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My father died this morning - Mo's Journal
July 20th, 2007
02:06 pm

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My father died this morning
As readers of this journal likely already know, I was disowned by my parents when I came out at age 19. They never relented and have had no relationship with my children. That said, I still retain a lot of affection for them both and have many happy memories of them from my childhood. My father and I were very close - I think he felt closer to me than his other children often. I had very little hope that he would change his mind and want to know me again, and what little hope I had was greatly diminished when he began to suffer from Alzheimer's related dementia. Still, where there's life, there's hope. So it's only today that I can say I have none.

I'm trying to get hold of his rabbi to tell some stories, in the hopes that one might be suitable for the eulogy. There are a couple of them behind the cut.



Two stories:

1. This one I always told my kids when they were little, and I can only tell it, I think, in a way for little kids. So here goes (parenthetic comments are the ones the kids typically made):

When I was a little girl I lived in North Dakota (It was a very cold place!) Yes it was a very cold place in the winter, but in the summer it was hot, just like summer here. And we always went on vacation every summer to a lake, where we rented a cottage. We swam and fished and played for a couple of weeks. One summer my grandparents came with us, Baba Lillian and Zaida Lou. (Who else was there?) There was my mommy, my daddy, Uncle Joel (but he wasn't an Uncle then!) No he wasn't. And my other siblings - Harty and Kayo, who were very little then.

One morning Zaida Lou and my Daddy woke Joel and me up very early and we went down to the lake. We took our fishing tackle and we got in a rowboat and rowed to the middle of the lake. And we were having a fun time fishing, fishing, fishing, when very suddenly without any warning there was a storm. It wasn't a rain storm. It wasn't a snow storm. It wasn't a tornado. It wasn't a hurricane. It wasn't a monsoon. (It was a hail storm!) That's right, it was a hail storm. Great big pieces of ice were falling from the sky and they were hard and they were sharp and they hurt!

"Get into the bottom of the boat, Dale!" my daddy said, taking off his shirt as he said it and putting it over me. And I got in the bottom of the boat.

"Get in the bottom of the boat, Joel!" Zaida Lou said, and he didn't have a shirt but he took off his hat and put it on Uncle Joel and he got in the bottom of the boat. And then they leaned over us so that their bodies covered us and we sat there in the bottom of the boat, crying, while we listened to the hail falling.

The storm stopped as suddenly as it had started. My daddy and Zaida Lou scooped up the hail from the boat and then rowed back to shore and we went back to our cottage. When we came in, everybody was crying and hugging each other because they had all been so worried. And my daddy's back and Zaida Lou's back were all bleeding and torn up because the hail was so sharp. And Zaida Lou was bleeding from his head, too, because Zaida Lou had a bald head.

2. My father was a psychiatrist. He was mostly in private practice,but he also worked in psychiatric hospitals part-time. When I was in high school we read Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest which is a novel about a man in a psychiatric hospital who launches a kind of rebellion and is tortured as a result by the authority figure, Big Nurse. My father was outraged :-) when I told him the plot. He was actually pretty aware of what snake pits psychiatric hospitals could be and had taken me at age 12 to see a really graphic and harrowing expose on a state mental institution called The Titticut Follies (my major memory of the movie is him whispering in my ear, "Are you okay? I didn't know it would be this bad") but he also had seen first hand how psychiatric hospitals really could be places of healing. He hated the bad press they tended to get in general, hated when people said things like "loony bin" and saw Kesey's plot as furthering a calumny. And me saying that Kesey was using the place as an allegory only made it worse. Why did Kesey have to choose a mental institution to be his allegory? He read the book at my urging, muttering to himself the whole time and full of outrage at how the description of ECS was inaccurate. But even my dad allowed that it did have literary value. He just didn't want a whole generation of school kids reading this book to think that mental institutions were something akin to prisoner of war camps and ECS was torture.

"Why don't you come talk to my class?" I said, and he asked if I really meant it. I said yes and I'd ask my English teacher.

He came to class and talked about his experiences as a psychiatrist, about psychiatric hospitals as places of healing and nurturing care. He talked about how the nurses perform most of the hands on care and how their observations are invaluable to the doctors. He talked about the caring, capable, intelligent psychiatric nurses he had known and the skilled care they offered. And he talked about electro- convulsive shock therapy, and how it's nothing like it is in the book - that the patient is anesthetized before, does not experience it as frightening and that it was extremely effective for severe depression. He said that if he ever suffered from severe depression it's the treatment he wanted. He was very sincere, very convincing. The kids were all rapt.

