Thursday, March 24, 2016


Five letters. Yet they evoke an era: the mid- to late 1960's at Columbia University, where I was a student at Barnard:

1.The young man who told me that fluid beauty is as important as static beauty. The same young man who used poets as authorities; in this case, Theodore Roethke. See "I loved a woman ... ."

2.A person who loved the female mind as well as the female body: the original male women's libber.

3.A man who drank all your fluids, and left you bone dry. The person who then located you in the library the next day, and later filled you once again to a level that to this day astounds.

4.The one who taught you that the way clothing felt was as important as the way it looked.

5.Someone who proved that you could show love in many ways without ever uttering the word. "Our relationship survived because we did not define it." Though we never used the word, love pervaded and defined everything we did together.

6.A student of the human condition who knew change was coming. On the most personal level: I, a Jewess, could marry him, a Christian, without losing my parents.

7.A young man who lived by axioms. The one I remember the best: An unplanned pregnancy leads to a happy and joyous marriage. No questions asked.

8.A person who understood the causes and significance of the student riots of 1968 much better than I did.. We weathered those turbulent nights together in my apartment on W. 114 St.

9.Someone who smoked way too much.

10.A man who died at a very young age from a quick and sudden bout with lung cancer.

In blessed memory, Christian Scott Ward.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Visitation of the Dove, by Clive James

Night is at hand already; it is well
That we yield to the night. So Homer sings,
As if there were no Heaven and no Hell,
But only peace.
The gray dove comes down in a storm of wings
Into my garden where seeds never cease

To be supplied as if life fits a plan
Where needs are catered to. One need is not:
I do not wish to leave yet. If I can
I will stay on
And see another autum, having got
This far with all my strength not yet quite gone.

When Phedre, dying, says that she can see
Already not much more than through a cloud,
She adds that death has taken clarity
Out of her eyes
To give it to the world. Behold my shroud:
This brilliance in the garden. The dove flies,

And as it lifts away I start these last
Few lines, for I know that my song must end.
It will be done, and go back to the past,
But I wish still
To be here watching when the leaves descend.
I might yield then, perhaps. But not until.

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Third Wave of Feminism?

I just finished reading Erica Jong's new book, "Fear of Dying." So what is the third wave of feminism? (She might have told us, but I skipped many parts of the book, which is so much a re-play of many of her other books.) What emerges in my own mind, howwever, after reading Erica Jong, who is 73,  is my conviction that the third wave must include messages about the way "senior citizens" are treated in our society: treated by the medical profession, housing management, and just plain people on the street.

I recently had to interrupt one doctor and say, "I am not senile; please do not talk to me as if I am." Dealing with doctors gets to be like an old Seinfeld episode, in which Elaine tries to steal her records that she is sure contain an unflattering comment about her. Well, I have been struggling with cancers for the last nine years; too many doctors tell me all my trouble is due to worry, which I am sure is the summation of my existence scribbled across every medical document that bears my name.  Due to worry!!! Who would not be worried if you are forced to spend your "life" on the precipice that separates life from death? Certainly not the doctors . The message is clear:"You are old and sick, and I have better things to do with my time than deal with you." Gloria Steinem, you are 80, G-d bless you. Surely you have been insulted at least once by a rude doctor. Why can't we do something about this blatant inequality in the delivery of medical services, starting with mandated (or at least suggested) basic respect for the "elderly" patient?

Now on to housing. My home and all of my worldy possions were taken by Hurricane Sandy back in 2012. So I was forced to move to a (fairly upscale, as it turns out) apartment near my son and his family. I unfortunately made the mistake of calling an ambulance too many times. Once for toxic hepatitis; another for the passage of a kidney stone: other times for trivial ailments that were laughed at and mocked in emergency rooms. Another unfortunate incident occured when a friend called the police because she could not get me on the phone. (Yes, the police came knocking at my door in the wee hourse of the A.M. .) Okay, so I disturbed the peace. Punishment: extremey rude treatment by certain people employed in the building in which I lived, and yes - management's decision not to renew my lease. Third wave of feminism? Everybody advised me to keep my mouth shut and move. So I did.

For awhile I needed to walk with a cane, which tipped everyone off that I was not to be taken too seriously. Nurses seemed annoyed, as they looked back at me hobbling to exam rooms. I was told that some assisted living facilities "do not like apppliances," which included the walker I sometimes had to use. Come on now: Senior residences frown upon walkers. Then it is no surprise that I would be unkindly stared at by strangers in the street on snowy days when I needed to use that particular "appliance."

