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Pauline Lerner

Bad News and Good News.

March 7, 2008 at 8:04 AM

First, the bad news.

An old friend called me and left a message saying that my ex-boyfriend has been hospitalized twice in recent weeks, and he’s not himself. The next day I spoke to my friend again, and she told me that he had been hospitalized for psychiatric problems. The first time, his adult kids talked him into going into the hospital. The second time, the police took him in. He had become very angry and got into a verbal fight with a bunch of tough characters. He started talking about shooting them, and they called the cops. My friend told me that he wanted to see her (they are old, close friends, not boyfriend/girlfriend), but she had gotten to the point where she really didn’t want to face him. He is a new and different person, indeed. I’ll try to explain what attracted me to him, but he doesn’t seem to have these traits any more. He was steady, easy-going, kind, caring, nurturing, loving, smart, very capable of many things but quite humble, and he played the mandolin beautifully.

This is not the first time I’ve had this or a similar problem. Similar things happened with another ex-boyfriend and with my ex-husband. Towards the end of my 18 year marriage, when I was trying to make up my mind about staying or leaving, I asked a lot of people I knew a philosophical question: Suppose a friend you knew well had some kind of neurological problems, including amnesia, and lost his personality. A physician just put another, very different personality inside him. Is he still the same person? I got no quick or easy answers.

In each of these cases, I felt as though the person I knew had died. Now I feel compelled to mark the event with some small ritual, such as lighting a candle. I regret that mental health is enormously difficult to treat, and that we can’t get our loved ones back.

Now, the good news

I’ve had some great musical experiences recently: a workshop and an unusual kind of concert with Alasdair Fraser, one of the best Scottish fiddlers alive; a concert by Joshua Bell; and a concert by Natalie MacMaster, the great Cape Breton fiddler who does Cape Breton step dancing while she plays. I will write about each one in a separate blog, and I’ve already started writing about Joshua Bell.

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