Thursday, October 13, 2011

Elliot Nestle, 1935-2009

I don't usually use my online journal for such things, but in this early morning, after a hard night of broken sleep, I had a dream--the answering machine was beeping on our phone; I picked it up and there was this message, "Joan this is your brother, Elliot." Before I woke, before I had answered the phone in that other place, I had the terrible feeling I had missed something, I had missed a most important call. As some of you might know, my brother was a terribly disturbed child and man, with bouts of great charm and competency, until much later in his life when his doctors medicated him with lithium, finally ending the violence. At least this is what I think. I had not seen my brother for ten years when I received the message he had died. And this young child pictured here, Lisa, a victim of his rages, also died in the same year her father did, leaving only Robin as the survivor of all this sadness. I am trying to write one more book, and in it will be a long piece on Elliot, and perhaps this is why I had this moment of connection with him. How strange I thought, the role of technology even in our dreams. The answering machine with its heart sounding beeps, irretrievable moments of offered connection missed. I write this entry for all of you who have had to struggle with the urge to love, the need to love, family members who do so much damage, who beat and scream and destroy with laughter, who also struggle to survive their own childhood abandonments, to make their lives as best they can and even if you run from them, construct a live away from the deluges of threat and pain, you think, what does reconciliation mean in such a bond. For all who made choices to stay and suffered or for those who chose to leave and suffered, I offer you my words--right before he died, I was told, my brother, Elliot, sat up in bed and said, "I know what I want to write about now." Perhaps he too wanted to find the way we make sense of minds at the mercy of their own chemistry, at how through all our dances of pretense and passing, given relief, we look for ways to repair. I will write, Elliot, your story.


  1. Very powerful Joan!

    I met Elliot with you one summer many moons ago, and I know part of his story that so many do not, a story I know you will tell with power, intensity, honor and also with respect to all involved, while also being a witness to his--and your-truths.

    Much, much love,

  2. Thank you so much, Stephanie, for your words. Of course, I realize, you would understand. I miss you. Joan