Third Time Lucky

I remember the look on Mum’s face when I said I wanted to be a psychiatrist.  I had snatched defeat out of the jaws of victory. Right, I was to be ‘her son, the doctor.’ But a meshigginer doctor was open to comments in her bridge circle. The young Ms. Warshowski may have been Lovell Road born in a Leeds hovel. Praszka’s genes never deceive. Every slight is tectonic and detectable on the innate seismograph.  Flory Hilda knew her eldest son – the ‘experiment’ was squeamish. After all, a psychiatrist is a nice Jewish doctor who cannot abide blood. Mum could live with the idea of me following in the footsteps of Freud, to her an uppity bearded Viennese Jew. Praszka was a poor village, between the World-Wars they smuggled horses over the then  Polish-German border. They were good at their profession — none of my ancestors was hanged. The same frontier broached by the Nazis as they raped Poland. Mum’s cousins were the first to fall into the hands of the Nazis. Some they hanged, the rest, bar two, they gassed in nearby Auschwitz.

In far-flung Vienna Jews didn’t need to smuggle. They eat strudel, grew bushy beards and founded things. Herzl and Freud never did the markets or went house to house collecting insurance money. I am sure they would not know one end of a Singer Sowing Machine from another.

Ambivalence is something, Polish Princesses do exceptionally well. They have eye movements, facial expressions, pirouetting hands and movements of the shoulders to express it; you develop a Stockholm Syndrome in its proximity. Mum’s seismograph twitched, registering Freud as ambivalence.  This was not case about me following in the footsteps of another Viennese beard — Theodor Herzl. I knew she was against it.

In 1967 the Arab world ganged up against Israel. The Muslim and Jewish world had but one fantasy. ‘Wipe Jews off the map.’ I had to go, I made a promise and kept my promise. Israel’s fate was mine. What happened to her happened to me. We would all be together. I have no regrets whatsoever. Then leaders led, and we followed. Unfortunately we have fought many a battle.

Of late we are fighting another World War—against Corona the virus. We are in the heights of two battles; one real battle against Corona, the other a gigantic mud bath between midgets with black-hole egos—our political echelons. Our leaders are not at war against Corona- we are. The anointed ones are back in the the cloying Somme trenches fighting each other – with exactly the same results.

As a psychiatrist, I loathe bringing my experiences and my toolbox home. Sometimes it is unavoidable. Last week was one such time  The weary, frayed and dog-eared Benny Gantz told an indifferent Israel, ‘Bibi, we are at a hysterical – historical moment.’ Freud would have been so proud of that slip. Meanwhile, our leaders were sending clear subliminal messages. We, the humble, were told to forgo our families at our Seder Nights. Those who could employ zoom would do so. However, they—our President, Prime Minister and various other self-styled leaders, broke the rules right left and center. Their subliminal Pesach message was; ‘Let My People Go – to hell.’

As we fight World War Three, I shared all this with my family. My youngest brother, Laurence reply took us back to the First World War. He told us, ‘then they described a similar situation,’ The Lions Led By Donkeys.’’

I am sure, there was a rainbow stretching from the Leeds Jewish Cemetery to Praszka generated by our Mother’s smile. One of her experiments, her third born, had succeeded.

About the Author
Born in Leeds in 1944, Michael Benjamin is a retired Psychiatrist and medical auditor, co-founder of Oranit, aspiring author and inveterate cynic.
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