Disappearing Moment

Eulogy

I am alive and healthy. This is an experimental slash page, a place to discuss my motivations and aspirations. To think through problems by working backward. I wrote more about the idea behind this page in the May 2024 issue of my monthly newsletter.

Brett never met Milton Robin. This is what he knew about him:

  1. Milton was a psycho-dermatologist from Evanston, IL.
  2. Brett wanted to be like Milton.
  3. Brett owed his life to Milton.

Niece and Milton Robin had a Halloween party in 1963. One of the people they invited was Gertrude Bonfield, who was in Chicago visiting her son, Eddie. They asked Eddie and Gertrude to give Phyllis Kline a ride to the party.

Phyllis had graduated from the University of Texas in May, and moved to Chicago over the summer. Niece and Milton Robin were friends with Phyllis’s parents. They wanted to check in on her from time to time, make sure she was happy in Chicago.

Phyllis and Eddie started dating that night, or soon after. They were engaged a few weeks later, over Christmas vacation. When Eddie met Phyllis’s father, he asked him for Phyllis’s hand in marriage. This is what people did at the time.

Phyllis and Eddie were married in May, less than seven months after they met. This is what people did at the time. Many of the women who attended their wedding wore dresses made from the same bolt of blue fabric. Lots of tailor and clothiers on both sides of the family.

After a few years of frustration and difficulty, Phylis and Eddie had their first son on December 19, 1969. They almost named him Robin. Phyllis thought it was more of a girl’s name than a boy’s name. Instead, they picked a B name, Brett, to honor Gertrude’s uncle, Benjamin, “The Angel.”

Benjamin had emigrated to America. As soon as he got settled, he arranged for his spinster sister, Gertrude’s mother, Nessie, to emigrate, too. Benjamin also arranged for Nessie to be married. Her husband was a handsome tailor named Adolph Kessler.

It was a good marriage. Nessie’s eyes moistened when she talked about her brother. She didn’t know much English. She knew the word “angel”.

Phyllis and Eddie had a second son, Jeffrey, almost two and a half years after their first. Four and a half years later, they had their third and final child, a daughter they named Robin.

Gertrude could be difficult. She prided herself on it. She played favorites and didn’t care who knew it. And she could be difficult with her favorites, too. She would get in awful, years-long tiffs with her favorite sister. She would disown siblings, in-laws, friends. They would be dead to her. Brett could be difficult, too. Especially when he was a child. He was awful to the people closest to him, especially his brother. He hated himself for it.

Gertrude and Brett always adored each other. There’s no particular reason their relationship worked as well as it did. Maybe there was a halo effect associated with carrying Uncle Benjamin’s name. Maybe it was because Brett named her Mommu when he was learning to talk, and the name stuck. Sometimes things work out.

Mommu loved to tell stories about herself and the people she loved. The people on her good side, her favorites, meant the world to her. Brett loved her stories.

One of the people Mommu adored was Milton Robin. “He was an important person,” she said. “A psycho-dermatologist! And when he talked with you, it was like you were the only person in the world. He made you feel important.”

That’s what Brett wanted from life. He wanted to pay attention to people. He wanted to help other people feel the way they wanted to feel.