in a league all his own.”
Kara smiles, “He’s pretty good they tell me. The best thing is that, unless you know what he does, you would never guess. He doesn’t have that “shrink” thing going on all the time.”
James, “We’ve heard some remarkable things about this family. Three black belts, Chris a 5th degree, and Susan a successful computer consultant. And we haven’t a clue how Janah knows all this. I was wondering if it was a hyperactive imagination, until yesterday.”
Susan, “When Daphne called you.”
James, “Yes, it was entirely spur of the moment, it couldn’t have been arranged. Even if it was, for Daphne to tell us exactly what we were wearing, what book Janah had, reading the text to us over the phone…..”
Kara, “It was like she was sitting in the room. I presume, in a way, she was.”
Chris pours coffee, adds a shot of Irish whiskey to hers, “Anyone else?”
Kara and Susan decline, James says, “Excellent idea,” holds his cup up for Chris to add the Jameson’s.
After everyone had stirred and sipped, the tension subsides as they exchange stories. Hints thrown out for over a year, culminating in the last two or three days with direct references to families, careers, even physical characteristics. Then the phone call.
Susan, “What does this mean, what happened to let this happen? I’m….I’m babbling. I’m completely mystified.”
Kara looks at James, who responds, “We’ve been through every possibility we can think of and can only come to the conclusion Janah gave us; somehow she knows Daphne and she isn’t sure how she knows. She says she can see Daphne in her head and talk to her…mentally. Actually, that’s not even all of it. She can see what Daphne sees. At first, to see each other they stood in front of a mirror. Now, if one looks at something, the other sees it.”
Susan, “But if one sees what the other sees, what happens to what that one sees? Am I making sense?”
James, “You mean, if Janah is looking through Daphne’s eyes, and is in her room, what happens to what she would normally be seeing if she wasn’t looking though Daphne’s eyes?”
Chris, “Yes what? I’m not following. Wait, Daphne is looking at a book, Janah is in her own room across town. If she wasn’t looking through Daphne’s eyes, she would be seeing what is in front of her in her own room. So what happens to that when she’s looking through Daphne’s eyes? Is that it?”
Susan, “Yes. Does she lose track of where she is. Suppose she was walking and was looking through Daphne’s eyes, but was in her own house. Why wouldn’t she fall over something, or run into a wall?”
James, “Good question. I asked Janah the same thing. She said that they see everything at once. Where they are individually, and what the other is looking at.”
Chris, “How in hell does that happen? I mean, isn’t it like trying to text and drive at the same time? They say people can’t really focus on two things at once, that there is attention shift from one to the other, which creates accidents.”
James, “Exactly. But let’s think about it for a minute. Your example is correct, we can shift attention quickly, in milliseconds, but we still lose sight of the one thing while focused on the other.”
Susan, “So don’t they have the same problem?”
James, “What if there are two brains, not just one?”
It is quiet for a minute, they digest James’ comment.
Susan, “I don’t know, but I see your point. Our brains are capable of really focusing on one thing at a time, but it also can be processing other things. If there were two brains…..”
James, “Then maybe it’s possible to focus on two things. I’m not saying that’s the answer, but they clearly compensate somehow. Has Daphne been falling over the furniture? Or running into the wall?”
Chris, “No, if anything, she’s been more calm and attentive.”
Kara, “Janah hasn’t been falling down either, or knocking things over, or anything else that would demonstrate distraction.”
Susan, “Wow, they’ve figured out how to handle the world in two spots, through each other’s eyes at the same time.”
James, “And talk to each other, and to hear what the other hears, and, according to Janah, they have begun to feel what the other feels.”
Susan, “Holy smokes.”
James, “Well put.”
He reassures Susan and Chris, “Janah is very grounded, very, well...mature. She is not prone either to little girl fantasies, certainly not some sort of huge practical joke. She would think it something between silly and cruel.”