Okay fellow baby boomers. Have you had enough maltreatment? We all remember the days of the second wave. Now it is clearly time once again to include ourselves actively in the latest feminist movement. It is time the message goes out to judge us by our wisdom and not our "senility" and disabilities.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015


G-d: i do not know what you are, where you are, or who you are. but i know that You exist.

please help to restore my faith.


Thursday, September 3, 2015

When It Is Time to Forgive the Unforgivable

1.Let us suppose, for a minute, that it is very easy to misinterpret the Talmud. Let us remind ourselves that the passage favoring pederasty is NOT to be taken literally. Rather it has to do with the Kittubah, which is a set of marriage pledges given by the groom to the bride.

2.Let us assume that your abuser grew up in a shtetl in Austria in the early 1900's. Let us also assume that there was little communication with other students of the Talmud outside of this small shtetl. Let us say that your grandfather took the phrase about sexual abuse with a girl under 3 and a boy under 9 literally. (Now we know it is an unacceptable interpretation.)

3.Let us assume that your abuser was sexually abused because the Talmud said it is okay - which it does NOT say. Let us say that people did not know the truth, but studied and studied and incorrectly carried out certain practices, which, in this time and this place, are illegal.

4.But let us return to that place in that time. What if your own abuser, whom you hated/loved for your whole life, was sexually abused as a child, but was told it was an acceptable practice?

5.This is what we know: Freud, an Austrian Jew, knew that sexual abuse of children was rampant. (See case study of Dora, e.g.) Freud had to cover up his true knowledge with the somewhat far-fetched Oedipal Complex theory, which, he said, explained hysteria and other neurotic states. He really knew that he was right the first time, but he wanted to remain part of the Austrian Psychoanalytic Society, whose members, apparently, knew about rampant sexual abuse of young children.

6.How many people in therapy suffered as a result?

7.Back to reasonable interpretation: the Talmud says what a woman's marriage rights should be if she was sexually abused before the age of 3 years old. (The Talmud thus protects the rights of the abused.) Let us acknowledge that your sexual abuser stopped having any contact with you when you turned 3. (People have remarked that there was a big (and not good) change in you at that age.) Nobody understood why, and blame you to this day.

8.Now onto some more facts: Dr. Leonard Neff, rip, conceptualized the diagnosis of PTSD, or post traumatic stress disorder. It seems that other therapists pretend that they know how to treat PTSD, but really do not. Perhaps the VA has finally gotten it straight. I hope so.

9.What if your psychological existence (with all its physical connections) depended upon forgiving the unforgivable, because the perpetrator was a victim turned victimizer and did not know any better?
What if ... if ... if ... if ..

10.The other day I saw a posted photo taken in the 1990' s of a beautiful couple, now dead. Not too far from the wife's beatific smile were tattooed numbers on her arm. She had come to terms not only with the unforgivable but also with the unthinkable.

11.Do not blame Judaism and those who misinterpret what has been written. You know in your heart that no religion would condone sexually abusing a child. And yet it happens. To me and maybe to you.

12.Save yourself. It is time to forgive (and understand) the unforgivable, inexcusable acts of not only sexual abuse of children but also the act of blaming religion and MOST of all of blaming yourself.

13. Disclaimer: In summary this post is not meant to blame the scriptures of judaism or any other religion. It simply represents my own limited attempt to understand.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

New Cancer Scare

Writing might be cathartic (except that catharsis is really for the audience, according to classical literature.) Oh, I do not know anymore - or care.

A band of angels - day is done - i will go so gently.

It all started almost two weeks ago when I had a terrible episode of vertigo, very reminiscent of what happened two months before the 2007 kidneycancerturnedbrain tumor bleed.

Doctors are concerned about a recurrence of kidneycancerturnedbrain tumor.
And so am I, since I am still dizzy and have headaches.

So - I am too weak to undergo brain surgery. So - what? Nothing. Just sit home and wait to bleed to death? All alone? What choice?

I see a new oncologist/hematologist on Weds. and  ENT on Tuesday. Cannot hear out of left ear. Mri not until a week from tomorrow. How last?

Ha ha. This has not been cathartic for me or anyone else. What to do?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Why Are (Some, Most) Nurses So Mean?

