Author Archives: Matt

What’s in your brainpan?

Apparently the aquifer has run dry, for I have not been able to compose any thoughts about what I want to say in these pages. A slurry of events these past eighteen days has kept me away from writing. Sometimes words just flow from my unconscious on to the screen, at other times I am literarily constipated. I recall a recent session with my therapist in which in passing I said I had nothing to say. She came back with the rejoinder that she felt I was “limitless.” A lovely compliment for my needy ego.

And then there is that mild neuroticism in which I feel guilty for not writing my weekly blog. I have to keep telling myself it is all a cosmic blowin’ in the wind, a solitary voice somewhere in the nowhere of universe or universes, as I see outer space, belching forth the pipsqueak mewling of one individual. This writer’s compulsion is ridiculous if I think about it, a need to express myself in some shape or form. And to write is much like human secretion, front and back, a necessity giving form, I say darkly, of nothing of much worth. Allow me to clarify.

In the past two weeks I decided to go with Wheatmark, a publisher in Arizona that I have had good dealings with. I hired an editor who worked on two of my previous books for about a thousand dollars (ouch squared!)But she is very good at what she does. I contacted a Holocaust survivor who has reviewed my books if he would write a foreword only to discover that at age 86 he is recovering from a cataract operation and a terrifying stroke that laid him low. I decided to dedicate my book to him, for he is a kind and loving man. I then reached out to novelist Duff Brenna (see Amazon) to write a foreword and he quickly assented which was a lucky stroke for me.I began to log in a separate composition book all the personal contacts I would follow up on when the book was published; additionally, I began to scour the websites for magazines, journals, newspapers and individuals I could send the book to for review. A very tedious but necessary job for marketing my book. Since the manuscript is Holocaust fiction, I face a plethora of sources which can be exhausting to my psyche.  Given all this, I have stayed away from writing and entered midstream into life as it presents itself.

[This morning I heard from Ben Rapoport's wife, Gloria, that he had died and was in failing health for about six months. What was touching and serendipitous is that the rabbi had Googled Ben's name and came up with something I had written about Ben and "fear." The rabbi used it in his homily so, in effect, I was there as well. I never know what I have written can be used by another, and in this case, I am so pleased, for Ben was a close friend and my mentor in all things psychological. But more about him in another blog. Gloria and the family were pleased with what I had said about him as a man. He was 84, escaped the Nazis, but death got him at last. He once told me he never thought he'd reach the age of 80, given his diabetes, heart condition and Parkinson's disease. Dead at 84, but forever lithographed in my mind.]

I’m still thinking about Ben this next morning. Yesterday I took Jane to dinner, gambling at the local casino and I bought her new sandals for spring. I did all this because I remember well a rubric Ben had shared — Make Merry. So in honor of him I chose life yesterday and made merry. When I worked at his counseling center in the early 90s, I was informed that there would be a party for all the staff at the center. I asked why, wondering if it was someone’s birthday party, whatever. I was told it was just time to have a party. I asked Ben and he told me that in the Bible the Israelites made merry, just like that. No special reason, I imagine, except to revel in life, in existence. So next Wednesday, reader, do something pleasurable with your family or by yourself in order to make merry.

Jane now understands full well Ben’s gift to me, one of many over the years. You lift the cup of wine and toast le chaim, to life, any goddam time and day you choose to — how freeing!

TV as I Remember it and Other Associations

Through  a convoluted series of events Kevin Fahey, who teaches Classic Television at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UNLV, asked me to speak about early TV and movies, leaving it open as to what theme(s) I might select. It got me to reminiscing and thinking about what that “clothesline”might be. And as I meander in this essay it may be that the meanderings might serve some common theme. In psychology we call it secondary gain, deriving some psychic pleasure from a primary effort. So a secondary gain from reading a great deal is to enrich your vocabulary, although this is not primary to your reading. It is an unconscious result, you are unaware.

Imagine me as a little boy, perhaps 7 or 8, sitting on steps, as I remember it, playing with a cap gun. It was a short 45mm made of composite metal and  within  its grip,as I moved the cover away, there was a spool to insert a roll of caps. I remember well what caps were. A roll of papered “explosives,” each cap had a black bulls-eye to it, on red paper. When the cap roll was inserted and the paper lead moved through flanges to the trigger, one could fire it. They always gave off a slightly acrid smell of sulfur, not unpleasantly to my child’s mind. The same caps could be used in an arrowed dart in which you placed a singular cap and threw it high into the air hoping that it would land directly to the sidewalk with its minimalist blast. I will label this. It is called play.

What I am sharing here is the personal solitude I experienced at that time, although I was unaware of it, did not register it; largely, because it was a body sense, thinking had nothing to do with it.  It was an aspect of personal daily play free from TV, the first visual  assault upon young minds, much like smartphones. At that time radio existed but I was not absorbed by it. I recall  the radio openings of the Canadian Sgt. Preston and Yukon King, his dog. I recall Up, Up and Away of Superman, the rescue fantasy of two Jewish cartoonists; there was Mr.Keene, Tracer of Lost Persons; Sanctuary which opened up with a creaking door; Gangbusters and Rossini’s William Tell Overture which introduced the Lone Ranger, and a few  fragments of a Tom Mix  serial. Obviously  radio did not grip me. It just licked my outside self, no more. The outside world of play was my world, for in it I was the master of the world — I roamed lanes, alleys, streets; I played with a penknife, a game called “Land”; I turned shoeboxes into a game of marbles, cutting out holes in one side; I clambered up a tree felled by a hurricane; I crawled with a childhood chum into the basement of his home, unknown to his parents.

When TV entered my life it was tangential. I remember as a child sitting in with a group of other children with a lucky family that had a small TV set on Brighton Second Street, where my Grandma  Flo lived in her basement apartment with her spinster daughter, Gussie. The first show I saw was a desert foreign legion movie starring Larry “Buster” Crabbe, who later I would discover also played Flash Gordon, that peerless Art Deco serial. Only one slivered image exists in my mind, of a group of legionnaires riding down a steep sand slope — a granular Rosebud.

Note verb here – I was never “glued” to the TV set; some of that came later as I grew older, the infection and disease settling in. In the late forties and early fifties I had already, gratefully, been conditioned to act in some way on life and not to be conditioned indirectly by anonymous TV programmers. As I grew older, TV shows became more cognizant to my adolescent mind; earlier TV shows permeated myself, consequently subliminal but nevertheless meaningful.

