Here it is: Yikes. I feel nervous. but also excited. who knows. I'm prepared for anything.
Dear Aunt B.,
I hope you are doing well. Can you believe how quickly time has passed? My daughter just started high school this morning! I’m proud of her but it’s hard letting her go out in to the world on your own.
I hope all is well with your family. I can’t imagine all the grandchildren and what holidays must be like at your place!
I’m writing because Terry, Scott, and I are involved in a project about mom. I don’t know if you remember but mom had surgery in 1970. Terry said that before mom died mom had begun researching this surgery and had some questions about what had happened. She even got copies of her medical records and sent them to Terry. They were lost during a move.
As I think you know, my mother had a lot of difficulties over her life. She and I did not speak for most of my adult life. For this project, I am not looking to explore or talk about these issues. More, I’m trying to understand what her life was life as a young mother and during those years when she met and married my dad. I’d like to know more about the surgery because my sister and I (scott was too young) have strong memories of her depression and fears after the surgery.
Even if you don’t have information about the surgery itself, I would love to talk to you about “who mom was.” Scott said that she thought of you as a sister and that you two loved each over very much. I would like to include your perspective in mom’s story because I think that balances the other stories. I think it would mean something to hear about who she was from the perspective of you, her closest friend. Despite the problems in my relationship with my mother, I can’t help but laugh when I think of how funny and outspoken she was. She never met a project she couldn’t complete. I also know she was a writer. I don’t have any of her writing. I am wondering if you do?
Mostly I’m looking for stories about her from your perspective.
If you are interested in talking with me I would really appreciate it. Again, I am not looking to talk with you about the problems I had with my mother. I really would just like to gather any information you may have about her early life, who she was, and also the things you loved about her. I am creating a blog and maybe a book. I have been doing video interviews with terry, scott, and the kids. I would be open to interviewing you in any way that would be comfortable. Phone, email, video conference. I could also send questions and you could write back or send a video. If you would be comfortable with recording for the project that would be great, if not that would be fine too.
Let me know what you think. I understand if you don’t want to be a part of the project but I would really love it if you were.
UNCLE LEWIS's HEADSTONE
Found the listing below on findagrave.com
My mother's name is listed as a sibling.
The death notice I found in the Agusta Chronicle on Dec. 9, 1957
These articles were clipped from the Augusta Chronicle
between December 7 and December 10, 1957
I've done almost nothing on this project. I've been busy with work and I think this is the sort of thing that needs time to unfold. I know it could unfold faster, perhaps even too rapidly if I actually got the nerve to write my Aunt Brenda an email and ask her to talk with me about my mother's surgery. It might just spill out explicitly "You really didn't know your momma had a lobotomy?" I can't really imagine it would go that way but it could. Sometimes family secrets are like that.
About five years ago I worked on another project about my mother. I knew my mother had been in a car accident that her injuries prevented her from finishing her senior year of high school. I got it into my head that my mother had suffered traumatic brain injury and that was the reason she was how she was. I could picture the accident and an old car, no seat belts. I imagined the dark road, a humid Georgia summer night.
Back when I was researching the car accident I called my Aunt Betty (my mother's oldest sister) and asked her for information. I questioned her about a number of lies I'd grown up with, things I believed to be fabrications by my mother. Stories that I felt had no rational basis. My conversation with my Aunt Betty moved in and out from specific to general. Finally, I asked her why my mother had been such a liar.
She told me -- in a tone that seemed very sincere-- that my mother wasn't a liar. That wasn't it. She said, "No. I wouldn't call your momma a liar. I'd say she just embroidered the truth." That cryptic message stuck with me. I still can't figure it out. What does it mean to embroider the truth. To me embroidery means publishing. It also conjures the old fashioned female rhetoric. It's the rhetoric of home life. In it's moral reminders and imperatives. In it's utilitarian function--practicing the alphabet. Usually samplers don't embroider lies, they are a record of the facts of family life.
Maybe my mother was the only one telling the truth.
My mother had always told me that when she was young and when her parents were sharecroppers my grandfather would binge drink once a year. They had been so poor, but there was one time a year when he earned a good sum of money. That was when they got paid for the the cotton they'd harvested. My mother said my grand father would get drunk for a week straight and come home and beat his wife, my grandmother.
I asked Aunt Betty--was it true?