Chris, “Daphne likes to play, but this wouldn’t be her style, and it would involve both of them. As you said, Janah wouldn’t play along anyway. Plus, it’s been going on for well over a year. I think we’re just behind and they can do what they say they can do. We don’t understand it, but that’s our problem, not theirs.”
Susan, “How did it come up on your side?”
James, “Janah started talking about this a year ago. Although she said she had been experimenting with it over a year before that. I watched and listened. While I didn’t understand how she knew what she knew, I didn’t find anything that smelled delusional. It was limited to this one thing, not voices in her head, a specific voice, human, not God or some imaginary entity. And there was no paranoia, no loss of memory, she always knew who she was, and where she was. There was none of the discontinuity that accompanies delusion. Janah knows much of what I know, she’s a bit of a brain. She questioned it herself, just like I would do if she had been a patient. I never figured out what it was. I knew what it wasn’t; she is neither delusional nor neurotic.”
Susan, “So it’s not a mental illness.”
James, “People are too quick to call things mental illness. Being different is, to some therapists, mental illness. It annoys the crap out of me, they’re just trying to find a way to get their patients covered by insurance.”
Chris, “Man, you got that right. It seems like everyone who doesn’t fit some description of normal needs therapy and pills. That’s bullshit.”
Susan, “Chris tends to be direct.”
James laughs, “Then she’s one of my favorite people. It is bullshit. Frankly, it’s the abnormal people who do stuff, create, find unique ways to solve problems, look at the world without the constraints of the past, or their culture, or their religion. Sometimes people get labeled because they make society nervous, insecure. They don’t like rules and they don’t blindly follow them.”
Susan, “That would be Chris. Daphne’s a cross, she does it her way, but people like her, even the uptight ones. I think it’s because she’s young, they cut her some slack.”
James, “Or it’s because people see someone they wish they were brave enough to be.”
Chris, “Yeah, that’s what it is. I couldn’t put the words to it. People don’t just like Daphne, they want to be Daphne, they just don’t have the guts.”
Kara, “Janah doesn’t like convention. I don’t know how they found each other, but Daphne sounds like exactly the kind of person Janah would look for.”
Susan is perplexed, “I’ve never heard of anything like this. We don’t do any religious or spiritual stuff. As close as we get is our martial arts training, internal energy, focus, body awareness. It’s not religious or spiritual in any way.”
James, “However they know what they know, they didn’t make it up.”
Chris says, almost to herself, “Ms. Alva, she knew.”
Kara, “Ms. Alva?”
Susan, “She was a dear, dear friend, not a relation, much more than that, a true grandmother to Daphne, a mentor to me. She told Daphne that her visions were real, and beautiful, and to trust them. She passed away, but she never leaves Daphne’s heart, or mine.”
James, “She sounds like a remarkable woman.”
Susan, “You have no idea how much she helped us. One day, I’ll tell you the whole incredible story if you’re interested.”
James, “I’m fascinated already. She clearly understood things we didn’t.”
Susan, “Oh yes. Many things.”
Chapter Twenty Three I
Choice implies confusion, not clarity.
When you see something very clearly,
there is no choice, there is only action.
We come in holding hands, not as if we were afraid the other would disappear, rather laughing quietly, looking at each other. Janah sits at the table and I began boiling water for tea.
“She drinks green tea, Sis, as I said.”
Susan, “Daphne insisted I buy half a dozen green tea assortments yesterday. She said we would need lots of green tea. I just put it in the basket and didn’t bother to ask.”
Kara, “Janah drinks it by the gallon.”
Chris, “That explains it then.”
Susan, “Explains what?”
Chris, “I have no idea, it seemed like something to say.”
The parents laugh nervously, James, “It’s important to us that you’re willing to explore this. Please understand, we’re in the dark too.”
Chris, “I’m good with what Susan thinks.”
Susan is rinsing her cup at the sink, she turns and leans against the counter, “Daphne is the most sensible person I know. Clearly, she has been waiting for Janah. They can talk mentally, it’s not anything I understand, but they sure don’t know each other from someplace else. I see how they are together, I see the look in their eyes. It would be mean not to let them find out what they have been so patiently waiting to find out. It would also be pointless. Even if we wanted to, how could we keep them from communicating with each other?”
