Feeling All Right I’m Not Feeling Too Good Myself
A Story of Old Israel
I fell out of my chair one night at the end of a particularly delicious evening of conversation with my Israeli friends Ahuva, her daughter Meeli, her husband Ronen and their three daughters Adi, Ayelet, Maya, Ayelet’s boyfriend Ilan who we just met and my wife Susie. I sat in my chair at the head of the table where Eliezer of blessed memory, Ahuva’s husband, once sat. I am always aware of that when I sit there. I made a mental note of it and sat down.
Eliezer was one of the pioneering generation and a founding member of the kibbutz. He built Israel. He once shared a room with Hannah Senesh, poet, paratrooper, who left from that kibbutz in 1944 on a secret mission to save Hungarian Jews from death in Auschwitz. She was captured, tortured, and murdered. Her museum is a sweet remembrance of her brief and brilliant life on the kibbutz where we visit and where Susie has deep roots.
That night I had my oud in my lap. I played a little, made up a song in Hebrew involving all of us and some of the occurrences of the last several days, the mysterious appearance of tomatoes outside in the kalnoit [electric cart] etc. and then I sat in the chair for hours listening and talking, clutching the oud to my chest. I felt entirely comfortable and engaged in conversation so I didn’t move at all for two, three hours.
When it was time for me to move, I got up and I think my leg was asleep because my ankle buckled under my feet and I went crashing to the floor, upsetting the items on a small nearby table but saving my [borrowed, expensive] oud from hitting the ground. I must have turned my ankle completely but I didn’t feel it so I surmised the whole south-eastern region of my body was asleep.
Man I went down hard and my ankle began to swell up immediately though it didn’t hurt that much. I iced it all day and the next day it was worse.
I went swimming in the Sea and we all imagined that the Sea had healed me.
I wrapped it up and the next day it was worse. The rest of the group had been delayed in Philadelphia so we had an extra day so to speak to rest. We packed up our things, I bought a heavier brace for my ankle, and went to my oud lesson in Tel Aviv where I didn’t play well. I had played really well in the first lesson but I think I was distracted by my ankle and I was too much up in my head and not enough in my hands.
We met up with the rest of the group and Miri, our madrichah’guide and old friend, thought it best that we get it checked out before the rest of the group arrived and it might be more complex. So at the end of the evening, Miri Susie and I headed for the emergency room (mi-yun) in Haifa. Rambam Hospital. We were about 20 kilometers south of Haifa. We got on the road about 10:30 at night.
Miri is my kind of girl; smart, funny, independent, interested in many things, honest, neurotic and somewhat of a hypochondriac. She once had a blood clot underneath bruising such as was taking over my foot and she thought it best to check it out at the mi-yun in Haifa.
When we arrived we had to choose who was to go with me into the emergency waiting room, we decided Miri would be best because she could translate if I needed it. Susie waited in the outside waiting room and tried the best she could to disguise her angst. She sat next to a criminal in handcuffs and leg braces and a Druze woman.
Inside, Miri and I waited. I was seen first by a nurse from Rocky Horror Picture Show dressed in scrubs. He spoke in a barely discernible voice, had his hair darkened and tastefully tied up into a bun on the top of his head, some nice piercings and a delicate series of bracelets on his wrist.
What happened to you? I think he asked in a soprano and breathy whisper. It was hard to hear him so I am not sure what he said. I fell. When. Two days ago. Why did you wait two days to come in. Take this and wait for the Orthopod, room seven.
Miri and I waited outside room seven, the Orthopod was within, then disappeared and didn’t return for over an hour. There were three or four other patients in the hallway outside the room, some young girls dressed in garish faux leopard tops and stretchy pants way too tight for their shapes, etc., making lots of noise and other personages now including the guy with handcuffs whose finger looked to be broken and with whom the she-cop, one of two who brought him in, seemed to be flirting. She was a blonde Russian woman, this cop, matched with a meek-looking dreamy partner.
It was getting to be close to 2 AM. Finally the Orthopod called my name and he asked what happened. I explained. He looked. Roentgen, he said, x-rays. They took x-rays down the hall. I returned and in about a half an hour he said, not broken. Sprain. Don’t walk on it too much and wrap it.
Poor Miri was I am sure dog tired, it’s hot here and every day takes a lot out of you no matter what you are doing and Miri works hard. It was now past 2 AM and we headed back to where we were staying on the Sea south of Haifa. We gathered Susie up in the outside waiting room and found our car.
Generally I would sleep waiting through such events, but this had been much too interesting for me to sleep. No one of course noticed me at all. I had my nose in everybody’s business and it was as if I was invisible.
On the way home, there was the most curious combination of tunes on the Israeli radio station. I heard Mississippi John Hurt, I explained to Miri who Mississippi John Hurt was, some strange sexy hip hop music, and then a version of a song with the chorus “I’m Feeling All Right I’m Not Feeling Too Good Myself.” I kept thinking about that coming from the hospital.
How are you doing? I’m feeling all right I’m not feeling too good myself. Are you all right or not feeling too good yourself? Both. The ambiguity in that, but here at the Rambam Beit Cholim, house of the sick, in Haifa there was no ambiguity as there is generally around existence. What did you do. When. Why did you wait. Sit over there. Go home.
I thought about the Rambam, Maimonides, Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon the great 12th c. rabbi scholar philosopher healer physician merchant covert writer but what I experienced at your hospital in Haifa was your kind of disguised healing all the ambiguities intact. Rambam, physician your hospital here is wonderful, in the 12th century to make the trek from Cordoba to Fez then Cairo, reinterred according to your yearning and buried in Tiberias. Your hospital is lively. Saving lives every night.
Rambam, not only a hospital but a street in every town in the Land where you are buried. In the future you an Orthopod, or a nurse, a guy with a tasteful bun on top of your head. I saw you holy Rambam – so preoccupied with heavenly matters that you could hardly drip words, barely giving them enough heft to be heard.
There you are passing in the hall, the Rambam, the bracelets announcing your approach. Now you’re gone. Back. How are you feeling, asked the Rambam.
I’m feeling all right I’m not feeling too good myself.
Yes, said the Rambam, that’s the way it is.