Christopher Walken, at my age, does a very telling and wicked impression of the Continental from very early TV. (You Tube probably has one of his riffs.) At that time shows were fifteen minutes, I don’t know why.  Perry Como did a fifteen minute musical show. I believe they needed to fill in air time and this was just the beginning. Two stations were it. NBC and CBS in New York; Channel 7 was mocked, humored. Channel 5, Dumont,was in its infancy.The Continental was a handsome Italian man with dark  curly hair, who sat before a piano and candelabra speaking directly to the audience, directly appealing to the American housewife and providing through a heavily inflected Italian accent the fantasy of what it might be to have sex with this Lothario.  ( Think of Hepburn in Summertime as experienced through  dementia.) All so apparently latent. Often the Continental would suavely offer her a glass of wine and raise it to the camera. And all this was live and Walken and Freese remembered it. He in Jackson Heights, Queens, and me in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. Oh, Ron, his real name is Ronald, what fun we could have with this — What larks, Pip! What larks.

I cannot give chronology, why order it? for it all is simultaneous in my mind and it saturates my memory. Before the genius of Sid Caesar appeared on TV in the mid-fifties, I was affected by Westerns on Saturday mornings  as TV filled the stations with films from the thirties and forties, most often B flics, since programming was in its infancy and air time had to be filled. I saw early oaters with a wide variety of cowboy stars. Ken and Kermit Maynard, one thin and one becoming fat. Ken Maynard, stunt rider, one of the earliest singing cowboys and a member of Buffalo Bill Cody Wild West Show,  had a tragic life ending up in a trailer and suffering from malnutrition; however he was vigorous and handsome in a quirky way, with his white horse, Tarzan, in early Westerns. He had the charisma his brother did not have, for Kermit played later on  in his life as an extra in westerns, Bonanza, and so on. Still thin.

Buster Crabbe had a way about him, an Olympic gold medalist swimmer,  he had a lithe muscular body , but a swimmer’s body. And  he had a graceful lope to how he moved, which was charming to my sensibilities. He became a better actor as the years went on and spent his later years as an athletic director in the Catskills. Crabbe had his own show on TV for a while, often bringing on his old cowboy sidekicks, Gabby Hayes and Al “Fuzzy” St. John. And he was indelible in Flash Gordon, but more of that later on. I still hear him calling out in moments of high expectancy or peril, “Dale.”

Nostalgically, I find that a decline in the personal life of a western hero has something to it that evokes pathos. The image has taken on its own life, an indirect aspect of TV itself, for good or bad, but there it is. I feel that film bespeaks death, think on that for a moment, as I catch my own breath.

And stalwart Col. Tim McCoy would walk down a western street, snazzy in that black hat and outfit, taking out a stick of gum and unwrapping it, chewing it, signaling to the villain that he was now transforming into something lethal. He had an interesting life in the military, expert in Indian sign language and decorated as a solder.  An intimate account of these western stars is in They Went Thataway by James Horwitz, who went out to find these heroes of his own childhood before they passed on. Some gave him a hard time, or were reticent or not forthcoming; some like McCoy divulged openly and it all makes for rich and fascinating reading. Eat a Jujy Fruit as you read it.

Others come to mind –Tex Ritter, Al “Fuzzy” St. John who defined the comical sidekick in Westerns, and there was grizzled and garrulous Gabby Hayes who had his own TV show in the fifties. Reruns brought him back to the collective mind. The classy and smooth silent motion picture actor, William Boyd, reran all his Hopalong Cassidy movies from the thirties and forties. (Robert Mitchum had a part in one of his movies.) And they were well-plotted. And in the early fifties I got to meet with him with other young children as he was mobbed by us, shoving out grasping and needy  hands in front of him as he dispensed some trinkets. It was as if he was covered with the moss of live children. Boyd was one smart marketer. He hit a second popularity with TV and he used it well. I do remember observing his long black and chauffeured Cadillac waiting for him

Chubby Tex Ritter and the very lean Bob Steele, small-statured and  fast fighting, whose father was a good director (Robert North Bradbury) as well come to mind. Years later Steele played Curley in Of Mice and Men and as a gunsel [Yiddish derivation] in The Big Sleep in which he was a heavy (Lash Canino) and he was terrific in both. He had a memorable line spoken as if in steely syllables — “What do you want me to do , count three like they do in the movies?” Steele was much underused by Hollywood, much like Jack Palance who was superlative, given the right roles.

So what is fragmented personal memorabilia in this essay had its origin in this early exposure, how TV appropriate, to these oaters who had interesting personalities populating them. But there is another movie that deserves special attention and it was not a Western.

I will pass on discussing Caesar, a comic genius, or  Strike it Rich and Queen for a Day or Bud Collyer, who played Superman on radio, and later on a TV game host. It is trivia that clings to me. Quite delightfully useless, like the tie saved from your prom decades ago.

The indelible Flash Gordon left an imprint, a good one. It was art deco in design and the cheesy sets and rocket ships were irrelevant to my eye. There were winged men, don’t ask, who could fly and their leader had a burly look to him. There was Dr. Zharkov, the good scientist, as opposed to the creep-outs in the thirty horror movies, Lugosi and Karloff. And the women, Dale, (Jean Rogers), blond, and the evil  Emperor Ming the Merciless’ daughter , Princess Aura ( Priscilla Lawson), dark haired and experiencing  hots for Flash. Good and evil, black and white, Ming (Charles Middleton) portrayed the  evil eastern emperor in a stilted fashion but he got across; if he was only honest with himself, he would have incested his own daughter, but he liked Dale. But that is an evil only known to us today. I liked the dark-haired “damsel.” Dale was too wimpy as I look back, spending most of her film time as a clinger to Flash. I don’t think they ever kissed.

And when Flash got into a struggle or fight with heavies, his body was graceful and athletic, as if he was  a male Esther Williams performing underwater.

The sets had forerunners of television to them, and the rocket ships a delight to behold, as if designed by Erte. And the sound they made, a kind of whoosh when they started I found very appealing to my young ear, especially as they slowed down for a planetary landing. But most of all — The Clay People. What was fascinating to these muddy creatures and their clayey looks — terrific costumery — especially the leader who spoke English as if filtered through clay,  is that they emerged out of cavern walls and returned to them so as to conceal their presence. Fascinating to my eye! What I still remember was the entrancing and fascinating music played as they walked into the walls and walked out of them. What one remembers? A box of Nonpareils to the person who can help me find that music!