Kara laughs, “I have a vision of me telling Janah, ‘Listen young lady, you will not use your mind to talk to Daphne, and that’s final.’”
They laugh again, the tension dissipating.
Chris, “It’s not like they’ve done anything wrong. If anything, they’ve shown extraordinary maturity waiting, not freaking out. I don’t know what I’d have done if I had the premonitions these girls have. I doubt I would have handled it as calmly….that’s bull, I know I wouldn’t have.”
James, “I couldn’t have said it better. I’m intensely curious, I confess. It’s my nature, part of my training. The other side, though, is I refuse to turn my daughter, or Daphne, into a research project.”
Chris, “That was on my mind, considering your profession. I’m relieved to hear you don’t want to go in that direction. At the least it would mean involving someone else, someone we don’t know.”
I am making tea in a china teapot, with a delicate china teacup and saucer. The tea is loose, not in a bag, steeping via infuser in the pot. I carefully remove it, wait until the tea settles and pour. I examine the cup carefully, satisfied that it is perfect, take it to Janah. I sit next to her and look at the family. Janah’s eyes follow me.
“She doesn’t like it sweetened, and she’s a vegetarian. She also doesn’t talk much. She’s not shy or anything, just quiet. I don’t mind talking for both of us. With her brain, I’ll sound really smart. She’s into yoga by the way. If you see her in some impossible position it’s okay, she won’t break. Excuse me, I need to get Janah some fruit.”
Susan, “How do you know she wants fruit?”
I smile at Sis, “I know.”
“May Janah stay with us tonight? I know she doesn’t have clothes and stuff, we can figure it out. We really have a lot to talk over, it’s even more fun in person.”
Kara looks at Susan, who says, “We would love for Janah to stay, I work here, it is absolutely no trouble.”
I fetch cut fruit, neatly arrange it on a large plate with a linen napkin and a fork. I place it in front of Janah, take cookies and brownies on a separate plate with napkins and small plates for the parents. I ask if anyone wants more coffee, get a yes from James and Chris, refilled their coffee then slid next to Janah.
She smiles, I say, “Good,” take a cookie and break off a piece to nibble on.
Susan, “What’s good?”
“She likes my tea.”
“How do you know?’
“I asked her.”
Chris shrugs and asks, “Are you guys taking the condo?”
James glances at Kara, then Janah, who is occupied sharing the fruit with me.
“I don’t think we have a choice.”
From that afternoon, for the rest of our lives, we will never spend a day apart.
Chapter Twenty Four I
A week passes, Janah and I inseparable. She stays with us while the Svenssons arrange the move. Then Kara is busy organizing the condo; the work goes quickly, Susan and Chris insist on helping with box disposal, furniture adjustments and picture hanging. The three fall into easy conversation about each other and each family’s life before the meeting.
Kara confides during the unpacking, “I can’t tell you how delighted I am that Janah has found someone with whom she so obviously relates. I mean, Janah’s doing lots of work at school, she has students calling her all the time on top of that. Daphne is different for her. Not a student to tutor, or teach yoga to. Daphne doesn’t need to talk over her problems or have some personal confusion to sort out. She’s there for Janah, not because she needs something. Am I making sense?”
Susan, “Until they met, whenever they met, Daphne had no close friends. She said she didn’t relate to what girls her age were about. At first, I had the issue of same sex parents on my mind. Daphne insisted that wasn’t it. I always kind of wondered though.”
Kara, “Janah knew. Your daughter speaks of each of you in such glowing terms it was easy to know you have a solid relationship. Children are happy when their parents are.”
Susan, “I hadn’t thought of it that way before. Children are happy when their parents are. I wonder why we don’t see that?”
Kara, “Janah says parents are too busy trying to “make” their children happy. The energy is being spent on the wrong thing.”