She told me, "Well, it's true that we would make money on the crops, a big sum when we brought the cotton in. And daddy would -I suppose I do remember something about a fight, but it was momma who always provoked him."
So now if I call Aunt Brenda--if she'll talk to me--it may very well be that the truth will roll off her tongue too. Maybe my mother had confided in Brenda, her sister-in-law, her best friend. Maybe she sat there with her over the phone or across the table and went through the whole thing over and over, trying to make sense of it. Or they may have never spoken of it, they didn't need to because my aunt had been there back in 1970.
My Aunt Brenda might not want to speak to me at all,
Clip 1 - I summarize the Mass. Psychosurgery Task Force Report
Clip 2 - my sister and I talk about memories of mom's mental illness around the time of her surgery & beyond.
Clip 3 - mom's family history and some strange behaviors.
Clip 4 - conversation about psychiatry and society
Clip 5 - my husband Ben makes a special cameo appearance
I was able to get a copy of a Task Force report from 1977. The Task Force was assembled to propose regulations for conducting psychosurgery in the state. There had been some controversy in the early 1970s when Vernon Mark and colleagues received a grant to set up a psychosurgery clinic at Mass General Hospital (Harvard) to investigate violence and brain function. They linked violence with the race riots of the time and their racist rhetoric and proposal to screen and conduct psychosurgery on the brains of "violent" individuals ignited a strong response from advocacy groups and advocates. Vernon Mark and colleagues lost their grant funding but continued to perform psychosurgery on patients with mental illness. It was estimated that at least 30 patients per year received psychosurgery but the number was really incalculable because there were few regulations and surgeons in private practice were also conducting these surgeries. This post deals with this report.
First two pages of the report.
A couple of short videos of me starting to read the document. I talk about the Task Force Chairman, Dr. Alan Stone. I am trying to figure out if he is a "good guy" or a "bad guy." He was a psychiatrist and lawyer / professor at Harvard University.
My notes on the task force report.
In 1977 Massachusetts had a taskforce led by Alan Stone review regulations and practices for psychosurgery in the state.
The task force broke into majority and minority opinions. Their disagreements were so irreconcilable they drafted a majority and minority report. The biggest point of contention was whether there should be an outside doctor appointed to approve psychosurgeries for every case in the state. The minority group vehemently disagreed with this stating there was no precedent in other areas of medical practice and that it would destabilize the doctor / patient relationship.
For the most part the majority group saw psychosurgery as experimental, with little evidence, and they make the recommendations for regulations because that’s what they were asked to do (not because they agree with the use psychosurgery). Their feeling was that there was so little evidence for benefits of psychosurgery in the literature and in practice that it should ALWAYS be deemed investigative / experimental. In doing so, then every hospital conducting psychosurgery would have to follow human subjects review protocols. The regulations proposed by the majority cover the requirements for hospitals doing psychosurgery. Because the majority called it experimental the regulations set forth by the majority say there has to be a two tiered review process before conducting any psychosurgery. The staff qualifications must be reported to the dept of mental health. The patient’s history needs to be submitted to the dept. of mental health. Get baseline behavioral information on the patient (because it is designated as experimental). Informed consent. Basically Alan Stone created an argument that psychosurgery is not just a “procedure” it is experimental and falls under the same requirements / regulations as research studies. The majority proposed regulations included the appointment of a physician to exercise the right make the decision about a psychosurgery.
The minority report has a different tone. They state they agree with many of the conditions in the majority report they feel humane and scientific research can best proceed using the standard guidelines for medical investigation and human studies. They strongly disagreed with the notion of appointing an outside physician to have control over clinical decisions (i.e., psychosurgery) for a patient. They said the decisions about clinical care should remain between the physician and patient. Many of the other regulations were similar with regard to informed consent and hospital regulations. The tone of the minority report seemed to support the use of psychosurgery and leaving control in the hands of the doctors.
Final regulations left me with a few thoughts.
vi.Richard F. Thompson
ii.Shervert Frazier,Jr. M.D.
iii.Bernard Levy, M.D.
iv.David J. Myerson, M.D.
v.Leon N. Shapiro, M.D.
vi.William H. Sweet, M.D.
**2008 article by alan stone brings up the fact that the mass dept of mental health and all the other MDs on the task force rejected having an outside appointed doctor to review the case. This became the standard in other states and the 2008 article provides a compelling argument for protection of patients by having an outside doctor reviewing the process.