[Kevin Fahey wins the prize. Franz  Waxman  (Sunset Boulevard, The Bride of Frankenstein, Rebecca and Rear Window)  composed  the music, taking that syncopated and lilting theme from The Bride of Frankenstein.] 

Do we need a conclusion? TV had a hand in destroying play, and play is now pretty much destroyed unless you think working a tablet or smartphone contributes in any way to an inner-directed self. See any kids in the street playing lately? Do you hear a mother calling out her kid’s name to come home for dinner? I think not. Are there answers? No. Only questions.

 

 

Jack Palance

I saw recently the 1970 movie, Monte Walsh, starring Lee Marvin, Jack Palance and the sensuously comely Jeanne Moreau, who is still with us. It tells in its melancholy way the passing of the Old West; Monte’s prostitute girlfriend dies, his closest friend, Chet (Palance), is killed in an ugly robbery murder. His life as a cowboy is evanescing right before his eyes. Similar to Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch in that relationships between men become more significant than the usual oater plots, it is a different take on the western, the plaintive, mourning ending of a time. It got me thinking about Palance whose voice I always found entrancing, regardless of a face that was like a moon crater.

Dimly recalling the 1952 western Shane in which Palance played Jack Wilson, a vicious, menacing gunfighter, he was only in the movie for perhaps five minutes and was nominated as best supporting actor, as his tall and lethal malice lithographed itself into the screen. He was shot from below which only added to his 6’4″ height.  (The only other famous cameo was Welles in The Third Man (1950.) It was one of Palance’s early performances and he made his mark. But this was not the role I would come to remember.

In 1956 Bela Lugosi died, I recall, the newspapers reporting that he was buried in his cloak from Dracula — creepy. It was Eisenhower time, and Sputnik a year away. And as I was a casual moviegoer, two or three pictures perhaps in a month, over the years that added up. Saturday was the day. I recall seeing Palance in Attack and it was a powerful, searing and agonizing performance. It went far beyond acting. In those days someone my age just went to see what was playing; there was no reading up on reviews. You paid and could stay all day, cartoons, newsreels, come in at the middle of the movie and stay to the end and watch it begin all over. That ended with Psycho (1960), when Hitchcock insisted on one showing of his film with  no interruptions.

Old ladies with flashlights guided you to your row. And candy was very reasonable, not $3 or $6 a pop.The assumption was that whatever movie theaters were in your neighborhood offered something to satisfy your palate. There were no mind filters or reviewers to come between you and the movie. And that freed one, as I look back, to be accepting of what was before you in that dark space. And the impact of each movie rested upon your willingness not to carp, review or criticize but be willing to be temporarily transformed or not by the movie itself.

Aldrich’s Attack was a small, black and white film as charged as its sciatic title. A severe assault on the insanity of war, it featured Palance and Eddie Albert, who played a craven, cowardly Southern officer. Lee Marvin was in it as well, all three leads having served in War World II. Like Kubrick’s Paths of Glory. it played out the theme of us, the enemy and the officers, often combining virulently against the GI on the front lines. Palance played a GI dogface. a reflective soldier as I recall. His voice was susurrus, always was, murmuring and rustling, often language sweetly nuanced to my ear. If he had the looks of a Barrymore, he would have made a great romantic lead. Instead he was a great character actor, following in the line of Edward Arnold, Peter Lorre, and Sidney Greenstreet. Palance was good, more than good in this part — he was magnificent.(He played Dracula for a TV film and it was pathetically, often poignantly drawn; quite different. Rent it if you can. Imagine his voice as Dracula).

I sense after a while Palance realized movies were a joke and he went along for the ride. Attack was on his list of personal favorites. Many recall him memorably doing one-armed push-ups at 73 at the Oscars with Billy Crystal emceeing, his co-star, in City Slickers. And this stunt revitalized his career. Palance imprinted himself on me much earlier. When I tried to look up a good biography of him, none has apparently been written. Well-educated, he wrote poetry and painted for forty years, this actor with chiseled hard features. Palance is a vastly underrated actor. He stunned TV audiences in a live production of Playhouse 90 in the fifties with his tender and lost portrayal of Mountain McClintock in Rod Serling’s  Requiem for a Heavyweight, a downtrodden boxer sold-out by his manager. And he played Stanley in A Streetcar Named Desire.  Range was never an issue for him.

In Attack Palance is hunted down by a sole tank, cornering him  and finally riding over his left arm with its powerful tracks, almost shearing his arm off; it is horrific and blood pours through his uniform as he manages to pull away and scrambles back to the CP bunker, and in his dying dramatic soliloquy expresses his rage at a cowardly Albert, fate itself, and then dies. I have always thought of him as the Hamlet of the battlefield. At 16 I had never experienced such a wretched, existential and riveting expression of pain and dismay by an actor of this greatness.  The betrayal was immense. I left the theater, on some level, stunned.

When you watch the deceit and corruption of the officer class and poor dogface, following appalling bad marching orders, the estrangement is beyond severe. Watch Palance’s performance as he does a modern Shakespearean role in plain English. It was not acting, it was being. He did not win an academy award that year. I could not get over it. Still can’t.

The Aquifer

This entry is a follow-up to “Listening with the Third Ear.” The aquifer has filled and I have more to say. Threads and associations have come to mind about what to write. Family disturbances, a trip to Chicago and back, feeling ennui of not an inconsiderable weight; feeling no need to write although feeling I should write my weekly self-disclosing essay has come together to impede my creativity.  I am teaching a course in written expression which has occupied my mind as I plan each weekly class. As I write now I am feeling sluggish in a writing sense. All these loose trends and concerns have not coalesced until this moment.

I am sitting here thinking about what to write. It is really resistance. When I was training as a therapist in 1976 in a clinic in Huntington, New York, I recall the head therapist comparing resistance in a client to trying to stay awake at night while reading, eyes shutting for a moment, yet the need to go on reading, but again the eyes blinking shut. The client refusing to hear, to be awake, to know and unwilling to explore or discover. Consequently I want to write, but I resist, closing my mind off to my inner self, avoiding, escaping. From the first day that a client steps into a therapist’s office it is the task of the therapist to deal with resistance.

I sense resistance in the course I am writing. I can almost palpate an insurgency in some of the students.  Many come to me after class or just come to class laden with resistance to writing, although they profess they in no way are resistive. They say, some of them, that they want to learn how to write but in their avoiding assignments or unwillingness to complete some assignments we have the fungal spore of resistance show up. And what am I to do when faced with this mild insurrection. One joins the resistance. To wit, “Matt, I didn’t do the work for today.” Heard this a class or two ago. My response. “Don’t do it.” And then I walk off or go on to something else. In other words you are free to do the work or not to do the work, but I won’t sanction your behavior. You own it. After all, why are you here?

