Although this was forty years ago, I cry to this this day when I read it. I am sorry, so, so sorry.
I ask the reader to please try and not judge, there are many thousands that have gone through similar periods. There still is, I pray for compassion.... for them all.
May my sweet mother and my beautiful brother rest in peace.
From Susanna whose 46 years old, (I am 20 and Philip 18) to Wib in Vietnam.
June 17, 1971
New York City
I received a letter from your attorney today saying he had neglected to forward my letter of March 28th to you. I don’t quite believe that, as I wouldn’t believe any lawyer, including my own if I had one. However I’ve decided to fill you in on the happenings of the last year and a half which have been so costly to all of us and torn the family apart, so that if anything should have happen to me you will have heard it straight from me, and perhaps will be able to imagine what it’s like discovering your two loved sons are shooting heroin, and the ordeal of living with dope addicts.
I began to have suspicions in the Spring of 1970 and I finally got it out of them, at least Michael, and finally Philip, that May. They both said they were quitting as of that moment. They didn’t of course, and then I began the torture of holding two jobs, having to carry my purse with me everywhere in the apartment, because $10 or $20 or whatever would be disappearing from it all the time. I was always wondering why I was short, having to have to skip some bills some months. Then the clock radio disappeared etc. All of this I would have been able to take if they just would not have denied everything to me, all the time! I have always trusted them completely, as they could me. It hurt me so much. They consistently denied shooting heroin, which I more and more came to believe was a complete lie. Finally in May, really and consistently after that I tried to get them into some kind of a program. By this time Michael was well into it. One day when I was waiting for the bus to go to work he came walking towards me and because I was able to put two and two together successfully, I knew he was headed for another boys home—I didn’t know where it was, but I knew the street, I suspected the boy of being a dealer. When Michael reached me I told him I knew where he was headed and that he was going for a fix.. I begged him, wept, begged, begged him not to go there but to turn around and go to Phoenix House on West 85th St and rap with them, to join their program.
I had gone to Phoenix House and they told me that if they would go in there everyday for three hours they would then put them in a house and after three months or so they would come out on weekends, however it’s all voluntary, they could walk out anytime. Phoenix House has one of the best records for curing junkies and it’s free. However with nearly all the programs, and why I think they’re all a bunch of crap, you must have the will to quit dope. Well, if you have the will to quit you’re ¾ of the way home. The look on Michael’s face that day, almost as tho’ he would mow me down rather than not get his shot, terrified me. As I got on the bus, he walked on to the boys house. I sat on that bus sick to the core and broken. I got off and went to the 20th precinct and saw the Chief of Narcotics. I told him about every kid Michael and Philip knew plus I begged him to arrest Michael and hold him I could get papers committing him to The Rockefeller Program (this is a rehabilitation program that is a bust, but at least they are penned up and can’t get dope). He told me his hands were tied, he could arrest him on some minor charge, for example-like loitering, but he would be out the next day then I would be afraid that he would split and then I wouldn’t know where he was and not be able to do anything for him. My God! No way to do anything for your lost son! Why is the U.S. Government allowing Turkey to grow all that stuff—they’re doing nothing at the top—why can’t those fields be bombed if necessary –why? Why?
Finally they arrested Michael for possession but they couldn’t prove it. Although he did spend 30 days at Riker’s Island on $500 bail. I couldn’t bail him out but was on Legal Aide’s back and they finally got him released. Michael’s been in jail three times, all minor charges, but this was the longest time. I don’t know if I can explain to you what it’s like to see him out of prison and eating dinner at home, the trembling of his hands and the look of hollowness. I had just paid off $85 worth of paid checks at the drug store for him. He swore he was never going to touch dope again. He told me how terrible prison was—they have three times as many prisoners as they should have there. They’re mostly black and your life is in danger constantly. They put him in the same cell with a murderer, who exposed his penis to him and told Michael to blow him or he’d beat him up. Michael had been warned by the other boys never to let them know that you were afraid or your goose was cooked so Michael told him to go to hell. It was the end of August 1970 when he got out of jail. I was holding two jobs and trying at the same time to find some program for them both to get into. But everywhere I turned I couldn’t get anywhere. He stayed off dope then but I began to realize then that Philip was in to it much more than I thought because I saw Michael resisting Philip—conversations I would overhear and so forth. That’s when the contention began, Michael was trying to save himself.