1.They hate the day shift.
2.They hate the night shift.
3.They know more than doctors.
4.They know less than doctors.
5.They have not walked in your hospital "booties."
6.They do not like to watch people die.
7.They hate the yellow plastic "ponchos" they have to don when caring for a person who has been quarantined.
8.They can't wait to get away from you so they can talk about you to other nurses.
9.They had fights with their spouses shorty before coming on duty.
10.They do not like the sound of the patient's buzzer.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Fun Facts As 2014 Draws to a Close

1.Comorbidities of kidney cancer are as bad as the cancer itself.
2.I am now in stage 3b of chronic kidney disease (ckd) by virtue of losing one kidney, getting older, and other factors. (There are only 5 stages. Who knew this could happen?}
3.I have had (and am told I no doubt again have) kidney stones.
4.These stones cannot be removed because one surgical error would lead straight to dialysis.
5.I have a large cyst in my kidney, which also cannot be removed. (See above.)
6.I have become supremely agoraphobic.
7.I need to have a thyroid nodule biopsied again because the latest doctor hit blood vessels and only drew blood.
8.I have leukemia probably from focused head radiation.
9.I have cataracts probably also from focused head radiation treatments.
10.Kidney stones hurt worse when they pass (well, maybe not worse) than childbirth.
11.You never recover from the shock and grief of losing EVERYTHING you ever owned, particularly your mind, in a hurricane that was probably a tsunami.
12.I have been in p/t  for a year trying to learn to walk after breaking a spinal cord bone.
13.I pray constantly that i might regain my faith.
14.The exhaustion of CKD stage 3 and lymphoma stage 1 are worse than cancer surgeries and ensuing comas.
15.Some of my best friends have deserted me, like birds from a tree.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Critique (please read "Older Post, "  entitled 2 Men, first)

How do we recover from childhood trauma when we are left to our own resources as adults? Can we ever recover and become whole? These are the questions Moser asks in her memoir glibly entitled 2 MEN. The answer that finally comes to her is that one must "begin to understand" the effects of a   monstrous past in order even to hope for some recovery, whether recovery is possible or not.  

The simple, flippant, almost childlike tone of her memoir is deceptive, for there is great hurt and significance behind each word, even  Dr.Seuss' words, so aptly included. She has not yet overcome the gibberish communicated to her  by parents who were caught in their own web of insane confusion. The brief lines contain years of struggle and heartache; the tone not only of detachment but also of simplicity are attempts to disguise great pain.

She tries to fight her past by falling in love with Robert, who, in the end, uses her much as he  has used her good friend; i.e., solely for his own needs. Behind the stoicism lurks a hard, intransigent selfishness and the familiar passion that causes, in the end, only pain.  We can assume that the first kiss occurs only when Robert decides it will. He has no apparent concern that he ruins her hopes for an engagement let alone her graduate plans in Boston. Robert comes back to her as he pleases and then leaves; he gives her little hope for reliability and absolutely no promise of support. The ritual washing of hands after the funeral is the only self-cleansing he can manage.

So Moser repeats her past. She never uses her name because abused children never have a chance to develop an identity. In the second part of the memoir, she recalls places of abuse - but except for the beatings, specifics of abuse are lost to her, as they are to many traumatized children. In her memories she is an onlooker; she is not a past participant in her father's activities. And what of the good memories that are so contradictory to the bad ones? The man who taught her to read also took away her life.

In the end the truth begins to come to her: It was her father and not Robert who had taught her about love. Yes her notions about love are self-defeating and self-immolating: so how can she attain the genuine, enduring love she thinks she desires?   She will roll her hopes uphill, but they will always crash back down and crush her. Does she even know - or have the self-respect - to care?

Can we believe her  when she says she "begin{s} to understand"? If so, is understanding enough? Can anyone ever really put "Humpty Dumpty" back together again? She already has delivered her own verdict. Her hope for recovery is there, but is recovery really possible? This is the monumental question that this simply-written, almost childlike memoir explores.

Ellen Moser

Saturday, November 15, 2014

2 Men (please read "Newer Post," CRITIQUE, after you have read this.)

This is a memoir about Robert and the last time I saw him. It is also my memories of the man called father.