Kazantzakis’s epitaph comes to mind: “I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. I am free.” No course and no student will impede that in my self.

“Matt, do we really have to do all 15 items you asked us to do?” I answer. “Do what you want, answer what you want.” I will not press, convince, encourage unnecessarily. The choice is yours. Like therapy, you asked to come into this environment. You asked to take this course. I am not here to entertain you, but to teach in a good way. Everything else you want from me — be funny, tap dance,. entertain — is an expectation you have of me. I will not fulfill your expectations except to say that I will do my job as best as I can.

There is a counter-transferential downside to all this. I feel used or abused, hapless, not heeded, humored, all those trace feelings when one tries to do one’s best and it is met with indifference — resistance. So after a class or two of this I have discussions with myself, trying to defuse the resistance or deactivate it by considering ways to handling the resistance. You might say, after reflection, all classes in secondary schools are varying examples of resistance. A great teacher has mastered how to defuse resistance in his classes. Once that is accomplished real learning can begin.

I may have missed the boat with this writing class. Perhaps I should have asked them what their expectations were on day one. This coming Wednesday, after five classes, I will do that as well as express my need for a mid-course correction, for I grow impatient with the lack of participation of people in the later stages of life. I cannot get them to cohere as a group. It may well be the way I go about teaching, it may well be their ennui. In any case  I will express my dissatisfaction. They may argue that it is I who cannot keep the class together. And that may be so. And if there is truth in that, I will withdraw and go back to living my own life which is writing at this time. I do feel that at some levels they are recoiling because of my intensity as a teacher; or to put it another way, they may be intimidated by someone who has such a strong commitment to what he is, and to what he is teaching. In my life I have often been misread as well as misinterpreted. What is for sure is that I am not wasting a moment when I teach, teaching with rigor, teaching with determination. Only one woman sees that and made a wonderful comment to me after class. But one swallow does not a summer make, alas.

I find it bitterly ironic that some instructors at this school run tapes, show videos produced by others to amplify if not structure their courses. I don’t believe they know what is a lesson plan much less teaching methodologies. I find that a cop out. Yet what I find to be ineffective teaching is often sought out by students in droves. Who knew? Perhaps I am not entertaining enough. Perhaps the teaching of an idea, concept or writing technique is not as stimulating as watching the boob tube built around a flimsy syllabus. So I then become retro man.

It must be that: I do not own a smart phone; I am only somewhat computer literate; I edit with a pencil and paper; I don’t suffer fools which abound in this culture of the outer-directed; I cherish people who are inner-directed; I like story in my movies and not special effects; I read books not Kindles; I detest line-dancing and all that implies, the North Korean group cha cha; I don’t twitter and what the fuck is all that about; when I am good and angry at someone I inform him that he is not a serious human being; I revel in being a grumpy old man for there is much to grumble about in this shabby, craven and decadent culture we presently live in and as an old liberal I detest Cruz, O’Reilly, Hannity, Ingraham, Limbaugh, Krauthammer, Palin, the detritus of a soiled America. I equally loathe passivity in students, which I am presently facing. Perhaps I should have a large poster in the front of the classroom of the Emersonian evangelist, Wayne Dyer, king of the bromides, Deepak Chopra as his footrest. When unctuous interviewers on PBS speak with Dyer, the mass merchandiser, in downcast moments I feel like giving it up and like Sam in “Soylent Green” enter the ovens.

 

 

 

 

 

Listening with the Third Ear

Psychoanalyst Theodore Reik, a disciple of Freud, titled his book in this way. What he was teaching the reader or student was that listening, Freud called it, “hovering attention,” was critical in any relationship with a client; if dreams were the royal road to the unconscious, dramatic listening to the highest degree gave access  to both conscious and unconscious dynamics. No one listens in the way therapists are trained to listen in their offices. Listening is different, and much interrupted, in daily life. However, the person who can listen with the third ear can deepen his relationships with those around him, especially family. By this time in my life, after 12 years of not practicing. I mostly in daily interactions try to listen on levels beneath the manifest level. I cannot give up nor do I choose to dispose of a skill I spent years developing — and it is much good fun, too. Almost all good therapists can supply incidences in which they really listened to their clients and responded with what they heard. Often the client is taken aback because he or she is being listened to in ways rarely ever experienced. When a client has ended therapy, he or she probably will have acquired this skill as well, to shut up and listen. An interpretation given by the therapist is based on several listening experiences which are then reflected upon and given to the client to assist him to see into his behavior.

“So, Fred, apparently you want it both ways. You want to be heard at the office but you also do not hear others. It is as if you want to be first. Your relationships are based on competitiveness.” Such might be an interpretation based on several or more sessions with Fred. At this point I will segue to my teaching experience at OLLI, a program here in Nevada and elsewhere, in which retirees matriculate as well as teach courses they feel confident in. One woman teaches about Star Trek, another the Holocaust, or line dancing. For several reasons, one to stave off death, perhaps another to meet other human beings of like interests (not yet), I offered a course in written expression. It is in my nature to be thorough, very prepared, over prepared, and to present not so much content which is easy for me, but to present myself as well, as a person, as a professional writer, as a giver, as someone who wishes at this stage in life, to quote Erik Erikson,  to be generative. I choose not to stagnate. I vampirically thrive on the interaction between students. All teachers do. Yet this has not been my experience; there are spatters of interest here and there in my class.

Five Wednesdays have come and gone as I am trying to palpate the soul of this class. Unfortunately in OLLI one can float in and out of a course, that is, sample another course, which is fine with me. I have done that. As an instructor, however, the experience is a labile one; excuses for not showing up abound, and at the age of sixty or more sometimes illness is a reason. I never ask for the reason. Consequently I can never count on a stable class to teach. I started with about 20 students and I am now down to perhaps seven or eight.  And I ask myself, as is my way, whether or not I am teaching over theirs heads, or I have bad breath or I am not teaching what they want if they really know what they want — I doubt that. I am at the point in which I will ask them if I am doing anything that has retarded their continuing the course. I open myself up to criticism, but I can handle that. The irony is that I don’t get paid for all this personal stress and course preparation. At times I walk out of class somewhat disheartened, but I catch myself.

