Struggles, horrors of childhood come to light

A couple of days after the second session, Karl called me. Seems Morty asked them to drive him to talk with me.

He wanted Karl and Lucy to join him. Also, he wanted the dog, too. I was fine with the plan. We made a mid-day appointment. I left extra time if Morty needed it. They arrived a tad early. They brought a picnic-type lunch to share. Morty’s comforts were paramount. We gobbled down chicken salad sandwiches, fresh fruit, and ice tea. The dog ate, too. The dog spent time keying in with Morty.

Well, welcome folks. How was your ride? Lucy spoke. “Our last drive was quiet except for music. This time, we spoke about politics of the day and baseball. We plan to attend a night game on our return home.” Morty looked up and then petted the dog, which melted in his arms.

“Your name is Marshall?” Yes, Morty. “Are you Jewish?” Yes, I was raised in a Jewish home. How come that is important to you, Morty?

“To be honest, I trust my Jewish brothers and sisters. I know no one will hurt me. I can hear honesty.”

Karl and Lucy’s dog seems comfortable in your lap. “Yes, I like Baby, that’s the dog’s name. Baby sits with me, plays fetch, and likes me feeding treats to her.”

Karl and Lucy shared some of your history as a successful businessman and philanthropist. Your generosity sounds diverse from your synagogue members to the local homeless shelter. Sounds like you have a soft heart.

“I suppose you could call it that. I am sensitive to those in need financially. Seeing people without food eats away at my psyche.”

They also briefly referenced your terrible losses from your immediate family. I’m so sorry for your losses. “Thank you. I’ve learned not to get too heartbroken. I’m glad to have the support of Sara, Karl and Lucy. My doctor attends to me for annual physicals.”

Did the event that led to a therapy referral bother you? “You know, I don’t like too much attention. What I donate is money and it fills my aching heart.”

You’ve had to endure serious and rigor heartache Morty. How have you survived what others might have succumbed to?

A lengthy pause ensued. “Marshall, many have survived, too. I try not to complain. Others have had it worse. I watch the news. Many people throughout the world survive even in this modern age.”

Do you know and did you hear yourself scream in your sleep? “I did but I called upon survival tools to offset any repercussions. I’ve got to live and not let small things overpower me. I learned these skills as a young boy. My family was provided with meager means. Mom and dad provided their rations to keep us children alive. My two siblings got weak, ill, and soon died. I sought crazy irrational means of survival.”

Give me an example, please.

“Well, for one thing, there was a dog that was shivering and growled when she neared us. I gave up some of my small provisions. The dog left only to show up later. I watched my parents weaken and soon starved to death. I don’t know what kept me alive. Soon, my siblings who died had given up hope. I never did. I begged God that I would do righteous work if led to escape. Once liberated by the allied soldiers, I lived in an orphanage. The food was terrible but tolerable. It was better than the camp. I spent three years at the orphanage until a family took me on and offered hope from my bleak past. God was answering my prayers. Adopted in Israel, we soon relocated to the states. My love lost her mind following our daughter’s death by a drunk driver. Elizabeth, poor woman, never recovered from the trauma. No one offered help like they have today.”

So, Morty, if another event is possible, what insights might provide tools to ward off the tide?

Morty sat quietly. He looked solemn. “You know, I’ve been resistant over these years to discuss my sordid past.”

What about now, Morty? What do you think triggered that nightmare as I might label the event?

“I do have a thought. Sara and I drink tea before bedtime to help me sleep. The news of the day focused primarily on the southern border town that shows immigrant kids in cages. I was shocked and upset. Sara and I agree to the questionable decisions made by our leaders. I recall yelling at the TV. Sara brought me a small shot of Irish whiskey. I soon got my wits. Now I remember my dream. Seems the youngsters in cages brought up memories from years ago as I lived in a barbed wire area. … Escape was impossible. Hopelessness and helplessness needed to not make me succumb. Countless people died daily. My parents died from malnutrition. How I survived is open to conjecture.

“Helpless children in cage-like areas seem to get me upset. That night when the nightmarish event woke me up and shook me up.”

I wonder if your amazing ability to survive recalled a threshold of tolerance. “I saw kids in cages being held against their will and apart from their families. It’s an experience no one needs to survive. The dehumanization, cruel, and vile response from politicians who were interviewed tightened my stomach.” It may be too soon to suggest — a reaction to terrible events you overcame. The flood of emotion may have surfaced triggered by the plight at the border.

“Maybe I do need to talk. I’ve held it back for so long.” 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 editorial@observertoday.com


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