10. A Fiddler on the Roof

I was used to Kit being mad at me. Laura's anger was hard for me to take. I knew it would wear off; but when? The more that I thought about it, the more I felt that I was the goat. They, Laura and Kit, had set me up. They didn't have to come along to the airport. I didn't tell Allen that I thought his bain was dead. He asked me, and I merely answered "yes". And I was pissed at Allen -I didn't like him at all. Sure, I loved him, but I didn't like him. I decided to tell him off in a letter, and I did:

Dear Allen,

Your mother and sister Kit thinks that I should apologise to you for giving an unequivocal "yes!" to your question "Do you think that my brain is dead?" I do so now. I do not believe that your brain is dead -only your frontal lobes. The rest, including cerebellum, pons and motor cortex are alive and healthy.

As long as I am writing this letter, I think that I should pass on a few small bits of advice which you should feel free to accept or reject.

The first has to do with your before meal graces. I think that you should go back to Salt Lake City and learn how to do it properly from the Mormon elders. They do not consider a grace properly said unless every person at the table is drooling in anticipation of the end, and until you have mentioned all of the old testament prophets incuding Abraham, Isaac and Melchisadek as well as the new testaments Mathew, Mark, Luke and John; as well as invoking the blessings of Jesus Christ and Yahweh on every food item on the table and all of the people present, by name. You assume that the lord will understand, while they make sure that all of the bases are covered (to use a modern ecclesiastical expression) and all of the t's are crosses and I's dotted. In this way, they guarantee that none of the brethren will be overlooked come judgement day.

Second, I believe that you should acquire lots of money. Then when you show your sanctimonious ass in public, people will be standing in line to kiss it.

Third, as befits your station, you should wear a dark suit and black tie. Red ties are worn by communists and comedians. If you have any question about the proper demeanor of someone of your station in life, I suggest that you observe the local funeral director. Of course, unlike him, you are permitted to smile on appropriate occasions and even make a small joke. To learn how to do this properly, observe the people who sell new cars -preferably Mercedes and Cadillac.

You are making wonderful progress, but you are still young. With diligence and the application of your positive thinking, who knows what you may accomplish and who (or is it whom) or what you may become.


Howard Steinberg, Ph.D.

Of course, I never mailed it; but it did make me feel better having written it.

Everytime that I read about parental anguish, it is always about a daughter who has left home to become a prostitute, a son who becomes a dope pusher or, worse, a junkie. There are the cases of extremely religious people whose child embraces another faith, or becomes an unbeliever. In the musical Fiddler on the Roof, one of Tevye's daughters marries a Russian Christian. For all of the love that he bears this, his favorite, child he rejects her totally. The thought that she would do this to him is more than he can bear. Of course, he cannot see it from her point of view -only from his own. I, also, cannot see this thing from Allen's point of view. Try as I might to understand, it does not lessen the impact on me. He has me over a barrel and he persists in pounding away. He keeps parading his nonsense in front of me as if he is the teacher and I the pupil. The message is clear: "Now I know more than you do and you should listen to me!" At 23 years of age, he is not content that he is stronger physically, can run faster, bike faster and swim better. He must also be better than me intellectually, and since that is impossible at his age, he'll pretend that he is. Since the people with whom he associates now wouldn't know the truth if it fell on them, he is supported in this ridiculous position. Maybe not; maybe he has adopted a father who is not as smart as he is. In that way he doesn't have to wait until papa dies to surpass him. I never believed Freud's idea about the Oedipus Complex, but I am beginning to look at it much closer now. I did surpass my father, but it took at least 30 years to do it. At least I knew that I could since he was an uneducated merchant. He was both good and wise in the ways of the world. In that way, I could only equal him. I was given the message that I was to do better than he did. Did I pass the same message to Allen and saddle him with an impossible task. Or did he misread the message and think that he was supposed to do it instantly.

