To read Part 1, click here.
My grandmother-in-law lies writhing in pain in her hospital bed. Far from being a meek woman, her dramatics are legendary in my married-into clan. From the way she’s screaming and carrying on, you’d think her pain was inflicted directly by God or Moses, and it was something outside her usual realm of performance art. Something – anything – has to be done.
My uncle-in-law is a man of science. He chooses to believe nothing that does not come with a scientific record and a list of instructions on how to do the task at home in the comfort of your own living room. Coming from a Soviet and Jewish background, a culture in which mysticism runs wild, he is a man who chooses to be unaffected – that is, until now.
A scrawny nurse with life-saving hands stands nearby watching the scene of pain and torture with a knowing smile and a glazed-over expression that shows more about the difficulties in working at a hospital than I’m sure she realizes. She taps my uncle on the shoulder and, in a not-entirely Jamaican accent, whispers a suggestion. While the suggestion isn’t exactly medical, it’s worth a shot.
She admits that in similar cases, when cramping got so bad in her patients – and I’d expect in her hometown’s patients – she believed that placing a bar of Irish Spring soap under the mattress alleviated all cramps. My uncle asks the obvious question, “Just Irish Spring?” “Just Irish Spring” is the reply. My uncle is flabbergasted, but can’t watch his mother in pain any longer. He immediately runs out to the nearest convenience store for a bar of soap.
Upon arriving back at the hospital, his mother unaware of the remedy, he places the bar of soap under the bed. Instantaneously, the screaming stops, as does the pain. For a man of science, this is an unbelievable finding. How could a bar of soap not ingested or applied topically to an ailing woman alleviate all symptoms and pain, simply by being in close proximity to the patient? His mind immediately starts racing towards explanations like aromatherapy, placebo effects, and the like. This little situation, spurred on by a faint whisper from a woman who has seen things, flips his genius, scientific mind upside-down.
Not to treat his mother as an experiment, he waits until she has fallen soundly asleep and replaces the bar of Irish Spring with a different brand, yet with a similar scent. He is immediately thrown back as the screaming and pain recommence. Within seconds, he replaces the Irish Spring and the pain subsides. His experiment was at an end, and for the remainder of her time in the hospital, my grandmother-in-law enjoyed the fragrance of Irish Spring beneath her bed, and all around her.
My uncle-in-law has given up searching out reasons for this miracle. He knew I would be writing about superstitions last week and asked if I could include this story, as he felt more people should know about it than just our family and the nurses at my grandmother’s hospital. Since then, he hasn’t brought up this phenomena; he hasn’t wanted to discuss it or mess with the fact that there is something in this nuts-and-bolts world that can’t be explained by mixtures of chemicals, atoms, or a periodic table.
Aside from sharing my own superstitions and beliefs in the unknown, I didn’t know what I wanted to accomplish with last week and this week’s columns. But I’ve had time to think on it, and I truly feel that my message is simple: Appreciate the world around you. There is more power and energy surrounding each one of us than is probably good for us to know about, which is why so many coincidences and happenings go unexplained.
I don’t want anyone to be as silly or crazy as me, believing in witches and magic and similar goings-on, but I do urge everyone to realize that not everything is to be explained. Not everything has a reason. At times, things just are. Sometimes superstitions are there to hold us back and make us scared, but, in general, there is an infinite amount of power and love that each one of us owns as walkers of this earth, and it’s important to believe and respect your elders, peoples of different faith and culture – and who knows, maybe one day, a bar of Irish Spring might make the difference between peace and pain.