|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.30(d)|
Read an Excerpt
By Judith Akullian
AuthorHouse LLCCopyright © 2014 Judith Akullian Ph.D.
All rights reserved.
* * *
Joan has lived in apartment 1A practically her whole life. Her parents moved there when she was three, right before her brother was born. With the expectation of a third child, Joan's parents realized that they needed larger living quarters to house their growing family. So, forty five years ago Joan, her older sister Susan, and her parents moved into the building. The apartment, a large three bedroom, faced the street which permitted it to be flooded with sunlight during the afternoon hours; an occurrence that was very pleasing to Joan. Joan's sister was eight years her senior, and although Susan was kind to Joan, the difference in their ages was too remarkable for them to be friends. Joan though, was very attached to her mother.
When her mother became pregnant with her brother, Joan and her mother spoke about how it would be when Joan became a big sister. To Joan a little brother or sister would be like having a doll, maybe like the one she played with during the day and slept with at night. She did not think it would change her relationship with her mother; she would be her mother's little girl just like before. Reality though, can often shock and traumatize our senses. Joan was not prepared for the loss of her mother's attention. She did not understand the enormous amount of energy and time her mother needed to devote to her infant's constant demands. To state that Joan was jealous is to underemphasize the discomfort and even bewilderment Joan experienced when her brother Fred was brought home. Susan to her credit, tried to fill the empty space her mother left. She offered to play with Joan and spend time taking her to the neighborhood park. But Joan was inconsolable and Susan soon gave up. To complicate things further, Joan's father was delighted that he now had a son, an heir to carry on his name; a very important and meaningful event in this Jewish household. Joan became aware that her brother, who occupied so much of her beloved mother's attention, was also, it seemed, a preferred child.
Like most children, Joan learned to live with her interloper of a brother. She tried to like him in order to please her mother who enlisted her assistance by telling her she was mommy's helper. Joan went along with it; it allowed her to spend time with her mother. Happy she was not. And then the event that was to change her life occurred.
It happened one week day afternoon when Joan, her mother and her brother Fred were in the kitchen. Her mother was preparing to feed Fred who was ten months old. He was sitting in his high chair, one of those old fashioned tall wooden seats with a tray attached where food was placed. Joan's mother had her back to her children. Joan was teasing her brother by dangling a toy rattle in front of him. He was attempting to grab for it. He leaned forward with a thrust and over went the high chair, Fred and all. Fred was thrown from the high chair and hit his head on the tiled kitchen floor. Joan's mother, startled by the crashed, turned to find her baby boy lying unconscious at her feet. Hysterical, she screamed at Joan, 'what did you do?' Joan, terrified said she was playing with Fred. Her mother screamed over and over, "what did you do, what did you do?" Panicked, Joan's mother grabbed both children, and sped to the pediatrician's office which was only a couple of blocks away. Upon examining Fred, the doctor called an ambulance and Fred, her mother and Joan were sped to the local hospital. A massive hemorrhage was discovered in Fred's brain requiring him to be put on a respirator to aid in his breathing. Joan's father and sister soon joined Joan and her mother at the hospital. For several days the family waited for news that Fred would be able to be brought home, that he would be found healthy and that the family would be able to resume their life. Such news never arrived. Fred never regained consciousness and was pronounced dead two weeks later.
Grief-stricken, the family tried to resume their lives. Joan's father, heartbroken at the loss of his son, needed someone to blame. Joan's mother became the target of his rage. Why was she not watching the children? How could she have let such a thing happen? Unable to come to terms with his loss, unable to forgive his wife, Joan's father withdrew from the family. He no longer played with his children or discussed things with Joan's mother. He would go to work and come home, watch TV and go to bed, barely speaking to anyone. Depressed and angry he would bark out orders to his daughters and wife. Joan's mother, grieving herself, felt abandoned by her husband and secretly felt guilty that she had not prevented the tragic loss. Although she realized that Joan was just a child herself and could not rationally be held responsible for what had occurred, she blamed the situation on her, accusing her of the ensuing loss of affection and resulting family dysfunction.
How was a four year old child to understand the dramatic change in her parents' attitude and behavior toward her? How could she possibly comprehend what had happened to her brother? Needless to say though, she was now convinced that she was bad and what was occurring was her fault. She not only lost her parents love, but her own valued sense of self. Her sister Susan was becoming a teenager with all the challenges implied in that transition. She turned to her peers for solace, emotional support and friendship. Slowly she slipped away from the family. At the age of eighteen she left for college and never returned home.