I walked out with him when the class was over and said I thought he'd done so well. It was one of the few times I saw my father cry. He said, "I was so worried you'd be embarrased by me."


Mervin Rosenberg was born in Bayonne, NJ on April 22, 1925. He grew up in Winnipeg, served in the US Army in World War II. He had an undergraduate degree from the University of Ohio and a medical degree from University of Manitoba. He practiced general medicine in rural North Dakota for many years and then did his psychiatric residency at the Institute of Living in Hartford, Connecticut. He died today, in West Hartford, Connecticut, July 20, 2007, the anniversary of the first lunar landing.

(43 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments
 
[User Picture]
From:brak666
Date:July 20th, 2007 06:24 pm (UTC)
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and that it was extremely effective for severe depression (which I think has long since been disproven but he certainly believed it)

Actually, it hasn't been disproven. ECT is still used for treating severe depression and bipolar disorder and can have very dramatic positive effects.
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From:mofic
Date:July 20th, 2007 10:16 pm (UTC)
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Thanks. You were the first person to correct me, but not the last :-). I edited it to take out that parenthetical bit.
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From:artaxastra
Date:July 20th, 2007 06:24 pm (UTC)
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You have my sympathy and my prayers. *hugs*
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From:mofic
Date:July 20th, 2007 10:17 pm (UTC)
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Thank you!
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From:executrix
Date:July 20th, 2007 06:31 pm (UTC)
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I'm very sorry for your loss, and that your father cut himself off from the possibility of reconciliation. And there's never a good time for bereavement, but I'm sorry that it added to the serious problems you were facing already.
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From:mofic
Date:July 20th, 2007 10:18 pm (UTC)
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Thanks. Um... I still have that book of yours. I am so awful about getting to post offices. I really will send it, but I could have delivered it via PATH a lot quicker!
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From:executrix
Date:July 20th, 2007 10:30 pm (UTC)
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The sensible thing would have been for me to send you a postpaid envelope so you wouldn't need a post office trip, I kept thinking of doing it and never did it.
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From:mofic
Date:July 20th, 2007 10:42 pm (UTC)
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The sensible thing would have been for me to be a grownup about it and get to a post office!
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From:skyline3way
Date:July 20th, 2007 06:36 pm (UTC)
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I am so very sorry for your loss. Although I still had contact with my father, our relationship was none too rosy. When he passed away, I hardly knew how to deal with it. I hope that some small positive comes out of this. If not, those early memories will just become more dear.
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From:mofic
Date:July 20th, 2007 10:18 pm (UTC)
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Thanks, Faye.
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From:opera142
Date:July 20th, 2007 06:54 pm (UTC)
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I'm sorry you're going through such a difficult year. I hope you have a solid support network; it's so easy to get swamped when the bad events just keep coming.

I'm sorry for your loss.
[User Picture]
From:mofic
Date:July 20th, 2007 10:18 pm (UTC)
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Thank you. It does seem like one thing after another.
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From:devildoll
Date:July 20th, 2007 06:56 pm (UTC)
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*sends hugs to all*
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From:mofic
Date:July 20th, 2007 10:18 pm (UTC)
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I'll take them!
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From:marag
Date:July 20th, 2007 06:58 pm (UTC)
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::hugs:: You're a better person than I.
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From:mofic
Date:July 20th, 2007 10:19 pm (UTC)
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I doubt it. Thanks for the hugs.
(Deleted comment)
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From:mofic
Date:July 20th, 2007 10:19 pm (UTC)
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Thanks.
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From:hitchhiker
Date:July 20th, 2007 10:56 pm (UTC)
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I'm sorry for your loss, and that you never had the hoped-for reconciliation :(
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From:mofic
Date:July 21st, 2007 12:51 pm (UTC)
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Thanks, Martin. There wasn't that much hope after all this time, anyway.
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From:eveningblue
Date:July 20th, 2007 11:50 pm (UTC)
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Dale, I'm so sorry to hear about your dad. I think it's wonderful that you're able to focus on the positive aspects of your early relationship, rather than on the later falling out. OTOH, I can't understand why a man who has what seems like a good, close relationship with his daughter would want to cut her out of his life. I try to wrap my head around that and I just can't.

