Friday, August 24, 2007

"Finding the Center," Part Two

By Mel Waldman


In the sprawling mansion of my mind, my old friends exist. Mother is there too. She died 42 years ago. And when she passed away, my soul was broken, lost in a black hole of despair and unbearable grief. Neither I nor Father could tolerate her absence. After her death, we could not heal each other. Indeed, we could not live or even, be together. Our grief was cutting, fiery, and chilling, compelling us to separate and sever all ties for a while. Later, when we finally got together, we were separated by a vast, soulless wasteland, watching each other from a distance in mutual unreality. Without mother, we were strangers in a barren universe.

Mother died in 1965, two years before I began working at the Coney Island senior center. Looking back, I realize that a significant part of my healing process occurred at that mysterious center ensconced in Coney Island. There, I rediscovered how to love and learned how to mourn for the departed and be one with the divine universe. According to Kabbalistic practice, I had discovered the principle of tikkun --or repair-- the process of restoration and redemption.

At this mystical center, I found Mother again. And by repairing myself, I was able to find Father too. Now, Mother and I continue to have loving dialogues. During our shared existence, she empowered me. Even now, she fills me with faith. But sometimes, she is silly. She makes funny faces and I laugh uproariously. She rolls her eyes back and forth, her cross eyes launching me into a fit of laughter. Such joy! Such power! With each new dawn, the crepuscular insects rise and Mom, who is eternally resurrected in my soul, empowers me once more.


Father sits next to her and holds her hand. At last, they are reunited. They look like two teenagers madly in love.
Father died 19 years ago in a nursing home in Florida. He had Alzheimer’s disease. But he died of a heart attack.
A year before he died, he stayed with me for almost two months. He had problems with his third wife. (Eventually, he returned to her. Such was his choice.)

I took him in. At that point in time, we empowered each other. How? How did this happen, for almost two months, at the end of one lifetime, between a father and son who never saw each other?


At my father’s funeral, I stayed with him in the synagogue for a few eternal minutes. We were alone, the coffin open.

None of the others looked inside the box. I had to look! He was buried Israeli style. Like Mr. Murphy, he looked majestic.

I looked closely. He was really dead. And so very much alive! His gold-filled teeth glittered.

Inside the silence, we spoke. In those unmoving moments of death, Dad was more real and alive than in all the deadened, soulless years of life we shared.

“It’s a miracle, Dad!”


“How did this happen?”

“I don’t know.” (Dad gives me a big, childlike smile, his gold-filled teeth illuminating the darkness.)

"It doesn’t matter, Dad. We love!”

But now I truly believe that the miracle began at the Coney Island senior center where I discovered the mystical principle of tikkun. According to Kabbalistic teachings, before the beginning of our universe, the Divine light contracted.

And the vessels that contained this Divine energy shattered. Holy sparks were scattered and hidden within every thing. With tikkun, the repair of the self, the shattered universe is mended. And the holy sparks are reunited with the vessels of Divine light.


At this mysterious time in my life, I am enchanted by the power of being, the source of my creative energy and healing power.

I remember the late 1980s and 1990s when I worked in Brooklyn nursing homes in Bensonhurst and Canarsie as a therapist/consultant. I believe I rediscovered the divinely-inspired power of being, originally found in the Coney Island senior center, in those lonely Islands of Oblivion.

Yes, I remember…the power to be! My presence is powerful. My presence heals. On the third floor of a Brooklyn nursing home near Coney Island, I sit with old ladies and men who drift in and out of reality. I reach out to them. I talk to them-my abandoned children! I tell them what day it is, and the date and time and place and what is happening in the world.

Slowly, my old children come out of their cocoons. They emerge and reveal themselves. One precious lady, who hasn’t spoken in hours, recites a poem about a flower which hides from the world.

“And you too are a beautiful flower,” I announce. “Don’t hide my lovely flower! Reveal yourself!”

My youngest child is 78 years old. My oldest, 100. I sit with them and feel their presence. I feel beautiful. They make me feel like the most powerful man in the universe. And I empower them too. What is the source of such power?


I discovered the power of being many years ago in the center. I was a young man then and open to new experiences. I allowed the old folks to enter my soul and they filled it up with beauty, faith, and old-fashioned enthusiasm. They knew the secrets of life and fed me an endless supply of creative energy and love.
Even now, when I sit with my patients ages five to 70 plus in the South Bronx in an underground office within a community health center, where we disappear into the mysterious Labyrinth of the Human Mind and travel across a barren Waste Land of rage, hopelessness, and despair, the eternal center empowers me. It is a place where the dying breathe life into the living, a place where a young man is blessed by a rabbi and destined to find his bride, a place that some men call home.

Dr. Mel Waldman is a licensed New York State psychologist and a candidate in Psychoanalysis at the Center for Modern Psychoanalytic Studies. He is also a poet, writer, artist, and singer/songwriter. Part One of "Finding the Center" appeared on Friday, August 17, 2007.

No comments: