Friday, March 29, 2013

Fare thee well, Ron Berman, I consecrate this doughtnut to you

Ron Berman was a fierce mental health advocate. His license plate read "CONSUMR" which means a person with a mental illness.

From this perspective, with his ups and downs, he made a wonderful leader of a support group for people with bipolar d/o and depression at Belmont Center psychiatric hospital in Philadelpha - that's its gazebo in the photo.

The countless people he helped will be as sad and shocked as I am by his death earlier today.

His legacy is that wonderful support group he once led. He'd go to the ends of the earth to help people.

He was contentious. He loved nothing more than to argue and disagree with you. I have several memories of arguing with Ron and learned to shut my mouth or we'd argue into eternity.

Earlier today I bought a fastnacht at Weinrich Bakery.

Made with potato flour, filled with raspberry jelly and dusted with granulated sugar, the fastnacht waited patiently in the oven, to keep it warm via pilot light.

With a delicacy like this, I wanted to eat it at the perfect moment.

To prepare, and I am an insulin-dependent person with diabetes due to my kidney antirejection meds, I went on my exercise bike for 20 minutes while watching 80-yo writer Philip Roth on American Masters. Handsome man at 80. Very regimented in his writing. Stated his imagination deserted him, but no one, including his dear friend, Mia Farrow, believes it.

Taking leave of Philip Roth - and vowing I must read his books - I slipped on my warm pajama jacket over my warm pajamas, took the fastnacht bag, slipped on my clogs and went outdoors into the dark night.

A brilliant cloud cover swept over the sky as I opened the bakery bag.

I could hear Philip Roth expounding from my second-floor bedroom. He was talking about Death and the realization he must find a cemetery for himself.

Moving onto the grass, so the doughnut crumbs would end up on the grass, a treat for the ants, I bit in.

It was hard and stale. How disappointing! Last year - and the above photo is from last year - it was about the most delicious thing I'd ever tasted.

But the raspberry jelly was sweet and moist and fresh.

"Ron," I whispered, "enjoy this doughnut with me."

He died of kidney failure, his niece Heather wrote me.

Heather and my daughter Sarah were best friends at Abington Friends School.

I'll see Heather at the funeral on Sunday morning at Goldstein's in North Philadelphia. I just passed it thother day when I went to Kidney Klink at Einstein Medical Center, where I got a great report. Creatinine level .78.

Standing outside under the night sky, eating my doughnut with Ron Berman, I noticed a shape in the next yard.

A deer?

No, it was Bill Adams, throwing a lit-up ball to his lab retriever Daisy.

"Who's there?" I called.

Like me, Bill also thought I was a deer. And wondered, "What is that sound?" It was the rustle of my bakery bag.

Bill went to Mass today for Good Friday. His wife Stacey was just pulling in the drive after attending services at her Lutheran church.

"We prayed for the Jews today," Bill said.

At last!

And now this agnostic Jew is watching a wonderful program about the Catholic, manic-depressive writer Graham Greene, a risk-taker who could not remain faithful to any woman.

His books are filled with adulterous relationships and wonderments about what would happen to his characters - and most of all, himself and his lovers - under a merciful God. 

Ron Berman lies still somewhere in Philadelphia, his life over.

Last week I talked to Fran and Denis Hazam, who run a support group at the University of Pennsylvania. They had called Ron, who didn't have a phone at Sterling nursing home where he lived. Ron had said he would call them next week. April, in fact.

I asked if I should send him my new Compass mental health magazine?

Absolutely, they said.

I carefully crafted a letter on New Directions stationery, enclosed one of our new Mental Health magnets, which I mused he might put on his front door, and signed the letter "With Love and Peace, Ruth"

May Ron Berman rest in peace and love wherever he is.

Go outside now and look at the nearly full moon rising in the sky.

Give thanks that you're alive and in full control of yourself.

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