On Sept 5th 1970 I started to work for Morgan Guaranty Trust Company at a gross salary of $126 per week. That was the most I’d ever earned, they provided you with dinner and covered you completely health-wise from the minute you started to work for them (a cheap company they are not, which Merrill Lynch is). My health wasn’t so hot. I get sick easily with viruses easily and so forth. One evening towards the end of Sept. I forced myself to dress and go to work as I felt terrible. I got clear to the subway and then just feeling lousy, turned around and went home. As soon as I walked in I discovered a boy there (a Vietnam veteran (Norman Lewis)) with Michael. I chased him out. I told Michael I didn’t feel well and would he go down to the drug store and get me some anti-biotics. He said he would in a few minutes. Something, something, God I don’t know what made me feel something was wrong. I ran back there and found that he had fallen from the chair and was unconscious in a similar Muslim-like prayer position, I pulled him up which was very difficult as he’s big—My God Wib, his face was a deep blue, he looked dead, I was shaking all over, sobbing his name out, slapping him as hard as I could—I ran to the basin for water and poured it all over him, continued to slap him as hard as I could, but the minute I stopped hitting him, I swear I saw on his face death. I ran to the front door and screamed for help—the people across the way opened their door and then slammed it! –It seemed like an hour, but I guess it must have been 15 minutes or so—I just kept slapping him as hard as I could, praying to God to help me. He finally began to show signs of life and then I noticed the packets beside him on the chair. When I got him to talk he denied that he shot heroin, first it was this and then it was that, still lying, oh that hurt so. He said the packets were that boy’s--$50 of heroin—I took it all and threw it down the toilet. Then he held me and told me I saved his life---“You know what to do, mom!”---I didn’t know what to do!—I was cut in two and swimming up stream. I didn’t know anything about it---I guess I had a sense. He admitted to me that he had o.d.’d twice before. I yelled crying, “Your going to die if you don’t stop!” He said it was the first time since jail that he had done it. But two weeks later I came home and found him out cold & face black, on the bed gurgling, the needle in a glass of water full of his blood. It took me several minutes to bring him to. FOUR overdoses, and still alive.
I finally found a doctor in the Village who would give the kids methadone. I was in a new job, I didn’t want to start by being out all the time, but I felt that with this doctor it was my last hope. I called the super of our building and told him to have Michael call me at the Pool (the phone has been shut off), which he did. I asked him if he and Philip would meet me at home to go down and see this doctor and start on methadone—I would stay off work again if they would. He assured me that he and Philip would be there, that they really wanted to quit. I went home to meet them but they weren’t there.. No groceries bought (I had left $10 in the AM). The doorman told me they’d gone out with 2 kids I knew , are the worst, and are dealers. I had found out a few weeks previous that the way Philip was getting his money was hustling---men! He was a male whore. He’s not a homosexual, despises what he’s doing, but the risk of arrest is nil, when you want dope you will do anything. Something just snapped in me that night—Oct 14—I reached a breaking point. I was crying and I knew they’d be out all nigh. I went into the bathroom and took all the tranquilizers and Nembutal that I had—about thirty in all. I even sealed up the peephole in the front door so no one would see me lying ion the bed. I wanted to die so much.
I came out of the coma the next am at Roosevelt Hosp. As God would have it, just as I came home unexpectedly for Michael, so did he for me about two hours after I’d taken them, he knew exactly what I had done. He ran downstairs and called 911, the police came and put something under my nose which Michael said made my teeth clench and then I couldn’t breath as my nasal passages fill up because of the allergies—so he pried my mouth open with a spoon which broke my caps—my teeth took a beating but I was breathing again. They put a tube in my mouth or something. Michael said the ambulance people and the Roosevelt team were marvelous (there are so many of us committing suicide these days—they’ve got plenty of experience). Michael was with me all the way. Waking up was awful, tubes in every hole in my body and needles in my arms too. And the terrible feeling of reality. As I awoke there were four doctors around my bed, I told them I just reached a breaking point. One of the doctors smiled, saying “ we all do sometimes!” That made me cry because he understood. They wanted to know why my ankles and feet were swollen, took cardiograms but don’t have heart trouble. I just have to take a diuretic. The psychiatrist there wanted me to stay upstairs (they have a really fancy apartment with a piano and everything) for two or three months and rest, saying that she didn’t want me to go back to that same situation as it’s their experience, an attempted suicide tries it again. I told her that would not be facing my problem---my problem is my sons---I needed to help them. So Roosevelt put them on their detoxification program. They went everyday, twice a day to get their methadone and we went once a week to see a family therapist but the whole thing was a bust---I paid almost $50 a week for them to go plus $.50 for each dose of methadone and carfare each way is $.30 and they had to have money for lunch. You figure it out for seven days for two!
Morgan Guaranty paid me all through that month and paid all my hospital expenses and then released me. That’s some company, really decent. Finally the group therapists advised me to commit them to the Rockefeller Program—mind you, through their influence I was going to get them into Phoenix House---but they had to be detoxed first. The doctors didn’t think I had the nerve to put them both there but they were wrong. I got the papers—went before a judge.
Michael in the meantime really stopped shooting as he doesn’t want to go anywhere remotely resembling a jail. He went to the West Side Community Center—had to pay $30 the first week a week thereafter—got a job and went everyday! Now is off the methadone! He really put his will in it.