While I was miffed at just about everyone, I was not really worried about what Allens reaction to my remark might be. Of course, I knew that I might be mistaken, but my experience with people led me to conclude that no one sees what he doesn't want to see. If what I said was something that Allen was ready to hear, he would deal with it to his benefit. If not, then he would ignore it or convert it into something that he wanted to hear.

Two weeks later we received a letter from Allen. It had something about the weather and then:

.......Since the owner decided to move back into the house that I was renting, I had to find another place to live. I searched and searched for a place to live for about $250/month (I was paying $100) but the lowest I could find was $325 up to $500. I came on my knees to pray and said "Lord, I am doing all I can to to find a place to live. If you want me to continue living in Santa Barbara, I need your help to find a place I can afford." Within a few days some very starnge events took place where a certain man who was renting a room in a condominium of one of the market-owner's children moved out one morning without any explanation -not even leaving the keys, never returning to collect his unused rent -just left. Well, the owner came to me and said "Allen, I heard that you needed a place to live and I have wanted you as a renter for the past year now, but until now I had no vacancy. Now this very strange thing has happened and I have a room in my condo for rent." I asked him the price; it was $325. I said "I would like to rent from you you are a good boss and I am sure a good housemate, but I cannot pay your $325...I can only pay up to $280 please think about it." That was Friday. Saturday passed, Sunday passed Monday passed. I continued to pray "Lord you know my heart is sincere. I cannot afford to pay that much, please touch my friends heart -they are rich people and don't need the money as I do." Monday night my boss called me and said "We need to talk more." So I came over to the condominium and we sat down. After a few moments of talking, my boss said "Allen, how about if you pay me $250/ month plus utilities (about $15/month)". That Mom and Pop is a miracle!! People tell me that miracles only happened in the days that Jesus walked this earth. And that since then God has abandoned us. I find great joy and peace when these things happen around me where I can be a witness to them.You see, as we discussed in the car on the way to the airport in Michigan; I am not a religious fanatic. I am a positive thinker. I know that God has given me a creative mind, a body that is able, will power and a choice. I do not sit back and beg "God help me, God help me." I do it myself -and thank him later. What I can do myself -I do it. The things I cannot do, I ask God for help.

Now Kit tells me that you both might be worried that we left on bad terms that morning -and that you, Pop did not mean what you said the way it was said about my brain being "Dead" because I had found the answer to life. First, I once again point out that finding the answer is the end of a search BUT the beginning of a journey. December 16, 1983 at 4:15 PM marked the end of a restless and often anguished search for me. My brain did not die that day.... It began living. Since that day (the beginning of a journey) my life has taken on a glow of hope, my mind has been renewed in its thinking. No longer pesimism, mistrust, and bitterness (though I do find them sometimes.) But now; purpose, optimism, hope, trust and joy! So be comforted my concerned parents, my sunset will be much brighter than my sunrise was. My brain has not died but at last it has awoken!

I do not at all feel that we left on a bad note. Indeed I felt relieved that we could talk so intelligently and openly. I was not discouraged or distraught by your ideas and arguments. Rather I was encouraged to be challenged to prove how alive my brain really is!

I will pursue my life with the vehemence and boldness that the Lord has instilled in my heart until the day I die and am taken home to be with Jesus, bringing honor and joy to my family, the society and God.

I must close for now, but never my Heart,

Love and Prayer,


I had predicted his response quite accurately. While my remark had shocked Kit and Laura, it hadn't even dented Allen's armor. He ignored what I had said and thought as he wanted to. He was as flaky as ever. That, per se, didn't disturb me. Craziness for brief periods in ones life are things that I have come to accept as one of the characteristics of the human species. I had gone through a number of similar periods of insanity which, fortunately, didn't last too long. I suspect that most people, if they look back on their past, would find crazy periods. I was concerned that this insanity of Allens might not be temporary. Of course, he shared his madness with such a large segment of the population, that it would be accepted as normal as long as his external behavior wasn't too bizarre. The difference between the religious fanatic and the nut who walks down the street shouting "If you go to Hell, you have ony yourself to blame!!" is one of degree along with the fact that the "normal" fanatic has some sensitivity as to how others perceive him.

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