Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Archive for July 8th, 2010

The Oncoming Train

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on July 8, 2010

     Joshua, sixty-seven, is three weeks into mourning the loss of his eighty-nine year old father to cancer. Joshua tells me that his younger brother, Jeremy, is also mourning, but at the same time he  is going to lawyers to deal with the estate so that he can take over Joshua’s share. Joshua understands that he is not going to get his fair share, but he feels paralyzed to take action because he is so sad. Joshua’s father, Sam, physically  and emotionally abused Joshua, but not Jeremy; according to Joshua. Their mother stood idly by, probably feeling paralyzed. Joshua and Sam never talked about the physical abuse. It stopped when Joshua turned fourteen and was bigger than Sam. Joshua feels this abuse acutely in that his father’s words that he is “useless” still echo loudly in his head. Joshua never married; never had a long-term relationship. He worked as a nurse until about ten years ago when he went out on disability because he hurt his back. He has always lived with his parents. His mom passed away ten years ago; by his report he was sad then too. Now, he lives alone; he enjoys the company of a few close friends.

     Joshua’s friends tell him that he should mourn his dad before he thinks about the estate. I said “I wonder though if Jeremy is an oncoming train, and you had better move, even though you don’t feel like it.” Joshua breaks down and sobs. “I just can’t. I can’t do anything. There is no way,” he says. I see and I feel Joshua’s overwhelming pain. His father hurt him deeply and with his passing, there is no hope of developing a mutual understanding of his childhood. There is no hope for an apology. . Joshua feels that he cannot take any step. He is frozen with agony. “Tomorrow is another day,” I say, hoping that does not sound trite. “Thanks,” he says. “An oncoming train?” he repeats. “Maybe.Think about protecting yourself,”  I say. “OK, I will,” he says softly. The pain in the room stays the same. “See you next week,” I say. “OK” Joshua says as he slowly gets up to leave. “Maybe you can have a friend help you,” I say as we both stand up. “Maybe,” he says.

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