I told Philip if he didn’t come to court with me I’d have to come with the police and have him taken to Rockefeller. His apathy is so great (this is last December) that I had to go to the 20th precinct and bring the officers up to the apartment. He was still in bed at 2:30 in the afternoon.
He was furious and hated me but I knew he had to get off this stuff and all the other rotten things he’d been doing.
He escaped after three weeks and for two months I didn’t know where he was. I prayed and prayed that he would come home, I would cry 5-6 hours every night. I told many of the kids in the neighborhood that if they saw him to please tell him I would not turn him in again. Michael’s control of himself at this point was what was helping me.
One day Philip appeared at the door (March this year). My God I was so glad to see him! He came with two friends that he said was living with in the Village; a young woman and boy that wanted to get off dope, too. I didn’t dig the kid—but the young woman was sincere. This lasted for a few more weeks I guess. At the same time he began to visit us more often. Michael would tear into him and call him a rotten junkie and so on. Nevertheless when Philip would appear at the door Michael would scream at him and that’s how my shoulder was broken. When he screamed at Philip I swatted Mike on the head, he ferociously got up off the bed and shoved me backwards as hard as he could, my shoulder was broken in the fall. I understand why he did it.
He must cut with Philip as he has done with all of his ‘friends’ if he’s to stay free of heroin. And yet he loves his brother. Michael started with his music when he was fifteen, it means everything to him. He has a good job a textile firm but Philip has nothing to fall back on. Michael is making $90 a week and take home $72, and he’s learning something. The last few months he’s been blowing it on a girl. Many times I have to help him through the week. This is wrong! But he’s off dope! And he means it!! Later this year he hopes to go live with friends in Connecticut, get a decent job and play music.
But my Philip—thin as a rail, intelligent and quick talented and so handsome. You should hear the kind of music he composes from FOUR chords on the guitar. And Lyrics! He can write! Original! He’s so gifted, so musical, a born mimic.
YOU can help him Wib he needs artistic inspiration—he needs to act on the stage---he needs a guitar---and someone to teach him harmony. He needs something to see concretely in the future, besides dope! Michael needs what help he can get too. But I have the feeling you could work with Philip, direct him—I don’t mean advice—I mean make him work at what he was meant to do. He needs some opportunities! He’s got to learn to fight back like Michael does. Philip looks down on violence he says that’s why he was given a brain for. He takes so much abuse from Michael, it’s not right. But sometimes you have to fight in order to defend yourself. Please, please take an interest in them! I need money yes. I’m still out of work, my unemployment will be up in August. I work weekends which they don’t know about (I could be fined), after the two days I’m worn out. I’m so afraid I won’t last in a fulltime job. But what I need most is to see a future for my sons----PLEASE—help their beginnings! Let’s get Philip off dope!
PS; Philip is living at home and Michael is too partially, stays with friends part of the time to be away from Philip.
New York City
Sorry must send this collect, but have no money.
Have found Dr. Alan Kaye, 35 East 84th St., New York City, who I believe will be best doctor for methadone program for Philip. Must have $20 a week for it. Wib can send money directly to Dr. Kaye if he wishes to do so. Dr. Kaye’s phone # is( 212) 533-2356, hrs. 5:30 to *:00 weekdays, 9:00 to 2:00 on Saturdays-no hours on Sunday.
Please try to it to the doctor tonight if you can. Philip swears he will do it and afterwards get a job. Mike maybe is leaving the position he is in and maybe try to put Philip in that position.
All the details are in a letter to following. Now if it is possible, which can be a great inspiration to Philip. He needs hope and enthusiasm.
SU 2-6762 (212) New York City
PS If Mr. Evans can help me out a little bit it would be important.
Gever and Grife
ATTORNEYS AT LAW
818 Robinson Building
Paul B. Pollack
Wilbur W. Evans
Dear Mr. Evans,
Enclosed is a telephone message which my secretary received this afternoon while I was out of the office. Since it appears to require prompt action I am sending it to you immediately with the hope that you are available at this address.
I disputed with myself whether on not to send her the $20, but I felt that you would prefer that I don’t. I will send you the letter to which she referred to the above address as soon as I receive it..
In the meantime, I hope that you are becoming settled in your new position and that things are going well.
Very truly yours,
Gever and Grife
ATTORNEYS AT LAW
818 Robinson Building
Paul B. Pollack
Wilbur W. Evans
Dear Mr. Evans,
Enclosed is a letter dated
I have given her no explanation as yet as to your reduction in income, as this can hardly be done without telling her that you are no longer overseas. However, she does not have to know where you are in the states. As you can see from her comment, the only thing I said in my letter was that I was enclosing the check which you forwarded to me. The only other alternatives is to ignore her and to send whatever you can afford. This may very well be the best thing to do if you have a clear conscience.
I hope you have now settled down on your new assignment and that things are progressing nicely.
Very truly yours,