Wednesday, April 15, 2015
M is for Meshuge
My shy and soft spoken blogging buddy, Stephen T. McCarthy, impressed me by sending a happy Passover greeting in Hebrew. This led to a discussion about Hebrew and Yiddish. Since Yiddish is a fading language that began as a way for Jewish people to communicate throughout Europe, I thought I'd share one word that will not likely be forgotten.
Meshuge means crazy, and every family knows someone who fits this description. My nintey-two-year-old mother-in-law lives in Israel. Though she speaks Russian, Hebrew, and English fluently, she frequently converses with my husband in Yiddish. Every once in a while, the word meshugener will pop up in the conversation, and I'll try to figure out who they're talking about. It's usually a neighbor, a tradesman or a former caregiver. On one of our visits, I came face to face with a meshugener in her apartment.
A psychiatrist made a house call to check her mental status. He came highly recommended, and had met her once on a previous visit. He put her through a series of tests that lasted over two hours. He asked her a multitude of questions, and had her identify several objects. I couldn't believe how long the test lasted, and gave my mother-in-law an exercise ball to help with her leg and back pain.
At the end of the evaluation, the doctor told us that he was concerned. For example, she called her nephew her grandson. I explained that her nephew is a huge help to her, and she thinks of him as a grandson, as her own grandchildren live in another country. The doctor rudely ignored me, and went on to cite his equally inconsequential concerns. At the end of the conversation, my mother-in-law said jokingly, "Did I pass?"
The psychiatrist tried to comfort her by encouraging her to retake the test in six months. Afterward, she said, "So, you think I'm going to be better in six months? I'm ninety."
We couldn't believe what this so-called psychiatrist put her through. Then I said, "If I had to sit in a stiff chair with no back support for over two hours answering questions, and identifying objects, I wouldn't be able to pass either. I don't understand why you thought it was necessary to put an elderly woman through this. The fact that she's joking about it now, means that she's completely aware of what's going on around her."
Needless to say, my husband and cousin were speechless, and I had two strikes against me arguing with a doctor and a religious man. My mother-in-law never saw that meshugener again, and she's even more lucid, and lively at ninety-two.