Man #1: Robert

Robert and I were at Columbia at the same time, but I met him at the beach near my home the summer before my junior and his senior year. He was my good friend's date; in order to produce a foursome they had provided me with a dullard. Robert held my friend's hand; I held sandals in my own hand to prevent the dullard from touching me.

By the end of the day Robert and I had fallen for each other. When the sun set over the Verrazano Bridge, I looked him in the eye and said, "Come back and see my bridge again."

Robert called me the next morning. He said simply,"You asked me to come back and see your bridge," and he did -  many times.

I did not start dating Robert until my friend had found a new young man. While she sat staring dreamily at  a shell she and her friend had found on a beach somewhere, I left a note in Robert's mailbox at his dorm inviting him to call me. In my mind, it was now okay.

And he called - many times over the coming years.

Our first kiss almost took place in Riverside Park late one crystalline winter night. I wore a spider web of a scarf on my head and desire in my eyes. Robert would later tell me that he had determined earlier that day not to kiss me on our first date. That was how he was: a stoic filled with emotion.

I was a virgin, but this was the late 60's. So pretty soon we were having sex. Let me not write about the mutual floods of emotion that seem even now to me incredible. Let me not write about the stealth of two otherwise honest people sneaking together around campus to avoid my friend, who kept wondering why Robert did not call anymore. Let me not write about the theaters, the ballets, the movies, the restaurants, his parents.... Nor anymore about the sex. (Just to repeat what Dorothy of THE GOLDEN GIRLS once said:"We named it.")

Then Robert graduated and went on to MIT. I was to follow and go to Tufts the next year. Did I really not notice how reluctant Robert had been to send me the Wheelock, the Leslie, the endless catalogues from colleges and universities in Boston and environs?

I visited him three times in Boston - via car, bus and train. He came home at Thanksgiving. When he had asked my finger size, I had expected a ring. I received instead a pair of sensible leather gloves.

Then came the call before Christmas to say that he was going skiing upstate. No, I could definitely not come along. I cried and begged; he said he did not want just to hang up on me; so I hung up first.

Robert came home at intersession about one year later. He came to see me. The kisses were as passionate as before; the look in his eyes was blank because he was no longer there. He had already met the young woman who would later become his wife.

We tried one more time. Robert walked down the street where I lived; I waited as still as stone on the front porch. My father had just fallen over the keys of his piano and died.

Later I took off my dress, and Robert said I was as beautiful as ever, but should not depend upon him for - anything. Then we went to sleep in separate rooms. He attended my father's funeral and burial. I cried on his shoulder on the way to the cemetery.  He returned to my home, washed his hands in the ritual cleansing water, and soon left. I was never to see him again.

But at that moment I thought: I had come to love through him.

Man #2: My Father

Will I write this? Dare I write this? Should I write this? And my mind continues its journey through my grandson's Dr. Seuss books, and I think: I will write it if I can.

My father (mi padre, mon pere), my dad: Brilliant, frustrated wholesale dress salesman, master chess player, lover of Beethoven, musical genius, poet, songwriter, self-tutored student of astronomy and all things celestial - innocent child molester who could not even fool his little baby girl.

Ha! I remember it all: in Helen's house on Mermaid Avenue, in our basement, in our garage, on a jetty in the sea at the deserted beach in early spring. The white handkerchief, the gleaming gold tooth as his impassioned face stared out into the ocean. My fear that I would fall in.

Like all good girls I told my mother, when I became old enough to talk; yes, I was believed and dragged to the pediatrician, who assured her there surely would be repercussions. Yes, she soon realized she had to protect her husband, her source of support, and branded me a liar. Then she became the one who held me down on my father's  lap so he could beat me and beat me and beat me for lying - and then toss me off  his lap and throw me on the floor. (But Daddy what about the times I would sit on your lap and you would teach me the names of the inky black letters on the front page of the NY Post? - but Daddy, but Daddy, but Daddy...).

I am 67 years old now. I have been with men, men, men. I have searched for - Robert? my father? Does it matter? Humpty Dumpty, as we all  know, could never be put back together again.


Now I have returned to 1969. Robert is standing beside me at my father's open casket. He does not take my hand. I look at his stoic face. I look at my father's face. Finally I begin to cry.

They close the casket, say the fake words, some of them written by me.  We bury my father and go home.

Robert stays for a short time, and then leaves. I close the door behind him. For good.

A few days later I pick up a yellowing picture of my dad at his piano.

And then I begin to understand: I came to love through him.