Monday, September 16, 2013

Finding Frank

So, today I am finishing my tuna sub which has constituted lunch on many occasions in recent days. Our offices are adjacent to a SUBWAY shop and this month is, according to the advertisers, SUBtember.  Every sandwich is 5 dollars.  The bargain has me eating tuna subs, consuming the first half for lunch, and the second for my preworkout meal.

So, I am more precisely finishing a half of my sandwich when I decide to pop in a name into Google of a childhood friend who lived on my floor in the late 50s. Ours was a six floor apartment building with many baby boomers on each floor.  Let's say his name was Barry in case he might not want me to reveal his real name in this blog.

Barry moved in after our family did.  His father Ike and mother Janet (not real names) were friends with my folks.  Barry and I became great pals.

Every other weekend Barry would visit his brother Frank (again a made up name).  One Sunday I came along as a guest. Frank was mentally retarded and lived in an institute. It was an experience going with Barry and his parents to visit Frank.  His mother was visibly upset and I gathered she was, every other week, so upset because of the treatment in this facility.  The kids acted wildly, the place smelled from urine, Frank seemed so both hungry for affection and attention and at the same time unreachable. Barry's father handled the visit well, but his mother, was visibly disturbed--even noticeable to 8 year old me.

After that one visit, I never went back with Barry to the institute. I don't recall being invited again not for any reason other than, I'm sure, their assumption that such an outing was not something I enjoyed. But I still have a clear recollection of seeing Frank, what he looked like, and how Barry's parents--especially his mom--were jarred by a visit that occurred every other week.

When my family left Brooklyn, Barry and I promised to remain buddies, but we did not.  I saw him once or twice on visits back to the neighborhood. Then in the early 70s he was in an off Broadway play in NY.  I came to the performance and his parents were there coincidentally.  We greeted each other like the long lost friends that we were.  After the play Barry and I went out for a drink and that is the last I saw of him.

So, I put his name into Google images while eating a half of a tuna sub, and I see a person who looks like him. I do some more sleuthing and I see that Barry has produced a short documentary that was featured in a New York film festival.  And I am taken aback when I see that the documentary is called, Finding Frank.

I go to youtube and play a trailer of Finding Frank. It is a documentary about how Barry after both his parents had passed got to know his brother Frank, became his legal guardian, and essentially rescued him from the institutionalized living that had, ironically, retarded Frank's life for the entirety of his existence.  Even the first few seconds of the documentary were moving and not primarily because I saw my childhood friend on the screen.  I then found some essays Barry had written about his experience with Frank and these too were emotional.  In these he talks not only about Frank but references his parents by name and discusses aspects of his mother's demise and alludes to his father's as well.

This excursion into the life of Barry has been sobering and saddening.  Partly because of the recounting of Ike's and Janet's death--people I knew well.  But also because of Barry's altruism and his work with his brother which might have been rewarding but also had to be emotionally exhausting.  And this has set off in me a storm of self assessment regarding what I have done, what I have not done, and what I have tried to do and been unable to realize.  I'm not surprised to read about Barry's activity on behalf of Frank. He was a class act as an 8 year old.

Reading about Barry and Frank and Ike and Janet has jolted me to reconsider how I spend my time. Finding Frank may be inspirational.  When you find Frank, I think, it helps one locate oneself as well.

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