While all this is going on I am listening to some of these retirees with a third ear and if some of them are onto me, the exercises provoke them into sharing who they are, I believe, in safe ways. If I ask them, to wit,  what city they are, and someone says Paris, I am on to that person. And I log that. The difficulty is that I struggle to listen while teaching, but I manage here and there with Tom, Ruth and Harry. I have some inklings of how they see me, often not in a flattering way, but strong ego that I am I go on for my credo is simple: “I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. I am free.” In short, I can walk away from this course as well as I walked into this course, freely. I know that I do not conform to the usual instructor. I am not the usual instructor. I am hitting them with everything I know from my armamentarium and this may be intimidating or frightening. I have sat in other classes and some are poorly taught and others aimless because the instructor knows nothing about presenting material.  Classes are taught from vanity, mine too.

And what I have also observed is that a few courses are rooted in entertainment. I don’t entertain. I also won’t tap dance. Stubborn, un-American me. Mea culpa, maybe I am too serious (I am not a somber personality) for a large majority of these retirees. Or, perhaps I don’t have the magic for this age group, from late fifties into the nineties . In any case the dwindling class population has made me resolve to ask them about this, those who show up next time, and to tell them that if the class falls below 7 students I will end it. Rule 32 for clients: Never put yourself in a punishing position. I will not endure a lack of interest and attendance.

One woman, bless her heart, after class last week expressed her warm satisfaction with how I was teaching the course, how she found it varied or different in a good way and it was the kind of remark you expect at the end of a term if you have done your job well. Another dropped out of the course because she wanted her way in presenting writing to the class and was not prepared for that when the day came. That I did not allow her to wing it and present her effort, for she had mucked up my teaching sequence, she left the class forever. Ah, boundaries. You can’t use boundaries with me. Oh, yes I can. She was a child. Another student presented a tender and sterling piece, the best so far. If only more students were there to have encouraged him!

By next Wednesday I will know if the course goes on or not.

 

 

Kato

No, not the “faithful valet” of the Green Hornet, a radio series in the mid-thirties, before my time. The humorous  reminiscence of this is that after December 7, 1941, Kato, who was previously of Japanese lineage now became the Hornet’s “faithful valet,” and later on morphed into being Korean. Kato is a Japanese model train set, in this case n scale, a size smaller than HO. Lionel and the German Marklin are standard bearers of model trains. I have had a romance with trains since I was a young child. I “owned,” or thought I owned my Lionel train set in the early fifties. My two uncles, Bernie and Seymour, would buy me a milk car, caboose, a different car each Christmas. Eventually I had a lovely set to play with. If I had “owned” it I am sure I would have kept it up to this day and it would be a collectable, for the Lionel cast iron engine had a gravitas to it, the passenger trains delightful and substantial to the eye. The trains had “heft.”

Unfortunately my father asked, most likely with my mother’s knowledge, to give up the train set so that he could sell it and have additional monies to pay for my bar mitzvah. I acquiesced, although I had no idea what was being asked of me, stone that I was at the time. I imagine today that the set went for fifty or sixty dollars and I imagine if my father had asked my two uncles for help it all could have been avoided. The trains are no longer unfinished business of my childhood. They are a memory and so after six decades I have decided to buy a small set for my old age. Trains have emotional freight (pun intended) for me.

If I had that old Lionel set, I would leave it to my son as a memento; he might get some pleasure as to having this Kato set from my dotage given to him after I am gone. Yet I have given him over the years two 35mm cameras that I used while photographing the family as he grew up. In my eyes, they are more of a dramatic importance, considering all those familial images through the metaphoric eye of the camera. At 73 I often think of what I will leave behind of material importance for loved ones, although what I leave in terms of memories is of so much more worth. I can control somewhat the tangible, but not the ephemeral memories in another’s mind.

For weeks I perused model railroad magazines, which was fun, condensed it all down to a different train set, Atlas, and at the last moment went for a Kato train set that was brand new, a starter set, a simple oval, with a Santa Fe engine, passenger cars and an observation deck car. While I was honing in on this set, searching through ebay for kits to populate my new choice – a silo, a barn, cars, all in n scale, I came across a standing modular bench of plywood and pine for the train set. It was 2 by 4, for n-scale is diminutive and I wanted a set in a corner of one room. The kit had to be assembled and all I had to do was buy foam board (4 by 8) and have it cut into four top pieces of 2 by 4. I have yet to glue one board to the table top with what they call “foam friendly”glue and then I lay the tracks, mount the trains and off I go.

When the table arrived I saw it was beyond my capacity. My mind was confused by the instructions, my skills were lessened by what I perceived was way over my head. I experienced fear.However, my wife is a diy person of a high order. And she put together the table to my pleasure, and I was taken by her capacities. I enjoyed watching her use a power drill with quickness and skill. All beyond me. While doing this she disarmed me by asking if she could play with these trains as well. Of course. Join me, my kindred spirit. Let us do this together. Kato had won her over. Recently on a plane trip to Chicago, up high, the sunlight came through her window and faceted upon her bracelets which were laced with Swarovksi faux rhinestones. The plastic ceiling above and the area about her seat lit up into starry constellations and Jane reveled in all this.  She is delighted about little pleasures in life and there is the wondrous child in this, and so I sensed all this in her wanting to play with these moving cameos we call trains.

Psychologically there is a degree of dominance, power and control when you sit down with a train set. And as one imagines all kinds of events and happenings as these diminutive trains do their elliptical orbit, I feel the train set provides the child in all of us the rare, the very rare sense of dominion, of control of something in our lives and perhaps that is why we adore them so. And they never question our control, they either fall off the track, stop suddenly or fail to brake. We are their deities, who set things straight.

What excited Jane was the realization after she went to You Tube and  rail fan sites, that trains sets could have themes. When I was growing up the train set was put on the floor, lovingly  appareled with what devices one had and with a built-in whistle and a white tablet the size of an aspirin put into the engine’s top funnel, smoke was given off. I can still smell that deliciously acrid odor, like the oil on wheels moving on tracks. Nowadays much time is devoted to the scenes that incorporate the trains — Southwest, maritime locations, urban, northern tier of the States and so on. I have chosen to create a Southwest theme, a barn, a mesa, a bridge, here and there a mountain range, all of this to be done slowly, leisurely, for one never completes a train set, one only goes along for the ride, imagination the engineer.  The repetitiveness of a simple Kato train doing its elliptical orbit will suffice for me, for it is soothing in a peculiar way, at least to me. Round and Round.

