Great Aunt Mildred and the MRI


A few years ago I needed an MRI—I no longer remember why.  I’d had open MRIs but this one had to be a closed MRI and my psychologist and I weren’t entirely sure if I could handle it.  He—Dr. Paul M. Cohen—was a certified practitioner of hypnotherapy, so we decided to do a little hypnosis to prepare me.

Paul is a bright guy and a good learner and one of the things he’d learned was that instead of describing a scene for me to use under hypnosis, he should just give me a couple general suggestions and let my creativity design the scene.  I don’t know what he said that day but it was probably something about finding a safe, happy place, and what I came up with was the Hope Family Reunion.

The Hope family numbered about a hundred people and reunited on the Sunday nearest the Fourth of July at the Lower Farm, which is the one deeded into the family by William Penn.  Big whitewashed farmhouse, long green lawn, big trees, a rope swing, all set way back from the “highway,” which was a two-lane country road that got paved about a hundred years ago, best as the family remembers.  Anyway, there would be family all over the place, lots of homemade food, green places to play, and so forth.  It was a safe and happy place, so I went there when Paul and I were making the bridge from consciousness to unconsciousness to plant the message that I was safe in the MRI.

So I get to the medical building and am inserted in the MRI and my body is laying there but my mind is at the Hope Family Reunion and I see Great Aunt Mildred coming at me.  Aunt Mildred is married to Uncle Roy, who is my grandmother’s something-or-other relative.  One of the Hope men had three wives, two of them predeceasing him and each of them bearing him two children.  My grandmother, Mary Hope, was descended from one of the wives and Uncle Roy Hope was descended from another of the wives, so they had the same grandfather but different grandmothers.  Those are the facts; the feelings are that Grandma and Uncle Roy were as close as brother and sister for all their eighty or ninety years.

Uncle Roy was a tall, white-haired gentleman who worked for Bell Telephone in their lab for designing equipment for people who were hard of hearing, which he either was or became.  His wife, Aunt Mildred, was almost as tall as he was but she also was hefty, being broad of shoulder with big boobs and a tightly corseted torso.  Aunt Mildred’s head was unusually round and her white hair was crimped in the manner of women young in the early 1900’s.  And, from my child’s-eye view, each breast was approximately the size of her head:  b-i-g breasts.  My only recollection of Aunt Mildred is of her wearing a navy blue dress with a deep, square-cut neck, and a string of pearls.

The problem was that Aunt Mildred liked little kids, and she loved to hug them.  So I’m lying there in the MRI, but I’m also an under-sized five-year-old at the reunion and Aunt Mildred is coming at me in her navy blue dress.  She’s bending down!  She’s going to hug me to her breasts!  A little kid could suffocate in there!

I became fully present-time conscious with the horrific realization that I was about to start shaking with laughter and I was pretty sure the technicians wouldn’t understand that I was laughing, or what I was laughing about.  Great Aunt Mildred blew the MRI, not me.

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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