Karen recalled how, one day she had approached the PT room a little early for her session. She knew the physical therapy was good for her, but she felt tired and chilled whenever she entered the room. It had a dark energy that affected her mood and made her wonder why her normally happy spirit had become sad.
Today, the door was open just enough for her to peek in and overhear a conversation between Mrs. Schmidt and the physical therapy assistant, Mrs. DeLuca. It was open just enough for Karen to learn the secret behind Mrs. Schmidt’s cruelty.
Mrs. Schmidt wore her usual royal blue dress under a white lab coat. She was too heavy to wear the conventional therapy uniform of white pants and a matching short-sleeved top with a Physical Therapy badge sewn to the left shoulder. She reeked of cigarettes, and Karen almost choked when she came near her. Mrs. Schmidt constantly sucked on lemon drops to cover the odor of her breath. At five-feet-ten-inches, she towered over most women.
Slender Mrs. DeLuca stood five-feet-three-inches tall, a full head shorter than Mrs. Schmidt. She wore her deep red hair in a bob, and was never without small pearl earrings and a matching necklace. She always dressed in pants suits with pretty blouses under her white coat.
“Annette!” Mrs. Schmidt squawked. “Hurry up! You know we have to get the paperwork done before our clients come in.”
Karen heard Mrs. DeLuca mutter, “Who does she think she is? I’m not deaf, and I’m already working on the paperwork. If I didn’t need the money, I’d quit this job.”
Mrs. Schmidt’s voice came back, loud and domineering, “Annette, don’t talk about me as if I were not here. Have some respect for your elders! I am the Physical Therapist, and you are my assistant, so you will obey me! As for these children you incessantly worry about, for your information, you have the upper hand over them. You can’t let your patients manipulate you. You don’t understand how much people cater to them, already. They’ll become complete invalids if we don’t push and exert pressure. That is what they need. They don’t need more coddling. I know firsthand.
“In Vienna, I spent years twisting the muscles of these hothouse flowers with what you call patience, and without really helping them. But, I grew up under the Third Reich, so I know what power can accomplish. We must use our power. Patients don’t understand when they have to be pushed. They don’t understand why we apply pressure to their joints and connective tissues. It is painful for them, but they must accept total submission to us as the correct response, if they are to improve.
“For example, that little Jewish Princess, Karen, in her pretty little A-line dresses with puff sleeves, needs to be kept in line. She’s a real troublemaker because she wants to overcome her handicaps. She thinks she can lead an independent life doing the same things normal children do. People think I am ruthless, but I’m trying to prepare her for the real world. She doesn’t realize she is not going to have the opportunities others have. We must also watch Karen’s interactions with Tammy. We don’t want them giving each other too much hope. If those two get together, then watch out!
“We earn a living because parents believe we can make all the hurt and pain go away. They think we can fix their children’s disabilities, but we cannot! Neither can we foresee the future for their little cripple souls. We offer false hope, but the true hope we can give these children is to teach them to submit to authority and to endure pain, for this is how their lives will be!”
Kitten stifled a gasp. Now, she understood why Mrs. Schmidt treated her the way she did. Mrs. Schmidt was one of those adults who thought they had to hurt children to prepare them for life. Karen tried to center herself. She would not allow herself to become upset because someone else was cynical and twisted. She knocked and pushed open the door.
Original Text ©2021, Karen Lynn-Chlup. All rights reserved.