Joan funneled her energies into her schoolwork. She was an A student bringing home test papers that any parent would be proud to receive. She devoted herself to being a good daughter; to regaining her mother's affection. She became very sensitive to her mother's emotional and physical needs, always aware of the shifts that would occur on a regular basis. She stood clear of her father whose rage frightened her. She had a few girlfriends but her social life took a back seat to her main interest, her mother.
After graduating from high school Joan, who never considered going away to college (even though her grades were high enough to have gotten her into numerous schools), got an office job working as a Girl Friday in a small manufacturing company. Joan was one of three people who occupied the small downtown office. Each day Joan left the apartment at 8 A.M., took public transportation to the city's business district arriving at her office at 9A.M. Each day at noon she bought her lunch at the deli situated on the ground floor of the office building. She ate lunch at her desk so she could continue working. The same diligent habits that resulted in her achievements in school were applied to her work situation and she soon came to be an invaluable asset to her employer. The praise and admiration so lacking at home, Joan was able to attain from her boss. It was no wonder that her job became her whole life.
Twenty two years were spent working at the manufacturing company. Joan left only after the company went under financially and was forced to close its doors. During fifteen of those years Joan carried on an affair with one of the firm's salesmen, a married man named Steve. Steve never promised to leave his wife and children for Joan, nor did Joan ask or want him to do so. Joan was as much married to her mother as Steve was to his wife. She could not think of leaving her anymore than Steve could think of divorcing his spouse. Twice a week Joan and Steve would have dinner together at a nearby restaurant and then go to a small hotel, also nearby where they would have their affair. Joan enjoyed these evenings, and would make an effort to dress herself up wanting to be attractive to Steve. Joan's mother, after several months of witnessing Joan's changed behavior, surmised that Joan had a boyfriend. She questioned Joan endlessly concerning her whereabouts on those evenings when she arrived home late, but Joan never revealed where she had been, or with whom. Her mother soon gave up asking questions. She never ceased making snide comments, comments that indicated her disappointment in Joan's behavior. She compared Joan to her sister Susan who did things the "right" way, marriage, children and a career. The implication being that Joan was a failure as a daughter. Joan accepted all of her mother's criticism with silent stoicism.
The only other remarkable thing that occurred during those twenty two years was the death of Joan's father when Joan was 28. He died on his way home from work. Walking down the street heading toward the building, he collapsed on the side walk suffering a massive heart attack. He was pronounced dead on the spot. After the funeral Susan tried to get her mother to leave the building, to move up to Vermont. She would be closer to her and able to see her grandchildren more frequently. Joan's mother refused. Joan was much relieved.
Joan and her mother had a stable, although an emotionally unsatisfactory relationship in the ensuing years. Then her mother became ill. She was diagnosed with uterine cancer when Joan was 42 years old and suffered a long and painful illness. Joan was by her mothers side throughout the ordeal. She dutifully administered to her every need, accompanying her to her doctor's appointments and attending her chemotherapy regimen with her. Her mother was grateful for Joan's assistance but unable to express her feelings verbally. Joan hoped that her dedication would erase, in her mother's eyes, her past, fatal behavior. It never did.
After her mother's death, Joan slid into a deep depression. The depression lasted several months. And then Joan adopted a cat. Walking home from the supermarket one day she noticed a small, frightened, fury animal bracing itself against the wall of a building. Joan bent down to investigate and fell in love. The kitten was thin, dirty and all alone. Joan brought the kitten home with the rest of her purchases. They needed each other. Joan's depression lifted. She had a living creature to care for once again, one who needed and loved her too. It was a match made in heaven.
All would have been well had Joan stopped at the one cat. But alas, once the flood gates had been opened, a lifetime of unmet needs was unleashed. Joan could no more stop at one cat then a drug addict can stop at one dose of drugs. She began bringing home strays, waifs she came across in her neighborhood. Joan rarely ventured out of her neighborhood; her only relationships were with store owners she came into contact with during her daily run of errands. She was friendly enough and people seemed to like her, but Joan was very lonely and the cats filled her life with warmth, and love. All she had to do was feed them, and they returned her devotion unconditionally. The cats became Joan's obsession; she could not pass one by without finding out if it belonged to someone. If it didn't, she was compelled to give it a home. Soon her apartment was filled with cats. Then disaster struck.
