Finding Out

Posted: June 4, 2012 in Uncategorized

I always thought I would be a catatonic. I was sure that if a major trauma came my way, and I ended up having a nervous break-down, it would be the silent treatment that I would revert back to. Essentially I had to learn to talk as an adult. Growing up, I had lots of thoughts, lots of ideas – lots going on in my brain – that I never shared. Sharing my thoughts and feelings seemed a bit superfluous. So – catatonia was my mental illness of choice.

Then I found out differently. I found out I was closer to a hysteric.

The revelation happened the moment I found out my brother had been murdered. The phone call came; I listened carefully as my brother’s friend described the evidence that led him to believe that my brother had been murdered. He said he heard on the radio that an elderly man had been killed on Grammer Ave. He said the radio said that the man lived alone and worked from his home. The friend felt that sufficiently described my brother that he took a ride to my brother’s house, and found 10 police cars surrounding the house. He repeated (as if I might not be believing him the first time) that he was fairly sure that the man who had been murdered was my brother.

I had no hope of mistaken identity. I knew instantly that he was right – that my brother was dead.

I started howling. Screaming. Bleating. Sounds came from me that I didn’t know existed in my repertoire of noises possible. All those noises with no audience. Or, at least no audience other than my own vigilante surprised observing self. They weren’t being made for sound effects – they were just the deepest sounds of anguish that it is possible to emit from one’s throat and mouth and lips. It turned out that I was not the silent catatonia type at all – quite the opposite. Loud suffering agony.

I was beginning to think that the universe was plotting against me. The week before I had fallen on rocks in my lake – splat right on my face. I had to be lifted out of the water by helping hands. At first, I thought I would never walk again – my legs had no sensation. Turns out, I had only knocked up my knees.

Then two days before my brother’s death, I was walking to a restaurant, and my necklace fell off – into the street. I was grateful that I had seen it, as I had just put my father’s military dog-tag on the necklace. It would have been awful had I lost that relic of his life. I shared a nice conversation with a friend at the restaurant, and then started walking home, he going his way and my going my way — peacefully, harmoniously, feeling good. Randomly, for no good reason, in exactly the same spot as my necklace had fallen off, my foot twisted out of my shoe – and I went down. I was in the middle of the street – again, unable to move, second time in a week. A nice couple came over and asked if they could help me get up. Good idea, as cars were about to bear down on me. They brought me to a bench on the side of the street. I sat, contemplating how I was going to get home – a mere 3 blocks away. They asked if I wanted them to get a taxi for me. That seemed really decadent. How could I take a taxi three blocks? I decided to call my boyfriend. He answered. I asked him where he was. He said uptown. I said that he was of no use and hung up in his face. I called my daughter, and told her she had to come get me. Then I thought better of that – she could come get me, but I still wouldn’t be able to walk home. The taxi was apparently the way to go. My daughter’s friends were at the house when I arrived; they carried me up the two flights of stairs. And the next day, I found that I had broken my foot.

I planned to call my brother to tell him. I was waiting for the right time. I wanted to have time to have a leisurely conversation with him. The last call we had had with each other had been just that – the longest call we had in quite a while. Just shooting the breeze, saying random things to each other as they occurred to us. He spoke a little about his friend Max – who he had generously allowed to live in his home while Max was visiting New Orleans – on hiatus from a rehab center that he had been in for a year. I expressed concern about Max. David told me that Max, eighteen years old, had been kicked out his family’s home because he had tried to molest his sister. I suggested to David that perhaps that was not all that Max was capable of – that he might be violent. That David should watch his back with Max. But I knew that saying that would be to no avail. David had taken a sort of adopted-attitude toward Max, and felt that their relationship would help Max. That was the last time I spoke to my brother. He died without knowing that I had broken my foot.

I went to my brother’s funeral in a wheelchair.

About Max

Posted: May 17, 2012 in Uncategorized

How is it that I, a 66 year old successful professional woman living in New York City, have come to have acquaintance with a young man who has lived his 18 years in New Orleans, daring to be difficult, provoking those in authority positions to institutionalize him for his misdeeds, thievery and disturbed behaviors, and living out his plan, as he himself said of “ruining (his) life”? It is only through unforeseen circumstances of the most morbid kind that this young man, Max Hoppens, has arrived in my life, destined to stay for a good long time.

If ever there was a true-life rendition of The Truman Story, the life of Maxim Hoppens would count as such. Since his adoption from Russia, with his sister, at the age of five into a devoted and loving New Orleans family, Max has been evaluated, studied, tested, treated and medicated — and each of these for both physical and psychological conditions.

According to his mother’s own words, Max is a contradiction of severe proportions:

              To most people he is attractive, charming, polite, respectful, helpful and passive.  He has many talents the best of which is his artwork.  He draws excellent pencil and ink sketches of people, cars, crosses and symbols.  He is a fairly good athlete, plays the trumpet, and writes poetry and short novels.  He currently gets along with almost everyone if he desires to do that.

              To those who get to know him he is cunning, manipulative, deceitful, and an accomplished liar and thief.  He has little if any remorse about the things he has done wrong and will not accept responsibility for his actions but instead blames others because they caused it.  He has learned to skillfully debate why his choices are correct and others are wrong.  He cannot be trusted around money or objects that he may want because he will steal them.  He has rarely accepted rules and consistently breaks normal social barriers as though they do not pertain to him.  He does not seem to have a conscience.

Through Max’s life, there were signs of his anti-social predilection. In his mid-teens, the most severe manifestation of his emotional disturbance was his repeated molestation of his sister. But the true danger of his disorder caught up with him when, after being ejected from his parents’ home, he murdered a man who had developed great compassion for Max, understood his unhappy life circumstances, befriended him, attempted to assist him in his life, and had given him shelter.

The victim of Max’s cold-blooded murder was my brother, David M. Goldberg, a 67 year old gay man.

Max was arrested a week after my brother’s murder, and remains in jail as he awaits either a trial or a plea bargain.