July 20th, 2007

Haring Family

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.

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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.

A few more stories about my father

- I spent a lot of time in my teen years in emergency rooms. Collapse )

- My father was drafted into the US Army at 18, during World War II. He was a very young 18 – didn’t even shave yet. He looked like a little boy. Collapse )

- My brother Joel and I used to ask my father to get MD plates, so we could park illegally and not get tickets. He refused. He said there’s almost never the need to park illegally as a doctor, and if there was an emergency where you had to, you pay the fine – it’s part of the cost of doing the job.

- Whenever we drove by the scene of an accident, my father would stop the car and say to the cops or paramedics, "I'm a physician. Do you need help?" And then breathe a huge sigh of relief when they said things were under control. He hadn't practiced general medicine for many years and didn't want to have to try. But he was sort of one of the Bones McCoy school of medical philosophy {g} - being a doctor is a sacred trust and you're always required to heal, should the occasion arise.

- Okay, so this one shows up in my fiction. Billy Halverson is from my home town in North Dakota. At one point he tells Scott a story about his home town to illustrate the role of the town doctor in the milieu where he grew up. Here’s the story (it’s in Taking Chances):
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It really happened. My father was the doctor in the story. The story meant something entirely different to him when he told it from what I got when I heard it. To him, it was a really interesting story about the guy who stopped to help him. That's a side plot I didn't even include, because to me the story was all about what it meant to be the town doctor in Northwood, ND.

- My father and his partner, Bob Delano, built a medical practice and a clinic –ultimately a hospital – that served the town they lived in and a number of towns around that had no doctors, as well as the farms in the area. Collapse )

- My parents came to Northwood, ND with nothing but debts. Collapse )

- One of my father’s sayings was “Planning a trip is half the fun.” We used to tease him by saying, “Plan two and go nowhere. Save lots of money.” But we also took it to heart, because he taught us to. Collapse ) I still love traveling and I love planning trips.

- My father had a lot of aphorisms that he used to say regularly. One of them was “the worst thing about a bad experience is to learn nothing from it.” It’s a saying that makes up in meaning some of what it lacks in sentence structure. Being rejected by my family of origin was a bad experience, a terrible experience. I’ve tried to learn something from it. Most of what I’ve learned is that family estrangement hurts everybody. It hurts the ostracizer every bit as much as the ostracized. It becomes more and more entrenched over time, because the people who reject you feel like they have to keep doing it in order to justify their behavior so far. So this is what I’ve learned and this is what I’ve done with it: I am not and will not be party to family estrangement. I am the victim of it, but I will not participate. I remain open to contact with any and all relatives and reach out whenever opportunity presents itself, even to those who have again and again rejected me. It’s a horrible thing to do to someone and it’s been done to me and continues to be done to me. But it has never been and will never be something I do.