One day there was a knock on the door of apartment 1A. Joan, after looking through the peep hole, opened the door to the familiar face of the super. He informed her that there had been several complaints about a smell emanating from Joan's apartment. He immediately recognized the cause of the offensive odor. Shocked, stunned, he could not believe what he was witnessing. There climbing, scooting, sitting and sleeping were at least 20 cats of various shapes, colors and sizes occupying the apartment. With an angry tone the super let out a string of expletives. "What is going on here" he demanded to know from Joan? Joan feebly attempted to explain herself. She could not allow these helpless animals to continue living on the streets uncared for, she had to give them a home. It seemed to make perfect sense to Joan. She was amazed that the super could not see the logic of her actions. The super informed Joan, in no uncertain terms, that the cats had to go. She could keep one or two but that was absolutely the limit.
It was as if someone had punched Joan in the stomach. The blow felt like a physical pain. Her cats were her life, they were part of her. How could she get rid of any of them? The heartache, the thought of losing any of her "family" was unimaginable. Joan melted into tears, begging the super, pleading with him to let her find a good home for them; an undertaking that would take a while. He was unmoved by Joan's pleas and, convinced that the cats were a health risk to the building, demanded that she call the authorities and have the cats removed immediately. He gave her till the end of the week and informed her that if they were not gone by then he would take care of the situation himself.
All her life Joan had tried to convince people that she was a caring, loving person, not a murderous, hateful individual like her parents had made her feel. Again, she was being looked at with scorn, derision and dislike. All she had tried to do was care for living creatures, to act humanely toward them. She realized in that moment that she was never going to be loved, or be looked upon with admiration and respect. Years of unexpressed, tortured, pent up rage exploded inside of Joan.
What happened next was predictable. Joan went mad. When the police arrived at the building they thought a bomb had gone off. Destructive forces were unleashed, forces that would forever change Joan. She was brought to a local hospital in handcuffs and immediately tranquilized by injection. Joan spent three weeks in the hospital, was placed on a regimen of psychotropic medication and discharged to be seen within the week at a local mental health clinic. The drugs made Joan feel groggy and sleepy. She soon decreased the dosages of some of them and stopped others. The professionals who saw her tried to convince her that it was in her best interest to take the drugs as prescribed. She resisted their attempts and so she was classified as uncooperative. She was considered difficult and unresponsive to treatment; in essence, an unlikeable patient. She soon learned to tell the social workers what they wanted to hear. It was easy to do; they only saw her once a month for 15 minutes. She became more withdrawn and depressed. One day she stopped coming to the clinic for her appointments. No one really missed her. She was discovered soon afterward lying in the street not far from the building, surrounded by cats. She was dead.CHAPTER 2
* * *
The Denapoli family moved into the building shortly after Thomas joined the faculty of a nearby college. Thomas, his wife Sally, their two children Peter and Deborah and their cocker spaniel Blackie occupy apartment 2A and have done so since Peter, who is about to graduate high school, was a few months old. The Denapoli's have been married for 18 years; a marriage that they both would have characterized as "happy."
Thomas met Sally through a mutual acquaintance. They were immediately smitten with each other. Both were into the arts, literature and philosophy. Their conversations were lively and interesting. Sally had been an art history major in college, Thomas a student of philosophy. After graduation from college, they both moved into the city from suburban communities where they had spent their childhoods. They began to see each other almost every evening. Within a couple of months they moved in together. Sally worked for an Art magazine; she wrote critiques on gallery openings and museum showings. Thomas was an academician; he loved the atmosphere of learning. Sally and Thomas's relationship was an affair mainly of the mind. Although Thomas would say that he enjoyed sex with Sally, and Sally would tell you she felt satisfied with their physical relationship, the passion between them would mainly occur when they discussed some stimulating concept or social issue. Thomas was sexually demanding, his sex drive strong and active. Sally, who enjoyed sex with Thomas, had less of a demanding need for discharge than her partner. Thomas accepted that he could expect just so much from Sally. Sally assumed Thomas was satisfied. The couple was living together for two years when Sally became pregnant with Peter. They decided they would marry; it had seemed like an eventuality in both their minds for a while any way. They had a small, intimate wedding, only close family and friends attended. It coincided with Thomas's graduation from graduate school.
Excerpted from Building Blocks by Judith Akullian. Copyright © 2014 Judith Akullian Ph.D.. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A house that looks, inside and out, like stampylongnose's house. (Ya know... Hello! This is stampy and welcome to another Minecraft let's play video. A video inside of stampy's lovely world.... if ya don't know him look up on youtube "mr.stampycat" no typo) there's a farm out back but no one is allowed in without my permisson.