Preparing to meet with Morty
In the first session, we met Karl and Lucy. Their great Uncle Morty, who resides in the Buffalo region, woke up one night screaming.
His aide, Sara, a registered nurse, was tested mightily to calm him. A call to Karl and Lucy, who reside in Maryland, followed with a directive to call Morty’s doctor. The good fortune of a connection allowed for an early a.m. call. Ordinarily, Karl and Lucy made an annual trip to visit Morty. This time gave Sara a break.
Though both had completed their teaching jobs for the season, they had not planned their visit so soon. Together with their family dog, they packed and drove to see Morty. The doctor evaluated Morty for neurological and cognitive deficits and found none. The doctor friend suggested that Morty seek a therapist to review the dramatic event. He only would agree to see a Jewish therapist. Morty, who was well connected to his synagogue, refused to see anyone except someone unfamiliar. They found me after Googling and guessing my name to be Jewish.
I agreed to meet Karl and Lucy at my office. Being used to driving the extra miles was not laborious. I wondered about their great Uncle Morty. I agreed to see them soon. Morty came along for the ride. He decided to remain in the car while Karl and Lucy met with me. Morty and the dog listened to music.
So, folks, how did you persuade Morty to take a drive? Also, now that he’s here, did he provide any indication of joining us? “Marshall, we explained to uncle Morty the doctor’s recommendation to which we concurred. Once in your city limits, he voiced a change of heart. He agreed to our time with you. Our dog is good company and protective. Morty listens daily to music. He loves old Polish hymns and stories. He’s from the old country as we used to say.
“He came to America in the mid-’50s. He and a family friend lived in Israel. An opportunity arose for them to live and work in the states. Morty spoke no English, only a Polish dialect mixed with Yiddish, which was spoken in Israel. Morty attended school and excelled in English. Fast forward, he completed a business degree and eventually formed his own business. He was successful. He married a local girl he met at the synagogue. He and the Rabbi often met for friendly debates on religion and politics. Morty and his wife, Elizabeth, had one child. His wife had a brother, who was my father. They were a close knit family. Job offers relocated us to Maryland. Morty and Elizabeth stayed in the region. Their only child, a beautiful girl, was killed in an auto accident by a drunk driver. Though devastated, Morty’s strong constitution prevailed. Elizabeth contracted a serious bout of depression and died in a psychiatric hospital. The community banded to oversee Morty.
“He repaid his gratitude many times over with charitable donations to deserving youngsters from the synagogue. Without fanfare, Morty gave money and time to homeless people. He even volunteered at the soup kitchen where his presence was a delight to others. He never sought awards or recognition. He served for years with humility. Morty would not speak of his daughter and wife’s untimely death.
“My family, including myself, invited Morty for holidays and summers. We enjoyed the visits. He was generous with his love of family. Miraculously, his health was fine. Yearly check-ups and following doctor’s orders kept him able to overcome minor illnesses.
So, Karl and Lucy, any theories on the event that shook everyone up? “Marshall, we both asked Morty but he did not or would not discuss the event. Still, we emphasized that it scared us, especially Sara. The doctor could not guarantee that another episode would not happen. Morty is in his 80s. We’d like him to be around longer.”
How do you think he might experience inquiries from me? I’m a complete stranger. Jewishness aside, what might spark his desire to talk?
Karl chimed in. “Marshall, we did leave out one piece of history. Something Morty doesn’t like to discuss. We, as historians, have the interest in hearing more of his story. You see, Morty lived in Israel due to a dramatic rescue. Morty was a child in a concentration camp. He and his brother and sister and parents were taken from their home in Poland by German soldiers and spent undisclosed time in the camp. We heard that allied soldiers overtook the camp and rescued survivors, including a young boy named Morty. He made his way to Israel through an organization that brought Jewish children from the orphanage where Morty stayed. He was discovered by a Jewish group and arrived in Israel when it gained statehood, a free country. Morty was adopted by a family who eventually relocated to the states for employment. He’s been here since.”
I have one question that is vital. How do you suppose Morty has physically, emotionally and mentally survived the multiple traumas? How does he remain strong and able to function throughout these years? Lucy looked at Karl. “We’re as perplexed as your question suggests.”
And that event screaming in his sleep — has this ever happened before? “Not that we know of.”
We finished up. I walked them outside. I introduced myself to Morty and the dog. I hoped he enjoyed his ride. If his interest is strong, I offered to visit with him. He nodded. Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.
Marshall Greenstein, a Cassadaga resident, holds a masters degree in marriage and family counseling and is a licensed marriage and family counselor and a licensed mental health counselor in New York state. He has regular office hours at Hutton and Greenstein Counseling Services, 501 E. Third St., Suite 2B, Jamestown, 484-7756. For more information or to suggest topics, email firstname.lastname@example.org.