Sunday, November 26, 2006

Sense and Memory: A Story from Our Mother

In Austin over Thanksgiving, driving up Guadalupe Street past Austin State Hospital with our nearly 80-year-old mother, who recalled taking the bus to the facility three times a week to do “observations” for an undergraduate psychology class.

One day she saw a woman treated with electroshock.

“It was horrible,” she said, matter-of-factly. “I was so young …”

She had entered the university at 15 and graduated, summa cum laude, at 18---circumstances she attributes, not with any false modesty, to the school’s desperate need for students during World War II.

“I remember they were brewing coffee and chicory that day,” she said.

Who was?

“I don’t know. I just remember the smell.”

Well, was the staff brewing the coffee to drink? Or were they serving it to the patients before they gave them the electroshock?

“I told you I don’t know---I was just observing.”


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