What Disturbs Our Blood: A Son's Quest to Redeem the Past
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A rich, unmined piece of Canadian history, an intense psychological drama, a mystery to be solved… and a hardwon escape from a family curse
Like his friends Banting and Best, Dr. John Fitzgerald was a Canadian hero. He founded Connaught Labs, saved untold lives with his vaccines and transformed the idea of public health in Canada and the world. What so darkened his reputation that his memory has been all but erased?
A sensitive, withdrawn boy is born into the gothic house of his long dead grandfather, a brilliant yet tormented pathologist of Irish blood and epic accomplishment whose memory has been mysteriously erased from public consciousness. As the boy watches his own father - also an eminent doctor - plunge into a suicidal psychosis, he intuits, as the psychiatrists do not, some unspeakable secret buried like a tumour deep in the multi-generational layers of the family unconscious. Growing into manhood, he knows in his bones that he must stalk an ancient curse before it stalks him. To set himself free, he must break the silence and put words to the page. His future lies in the past.
death should be the portion of one so little deserving of all the good things life and loving friends have given. Of course when I feel as I do part of every day, no place on earth will be comfortable. Then I want to resign because of my failure and general incapacity. Some day of course I will have to return to Toronto and, C.B., I don’t believe I will ever again direct the work of the laboratories. I have no confidence in my own judgment any more. I would then be in danger of leading a second
on to Farrar. In the letter to Edna, he speaks for the first time of committing some unspecified sin. Mum darling, People here in the cottage, where I am and where I am obliged to sit at table, simply ignore me. They may or may not nod when they come for lunch and dinner. Then they carry on conversations and simply leave me out. Others look directly at me and ignore me or look contemptuously and then turn away. Obviously I have been sent to Coventry. Most of the doctors and aides behave
poodle have the run of the place. At their table, we jabbered freely, spinning the Lazy Susan with impunity. Our intermittent morning missions to the Macmillans felt redemptive, like warming chilled fingers by a potbellied stove; here, we felt welcome. On the other side of our house stood a progressive nursery school, Windy Ridge, run by yet another psychologist, the controversial anti-Freudian Dr. Bill Blatz, a short, iron-willed son of German immigrants, who wore a toothbrush moustache
wind of my mother’s changing moods. What was left out of this oft-repeated story was that by an astonishingly early age, I somehow divined that my mother, under her mask of self-possession, was overwhelmed by my sister’s one-girl, placard-waving protest movement. Strategically, I gambled that the only way I could reel in a modicum of maternal physical affection was not to demand any. I would wait her out, hoping, one day, that she’d come across. I gambled and lost; my mother, relieved by my
time, inside, they feel the same as the rest of us—less than godlike, less than omniscient, less than perfect. We star-gazing mortals raise our heroes into the clouds, then devour them like a swarm of locusts. In the end, someone must pay the bill. SIXTEEN The Miracle in a Stable A fixed idea ends in madness or heroism. VICTOR HUGO My grandfather’s return from California to Toronto coincides with a turning point in the history of the city—and his own life path—for on June 19, 1913,