Cantor Matyas Balogh

I don’t have much to work with. There is a torn photograph and a business card, both over a hundred years old. The card has faded and is foxed much like an old book or print. In the photograph my great grandfather is wearing his cantorial hat and has strong eyes, quite possibly hazel. He was a hazan, Hebrew for cantor. The card is written in Hungarian such as Boldog Ujevet Kivan (in boldface), fokantor beneath his name, Hebrew letters at the bottom left and what I believe is the town of Monor, which is in Hungary, at bottom right. (Anyone who can translate these words?)

I was named after him, Mathas Balogh Freese, which has been a bane for much of my life. Often mispronounced, I grew up detesting it. Bob or Dick would have been better. My mother caved  to my grandma Flora who always extolled her father and most likely pressured her to name me after him. The name looks good in print but I wasn’t in print for all my childhood and young adulthood. Who calls a kid “Mathias”? Even today if a nurse calls me in to see the doctor she often mispronounces the name, often in a Spanish lilt, or struggles through the three phonemes. So it is MAYtheeuss, MUHthias, or Monotonous. (Try to mispronounce Steve.) In Hebrew school I became Mordecai, not too bad. In Spanish class I was called Mateo. Mathias and Mathew are closely related linguistically, for they mean “gift of god” in Hebrew. That I can handle. For years I was called Matty, much a girl’s name and one classmate was called Mathew which made me jealous. Odd to think, that Matty kept me immature in my own self. When I was teaching in my mid twenties an older teacher and friend told me he couldn’t call me Matty and told me to go by Matt, which I did. I liked that. I renamed myself, how unusual, as I look back.

So Shakespeare’s line about what’s in a name is poetically clever, but not psychologically true, not for me. We are defined by our names. Naming is a critical issue, for it is also labeling. So in 2014 Sidney, Sylvester and Beatrice don’t make it, they are punitive to the children who are dubbed in such a tone deaf manner. Kirk Douglas is much more mellifluous than Isadore Demsky Danielovich, and Tony Curtis wears better than Bernie Schwartz. We named our daughter Brett after a character in The Sun Also Rises, only to discover years later that the Navy wanted to recruit her as a seaman.

About a year ago I wrote, “Cantor Matyas Balogh,” a love story from my new collection of stories about the Holocaust, in “I Truly Lament,” soon to be edited for publication in 2015 by Dzanc. I cannot explain why this love story of a cantor with the backdrop of the Holocaust for context arose in my mind. I am curious about my great grandfather. I know that he supposedly spoke many languages, as grandma bragged, some fourteen it was said (really? I don’t think so, but maybe). I heard as a child that he flirted or “fooled” around with some of the women in the congregation. Why not? Hungarian woman are scrumptious — think Ilona Massey. And the Hungarians are renown for being superior mathematicians and physicists.

He died before the Nazis and was not part of the Holocaust, but I wonder if his tombstone was turned over by the Hun. I believe he is interred in Hungary which does not explain why Grandma Flora came over and he remained. All not known to me. I have few details about him that could not fill a thimble, yet he remains in my mind. I would like to go to Monor, only if I research his ancestry and have more to go on before I depart. I wonder how many, many decades have passed without a stone being placed on his coldly unfriended marker. I would do that and in some peculiar way I would make peace with myself. And I would be moved and I would weep a little, for I am of his line. It does give me satisfaction that I had an ancestor of some brilliance.

I stop here to tell the unvarnished truth. I pay homage to him because it confirms that I ,too, am intelligent and smart; that I had a relative who flowed intellectually; that my father was a dunce and I have struggled all my life, in a way, to become Matyas Balogh;  his intelligence, his gifts sustain me so metaphorically it hurts. As a retired shrink, so much is latent and manifest here, like a juicy pomegranate, so much to tease out and to reconcile with and to draw much sustenance from.

I am, I am  so very much– Mathias Balogh Freese

When Grandma assimilated here, she went into vaudeville and was known as Flo Balogh (pronouncing it Barlow). I once asked a Hungarian woman if she could tell me something about the name. Chuckling, she said it was very common in Hungary and  was the equivalent of Joe Smith. So much for exceptionalism.

Americanized, assimilated, Flo always urged me to become a rabbi! And she would give me lunch to encourage that. Often it was a Swiss cheese and ham sandwich with a strawberry milk drink shot with seltzer, which I loved.  Ham, milk and cheese, leads to becoming a rabbi — or a goy.  Meschuge! And at Christmas time I once discovered a small Christmas tree on top of the television set, probably a residue when she was in vaudeville and everybody was everybody else. I was offended at that, for my conditioning as a Jew had been set in place and the old battleax was a violator. Feed her bulbous ass to Moloch. I wonder if she was a handful for my great grandfather, for as a young woman she was a real beauty. I have a few pictures of her which are portraits from the hand of Mucha, Art Nouveau all the way.

Grandma had the gauche panache of Zsa Zsa Gabor and one hell of a father.

 

 

Flossing Uncle Sidney and Aunt Rose

When you floss and get into the apse between opposite teeth, snapping the dental tape, you remove detritus. Reminiscences are like that, they need to be dislodged from crevices if you  have a mind to.Thinking of Sidney and Rose is like removing something that has lodged someplace in me. And it needs telling. It has been slightly over 60 years since I last saw them. I am sure no one goes to their gravesites.They were both harmless and good people, doing their earthly business here until they died. I have no idea when they died, or who went first, or where they are buried. I come from that kind of “family.” I was not alienated from them but simply did not keep up any contact and eventually all of us were out of mind of the other. Disparate matter. As my aunt and uncle they were shadow people; they came and went in my childhood and left some benign deposits in me.

It is of note that both of them were born in the 19th century. My father, who was born in 1915, remembered when fire engines were drawn by horses. So they were alive before and during the turn of the century before WW I. I can only speculate what they observed and absorbed during their childhood and how very different it was. I know no one extant now who was born before 1915. Time most assuredly moved much more slowly for Sidney and Rose as they grew up. Art Nouveau was flowering and Art Deco was yet to be.

