Remembering Oliver Sacks

For several years in the early 2000s Oliver Sacks worked in 2 Horatio Street, the building in which I lived, while I worked in the building next door, 14 Horatio Street, which was the building in which he lived. We passed each other frequently going back and forth between our homes and offices though I’m pretty sure he never took notice of me as I did of him. He was always quiet and kept to himself though I know he was well liked by the Japanese owner of the sushi restaurant up the street that we both frequented because one day the owner proudly revealed that Sacks had given him a copy of one of his books that had been translated into Japanese.

Bring your son to Sacks, my mother urged me more than a few times back when our oldest was about two years old and not yet talking. Write him a letter, he’s your neighbor. But of course I didn’t. What my son needed was a speech therapist not a neurologist. And one day, getting on the elevator with Sacks and a man with a rolled up stack of what looked like architectural drawings, my husband and I watched as the man began whacking the top of the elevator with his stack. He was trying to kill a fly, or so it seemed. But then he kept on whacking and we realized that the whacking was some kind of twitch, and that the man was Sack’s patient.

My son is now twelve and though he is the kind of kid who rarely tells me anything about what he learns in school he came home one day last spring and said “A neurologist came and spoke to us today. It was really interesting.” I have no idea who the doctor was, but I know just who I’m going to recommend he read next.