I understand the need to tell stories. I look forward to reading more.
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From:mofic
Date:July 21st, 2007 12:51 pm (UTC)
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I look forward to reading more.

I've got a million.
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From:rachel_martin64
Date:July 21st, 2007 12:31 am (UTC)
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I'm very sorry. I'm glad you have some good memories of him.
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From:mofic
Date:July 24th, 2007 11:34 am (UTC)
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Thanks, Rachel. I really do have lots of good memories.
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From:barenakedrachel
Date:July 21st, 2007 02:04 am (UTC)
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Oh Dale! I'm so sorry to hear about your father's passing! Death never comes at a "good" time, but I'm sorry that his death has come in the midst of everything else you are dealing with, and before any sort of reconciliation could be made on his part (it sounds as though your heart has made peace with him and his choices). I'm a hopeless hoper, so I hope that in his passing, and in whatever is to come after this life (I'm not sure what you believe, nor what I believe for that matter, but something about life compels me to believe that there must be something after this) that some form of reconciliation is reached.

Giant hugs all the way from Ohio!!
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From:mofic
Date:July 21st, 2007 12:52 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for the hugs!
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From:tobias_cur
Date:July 21st, 2007 02:08 am (UTC)
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I'm so sorry to hear of your loss. My thoughts are with you.
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From:mofic
Date:July 21st, 2007 12:52 pm (UTC)
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Thanks so much for the kind words.
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From:faramir_boromir
Date:July 21st, 2007 02:31 am (UTC)
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Dear M, I'm very very sorry to hear about your loss.
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From:mofic
Date:July 21st, 2007 12:53 pm (UTC)
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Thank you. It's a difficult time.

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From:lilacsigil
Date:July 21st, 2007 07:28 am (UTC)
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This is very sad to hear - I'm sorry for the loss of your dad, and that your hopes will never be fulfilled. From your stories, he sounds like a fascinating person.
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From:mofic
Date:July 21st, 2007 12:53 pm (UTC)
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He really was a very interesting guy. Thanks for the kind words.
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From:realpestilence
Date:July 21st, 2007 02:51 pm (UTC)
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I'm very sorry to hear about your loss.


Pesti
[User Picture]
From:mofic
Date:July 24th, 2007 11:34 am (UTC)
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Thanks so much.
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From:talktooloose
Date:July 21st, 2007 03:09 pm (UTC)
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I'm sorry you never had the chance to reconcile with him. I continue to be baffled by the behaviour of your parents but I applaud you for focussing today on the good memories. People get lost and we try to forgive.

Alav hashalom.
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From:mofic
Date:July 24th, 2007 11:36 am (UTC)
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I'm baffled, too. Still, throwing out the good with the bad would just make me more miserable, I think, and I'm all for making me less miserable.

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From:melty_girl
Date:July 22nd, 2007 05:29 am (UTC)
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I am so sorry to hear about your father's death. You are wonderful to share stories of him with his rabbi despite his incomprehensible behavior. You have a really big heart.
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From:mofic
Date:July 24th, 2007 11:36 am (UTC)
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Thanks so much. The rabbi did use a bunch of the stuff I told him, so that felt good.
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From:monitorscreen
Date:July 22nd, 2007 06:46 am (UTC)
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*hugs* I'm sorry for your loss, especially with everything else you have to deal with. Your father seemed a charming person; it's regretful that you did not have the chance to reconcile.
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From:mofic
Date:July 24th, 2007 11:37 am (UTC)
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Thanks, Mon.
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From:chimosa
Date:July 24th, 2007 03:33 am (UTC)
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I was away from the internet and only now came across this post. I'm so sorry to hear about your loss
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From:mofic
Date:July 24th, 2007 11:37 am (UTC)
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Thank you. I'm back from the funeral now.
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From:libgirl
Date:July 27th, 2007 03:11 am (UTC)
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Thank you, once again, for sharing this with us.

I live in Ohio and work at Ohio University.

Connections....
[User Picture]
From:mofic
Date:July 30th, 2007 02:57 pm (UTC)
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I spent some time in Columbus as a kid. My favorite aunt and uncle lived there, as did my father's best friend. Unlikely you'd know any of them, since it's way before your time, but my uncle and aunt were Julius and Roz Baker and their daughter was Haya. My father's best friend (until he cut him off entirely - the first person afaik he did that to) was Dick Solove, who I think is still pretty well known there and donated a lot of money to Ohio State a while ago.
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