Sidney was deaf and used a hearing aid; Rose was more deaf and far from “dumb,” and sometimes I remember she would sign with him. (What an interesting phenomena to observe as a child, a mild wonderment.) They had no children and I wonder if they feared they would inflict their disability upon them; or, perhaps Rose or Sidney could not have children. I don’t know. All is projection. In the late forties and early fifties these things were not discussed.  Only thought about, only imagined, but never expressed. When the family was together and my grandmother, Flo, had her next heart attack, Sidney would play the ukulele by her bedside and make jokes, for he was an alive human being; this was his mother from her marriage to an earlier husband, Gross was his name.  His brother from that marriage was Nat, for it was a blended family from two different husbands. I never felt any distinction between all the children, such as a step-brother, et al. That was very good to experience. I can say that the Grosses were more intelligent than the Freeses, much more so. Just more IQ, simple as that.

Sidney was deft with his hands and things electric before the digital age; indeed, he had wired up a bulb next to the house phone so that an incoming call revealed itself as a blinking light so that Rose would become alerted to that. (I never visited with him and Rose at their home. How strange.)I associate  to a lady’s veil to Aunt Rose, for veils in the 40s were still being worn, and I believe she wore one, once. How curious if you think about it. Rose would sit on a chair and take in and not participate except for now and then becoming animated enough to say a few words and these words were said as if she had glue on her tongue, for she gave out  the special ruminant sound of someone trying to emulate normal speaking. Her words had an undercurrent of aural paste to them. Dim is my memory of her except to note she was inoffensive, never was harsh or demeaning to me, nor was she affectionate or engaging. She must have thought to herself about how much her mother-in-law was a blustering and powerful person. I have a sneaking impression that she was a powerhouse of feelings behind that disability. How deafness must have frustrated her, inordinately so. Sidney, in many different ways, spoke for her. Whoever died first must have left the other self twice-devastated, truly struck dumb.

If Rose was mutely reserved, silently monumental, Sidney was alive and vibrant, his DNA ever percolating. I have an ancient sepia photo of him during the forties in which he is standing and holding a comb over the top of his lip and beneath his nose , his right hand outstretched in a Nazi salute, his hair draped across his brow in a wicked imitation of Hitler. This is Sidney. I liked Uncle Sidney, he was a kibitzer, as all uncles should be; he once went with me to Coney Island and I enjoyed going into a funhouse with him, gripping his thumbs out of expectation as he guided me from behind.

That photo will disappear when I disappear, for my son will have no use for it or even know who his great Uncle Sidney was.

For Sidney she was his compass rose. Apparently they were well matched. Aunt Rose’s purse probably concealed a box of Chiclets in the yellow box, like teeth to dispense, for she would give gum to those about her, meaning me; she probably had rouge in her purse for that was common for women to use; a glass case for she wore metal spectacles, and tissues, of course. Perhaps a handkerchief doused in a light perfume, for she, in retrospect, seemed to take care of her presentation of self. And I imagine her having a matchbook size of, Sen-Sen, those tiny licorice-tasting black tabs for bad breath or to conceal smoking. I dimly recall she wore dresses that had florals upon them, often black. Aunt Rose wore no hearing-aid unlike Sidney, for she was profoundly deaf and one could watch her with fervor read the lips of others. Sidney wore jackets or suits and I believe he did so because he could slip his hearing-aid pack into a side pocket and from there bring his wire up to his ear. As a child I never viewed him as deaf regardless of this contraption, for he was attuned to me, heard me at all times. He piqued my interest with his ukulele  playing and I began to fumble and struggle with a baritone uke my father brought home from his work at a pawnshop. I could never master that damn thing.

In the ninth grade he helped me put together a science project, those horrific assignments we all detest. He took me to a shop where he either worked or knew the owner, and here were all things hearing. (Given his disability, I have no idea what he did for a living. How uninformed we are as children –how uninformed are we are as adults.) He cannibalized hearing aids and earplugs and helped me put together more of a display than a science project; but as I look back it was informative and although not a “science project” as wanted by my teacher, it was different and well executed. Thank you, Uncle Sidney. It isn’t every day that a young boy has an uncle and aunt who are hard of hearing. Did they sign to one another during sex? Did they really have to? What words are necessary in any case. I must note that I have had a significant loss of hearing this past year or so. I will probably be fitted with a device. I can say that I sense the lacunae between sounds to be more pronounced than ever. I am still metabolizing what this loss of hearing means for me.

For the past month or so I have gone over in my mind all the scant reminiscences I have of this quiet couple. I know why. It is the last roundup and I want to have everything neat and tidy, foolish me. But this homage is for them, for they are forgotten except by their  73 year old nephew. Epicurus’s epitaph reads: “I was not; I have been; I am not; I do not mind.” While I live, I remember!

 

 

I Had a Dream Last Night

“I have a dream, a fabulous dream, babe” — “Gypsy.”

Rosalind Russell with high heels stomping on stage, in deep swagger, blaring out her song, like Ethel Merman on steroids, it is a self proclamation. I associate to Martin Luther, anti-Semite par excellence, who majestically told eternal Rome and her pope: “Here I stand.” All that in this theme which somehow and in some way, like the tail on a kite, flutters over my dream as if, I,too, have something to shout out in a stentorian way.

Essentially as only a dream can present itself, I see before me a series of two sets or stages, as if constructed for a play. To my left there is a small room apparently enclosed by metal as if a cage and shelving runs across all four walls. In the room there is an amanuensis or secretary that I cannot see but I feel he is a librarian, or a keeper of the books.  The books are unusual in that they are all vividly bound paperbacks, reds, royal blues and so on. I am taken by the beauty of shelves so densely lined with books. One book vaguely opens before my eyes but I cannot decipher it except to realize it is of paper. And then it is gone after my very cursory inspection.

Next to the book cage, what appears beneath me is some kind of lateral bin. I shuffle some papers or folders aside and I come upon four books. They are sheathed in leather, perhaps some metal as well and they are hardbacks, all together as if a series. I have four of them. As I think about them, they have covers like accountant ledgers (am I being taken into account?).

As I pull them from the bin, each book discloses a blue, thin paperback, a delightfully handsome blue. It is as if each of these books is a kind of primer or Cliff’s Notes to the hardback books. Somehow I am taken by them although I do not open any of the books, hardback or paperback. The dreams ends here although I feel there was a third portion I cannot recall, as happens in dreams, and a few other dream “strings” that evanesced and became unretrievable to my conscious mind.

As I remember the manifest content of the dream, three words come to mind: worth, capacity and accomplishment. I felt in the dream a welling up of accomplishment and that made me feel buoyant, afloat with good feeling. Secondly, “capacity” is an offbeat word — capable, capacious, etc –as if I was enlarged so that within my self I had the capacity to do more or produce more. Worthy was a feeling as well, but not as strong a resonance as the other two feeling states.

