6K Henriette Loses Something

February 24, 2008

I suspect that my relatives, especially my father’s three sisters, believe that if they follow the correct procedures—that is, procedures involving alternative health practices, they can live forever.

Evidently, this began with my grandfather Harry, who figured out from what he had learned from Dr. Kellogg that colonic therapy (giving enemas to “clean out ‘toxins’ from one’s system”) will ensure if not eternal life at least a very long one. Although no one in my family still practices “hydrotherapy” (as it is also called)—perhaps because my grandfather died a long time ago—it is still widely practiced in our society. For example, in the small unincorporated town five miles from where we live in the woods on an island, I see a clinic with a sign advertising hydrotherapy. This advertisement from Arizona gives an idea of how slickly (so to speak) this therapy is marketed today.

This practice persists despite the fact that most conventional medical authorities—such as the National Council Against Health Fraud—consider hydrotherapy not only NOT beneficial—but downright dangerous.

Given the suspicion about conventional medical practices in much of our society, it is probably not surprising. For example, when I was 30 years old, I suffered from a duodenal ulcer. Not known then (but realized now) most ulcers are caused by bacterial infection. So there is plenty of reason to be suspicious of conventional medical practice as well as alternative medical care. Nothing but witch doctors for me from now on.

After Harry died, Grandmother Agnes left Chicago to live with my Aunt Naomi in Fullerton, California. By then my family’s alternative health care focus had switched to fresh carrot juice. The grinder ran day and night grinding carrots to make juice for Agnes, who died of cancer anyway.

When my millionaire cousin Joanna (who became wealthy by learning Chinese) developed breast cancer, she could afford the best treatment in the world. Her father, my uncle-in-law Donald (who had switched from being an engineer to being a chiropractor), her mother, Aunt Naomi, and her sister, Valerie (who also became a chiropractor), scoured the world for the best conventional medical treatment (which they decided could be found at a clinic in Colorado) and the best “alternative” medical treatment (which they decided could be found at a clinic in Germany) and took Joanna to both those locations for treatment.

Joanna died anyway, perhaps confirming the superstition that if you become too fortunate in one area of life—in her case, becoming a millionaire—the gods will balance the scale in some other area of life—in her case, dying of breast cancer (which spread to her brain) about the age of 50 and leaving behind two young daughters who now combine an ethnic heritage of Taiwanese Chinese and Eastern European Jewish ancestries.

Grandmother Agnes and her three daughters Diana—who married a conventional doctor in rebellion against her enema-applying father, Naomi—who became a ballet dancer and pursued relentless self-improvement all her life and is now a cripple in Australia, and Henriette—who married Morton in defiance of her family because he said he could coach her to be an opera star for the Met—were women of enormous will and determination.

Diana’s children told me that their mother had “broken” their father the doctor. Naomi’s husband Donald—from a cowboy family in the California high desert—was a match for Naomi, and their daughters displayed hybrid vigor.

Toward the end of his life, Henriette’s husband Morton developed cancer.

Henriette became irritated with him because he became apathetic and lost interest in living. She was determined to save him through alternative health care. As Henriette had worked as a waitress while she practiced her opera singing for the call by the Met that never came and supported Morton because opera coaching was so demanding, they did not have much money. As I had suspected, her sister Naomi had used some of Joanna’s money to support Henriette and Morton until Naomi needed the money for her own ailments.

As I was her first nephew, and because her son Carl fled across the country in a desperate search to find a life and identity of his own, Henriette has fixated on me as the one relative she can depend on for assistance and help in times of stress. She called me when her computer confused her and she called me when she wanted to sell art works of dubious provenance on eBay to raise money to get alternative health care for Morton to save him in spite of his fatalistic apathy.

I turned to my brother B—who owns a crafts business and has sold items on eBay—and only lives a couple of states away from Henriette in New York City instead of across the country as I do—for assistance. He said in polite scorn (as did several other people I consulted)—that Henriette was very unlikely to make much money in this fashion (as I had suspected).

I called Henriette to tell her that I was not able to help her. She told me that it no longer mattered. The day before she had tried with the help of a neighbor to carry Morton down the stairs of her New York City apartment—he was now too weak to walk by himself—to take him to an alternative health practitioner.

“He died in my arms as we went down the stairs,” she told me.

I was stunned and shocked by this news, as I was a bit shocked by the rather cool and detached manner in which Henriette delivered it to me.

“He didn’t want to live any more, anyway,” she told me. Henriette is still vigorous in her 80s, and it is clear that she still is very determined to keep on living, even if her now ex-husband had decided to drop out.