And so the dream ended, a few lines from “Gypsy” as if an undercurrent soundtrack; three words issuing up as I recollected my dream while awake; and a feeling of empowerment in terms of some personal achievement or other.

I don’t believe this dream is too difficult to interpret, but I will share it with my therapist for her input. Clearly I feel it is important enough to write it out in detail upon awakening.

A major association to all of this was the recollection of a dream I had more than thirty years ago. At the time, if I recall correctly, I was in a psychoanalytic institute. The dream I give here puzzled me for days before I “nailed” it. I mention it here because it came back to me while thinking about the dream I had last night.

In the old dream I was at a high altitude and situated on a mountain tarn. The lake was ringed by mountains. The lake was solemnly calm, too much so, eerie, nary a ripple on its surface. And I was on the beach, one of volcanic pebbles, not sand. As I stood at the shore I observed in the half foot or so of water before me three manta rays, or so I imagined them to be. They were flat  fish, one next to another and at rest, no movement at all.

For some reason I ventured to step upon one ray, which I did; it did not move or slip away. And then I stepped off. I was doing this with one foot. I stepped on each manta ray in such fashion, one foot on its back and then off. The fish did not move. And that was the entirety of the dream which annoyingly perplexed me for days.

I sought out symbols — mountains as breasts; water as the amniotic sac, et al. After much frustration I began to go over each part of the dream as if I was doling out the mathematical intricacies of an algebraic equation. Finally I came upon it in a happenstance. After all, what was the action in this arcane dream? I stepped onto and off a fish and that was it.

I wrote that I stand off and then on a fish. At last that morphed into “standoffish.” And there it was. It was an aha moment. I am standoffish as a person, no doubt about that. In a very primal and nonverbal way, the dream — if we accept this interpretation — was telling me something about myself. It is a stellar dream in that it reminded me of the cathedral entrances in which stories such as Adam and Eve for those who could not read. are carved in stone. The primitiveness of my dream appealed to0 me in its concrete simplicity.

And now what is the connection between the two dreams, one fresh and new, one ancient? That is to be determined in my next therapeutic session, hopefully.

Manta rays do not exist in mountain tarns. They are, in this dream, fish out of water, they don’t belong, I may say. And I wonder if my standoffishness is somehow related to a fish out of water, out of its element. Or, in both instances I am an outlier; something to ponder.

 

 

 

 

 

Sleep Deprived

 

In the past 90 days or so I have had difficulties getting a good night’s sleep. For me that means at least about 5 to 6 hours uninterrupted by bathroom visits. As time went on the amount of sleep was gradually reduced to about one or two hours and then 45 minutes of restlessness — watching TV, reading, feeling anxious and unsettled emotionally. Eventually I was feeling sleep deprived during the day. I greeted too many dawns fully awake.

One particular night was an insomniac’s fare — sleeplessness only moderated by tossing and turning, walking about the house, worrying about what this experience was and what it meant. I tried to survey what had happened or what was happening to me and these factors loomed large. Of course, I am the last to know.

I had been sitting in on a course on grief which I felt was creeping into my mind in a way that, apparently, was not healthy for me. I was struggling with a second reading of Becker’s The Denial of Death whose implications were unnerving intellectually and psychologically. I don’t deny death, that each day is adieu to who I am, and more so that at 73 I am nearing my end.

I had recently returned to psychotherapy after four decades with the express self-purpose of attaining support for all kinds of issues, one of which was to find solace or comfort as I stumbled into oblivion. Apparently I was obsessing over the years left to me and how was I to use them without resorting to a panicked filled bucket list, Americana at its most strident. In this nation we don’t relate to one another. What we do is sell a part of ourselves like so much dry goods to one another, each moment of the day. I was living with fear, drenched in it.

All of these concerns combined, I believe, served to keep me up through the night. One day I expressed all this to my wife, Jane, and I felt some relief later that day as if something had lifted or eased, but not too much so. Nevertheless, after checking with a pharmacist I settled upon an over the counter supplement, Melatonin, as something that might ease my nightly sleeplessness. It didn’t work. Thinking about all this, I called my physician’s assistant and made clear to her that my sleeplessness had an undercurrent to it of anxiety and could she ask the doctor for  a non habit-forming and non-addictive medication. I am glad I fully expressed the anxiety part of it and did not hold back.

He prescribed Trazodone, “an antidepressant used to treat depression. It may also be used for relief of an anxiety disorder (e.g. sleeplessness, tension), chronic pain or to treat other conditions….” (It is the first time in my life I have ever had to take such a drug for such a condition.) So the medication seemed on target. I’ve been on it for fewer than three days and some relief has been given but not a full night’s sleep. The prescription information says: “It may take 1 to 4 weeks to work.” Well, it hasn’t kicked in as yet, but I hope it does. I must wait.

As I think over and reconsider the cumulative weight of worry all these past weeks wreaked upon me by myself, I observe how fog creeping into me like Sandburg’s cat paws gnawed at my inner self, shrouding me, making me unclear to my own self. I was self-depressing myself. I was making myself anxious. Somewhere, most unconsciously, I chose to somatize these mental tensions through sleeplessness. As if the latent stresses were telling my unknowledgeable self that I was not awake, not aware of what was occurring in me. So sleeplessness was a telegram to myself — it is a symptom. What is keeping me awake? If you stay awake, you might defer and delay dying, at least for this one night, so morbidly amusing. Perhaps.

About a year ago in a different medical situation, a nurse practitioner asked me if I was generally an anxious person. I quickly said no defensively, as if it implied an imperfection in my self. I lied to her. I am an anxious person, and a worrier. The fear is that the personal idiosyncracies of my very own special death and dying will not be controlled in any way — that high anxiety will win out and flood me, as I lay dying, serving doubly to compound the process itself.

To die is the final loss of control, as if we have ever controlled anything in life. I imagine my fear is that I will be blown apart, disparate selves, unglued and unhinged when I “allow” death to have its way with me. That is the great fear in me, the loss of control. And that, I think, creates a large measure of anxiety in me. I don’t want to lost my grip on things, I have been that way all my life.

For me it is a great fear to die explosively, to burst asunder and to be no more. I suffer from dread.

I cannot say more. I am stuck with this last thought. I don’t want to hear an observation, asked a question, given an answer or proffered a therapeutically  astute interpretation. Primally, I want to be held by my mother, in her arms, like a young child, as I pass through. This might ease my cowardice. There, there, child, just hold me.

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