One Man’s True Story

Expecting the Broken Brain to Do Mental Pushups: Dave Elder

Take a piece of blown glass or a fragile porcelain doll, hold it in your hands and gently place it on a glass table. Within the pieces of this glass the delicate workmanship, the craftsmanship of the doll needs to be handled with care, gentle precision and calm in order to prevent it from cracking, chipping or shattering. The mind is fragile and something simple or more complex can shatter a person’s life, cause their mind to be unable to function in the read world and sometimes even revert into their own. Dave Elder knew from the age of three that his mother’s mind was delicate, often hard to reach her inner most thoughts and hoped that she would someday return and be his real mom. Adopted and never really wanted and accepted for being who she was his mother spent most of her young years apologizing for being “a bad girl.” Children make mistakes but living your life always afraid of being chastised would take its toll on anyone. So, when growing up with his older brother, two years his senior, and then a new brother coming home little did Dave know that things would drastically change and not for the better. Expecting the Broken Brain to Do Mental Pushups brings the reader into the world of mental illness, the seriousness of it and what happens when a young child has to deal with his mother disappearing right in front of his eyes. How do you explain nervous breakdown? How do you explain shattered nerves? How do you deal with mood changes and how do you explain to a young child that his mother will never be normal? There is no physical cause of a nervous breakdown. It is a period of a “period of mental illness, usually without a physical cause, which results in anxiety.”

Growing up could not have been easy as the author explains his relationship with his family; his father’s struggling to support three sons and a wife who was constantly in the hospital and a young boy that just wanted to understand. With a friend whose father seemed unstable yet not really comprehending what it meant to have shattered nerves, Dave spent much time trying to understand the causes of his friend’s father’s agitation and hoped by the time he entered High School to understand even more. A mind is just as fragile as a piece of blown glass and can shattered into millions of pieces that remain unseen. Whereas glass, tiles, plates, cups, dinnerware, candlesticks, picture frames or even a simple toy can break just by falling to the floor or being flung across a room and landing on a cold hard surface or table, a mind can snap, break and shatter and the end results are sometimes often unseen. Dave’s mother’s troubles began after the birth of her third son. Often hearing voices and needing medication to have a somewhat normal day he lived in constant fear of what would happen next.



Throughout the book we learn more about Dave and hear his inner most thoughts and reflections on his mother’s illness and the world around him. The drug scene is quite prevalent in his writing as he reflects on the many different people that he partners with in his career as a songwriter and musician. Learning that some need to escape reality and use drugs or other means of enhancement in order to deal with everyday issues and life is definitely eye opening. Some cannot seem to even write a song or relate their message without the help of some hardcore drugs or alcohol. Tempted and lured into the scene the author seemed to stand hard and steadfast by his own convictions and not succumb to what some might say as peer pressure or the thoughts of others just to fit in. Disconnected from his family for long periods of time, trying to understand the rationale behind his mother’s behaviors and illness sent him to do research about Freud and Jung coming away with new perspectives that would help him learn more about mental illness.

Added in he relates the Berkley drug scene, the situation so many mentally ill faced with funding being cut to facilities and many being turned away and forced to live on the street, the author reminds the reader of a time when other issues were in the forefront and the care of so many placed more than just on the backburner. Added in his reaction to the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest enlightened him to what these patients endured and sent him to reflect more on what his own mother had been through. Going back to his family and learning more about his mother, brothers and his grandmother’s illnesses were next.


“Schizophrenia is a psychotic disorder (or a group of disorders) marked by severely impaired thinking, emotions, and behaviors. Schizophrenic patients are typically unable to filter sensory stimuli and may have enhanced perceptions of sounds, colors, and other features of their environment. Most schizophrenics, if untreated, gradually withdraw from interactions with other people, and lose their ability to take care of personal needs and grooming.

The prevalence of schizophrenia is thought to be about 1% of the population around the world; it is thus more common than diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, or multiple sclerosis. In the United States and Canada, patients with schizophrenia fill about 25% of all hospital beds. The disorder is considered to be one of the top ten causes of long-term disability worldwide.” Free Dictionary. com. What happens when you hear voices in your head? How does a person control hearing others who are talking to them, fighting with them and trying to control their actions and thoughts? The author describes his own experiences in trying to understand these plus violent thoughts within Chapter 10. Focusing on the reasons behind his mother’s illness would not provide the real answers but the views of others that did not really comprehend the gravity of what this disorder really was and is. Reverting to the fact that his mother considered herself a “bad girl,” is not getting to the root of the problem just masking it. The author adds within this chapter more information about his friend D, his relationship with his brother and more about his family. The research about the times was extensive and the information about many famous stars enlightening and invaluable. Learning about his relationship with a woman named M is quite revealing and helps the reader to get to know the author as a kind and compassionate person who tries to help others.



Medication can do many things if not given in the proper form or dosage. As his mother began taking certain meds for schizophrenia other side effects came into play. When she stopped taking them she heard voices, exhibited dangerous behavior and his older brother needed to take her to get her meds changed. Becoming more involved he spoke with her doctor to learn more about her medication and perhaps how to help deal with her illness. Learning more, researching, asking questions and seeing a program on television would create more of an overall picture and understanding for Dave. Learning to understand the differences between psychiatric and psychological problems helped clarify things even more. As you read chapter 13 the author shares his research, insights and better understanding of the meaning of the term Broken Brain and how to apply it to his mother. Sharing her medical history and childhood helped clarify not only to him but the reader the root of the problem and his understanding about the voices heard in her head. The story continues as the author shares what he learned about M who is Bipolar and how he was able to finally help her along with her doctors. The final chapter will tie it all up for the reader as the author relates to everyone what he learned and what he hopes you, the reader will take away after reading this book. The end result is that he finally has a firm understanding of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression and remembering others that dealt with drugs and alcohol as a means of escape. Genetics play an important role as to who we are, our health and much more as he learned. Take the journey along with Dave and then read the two poems at the end that will enlighten you even more. Told in his own voice straightforward, honest and in detail from the start age 3 until the present author Dave Elder shares his insights, knowledge, research and his love of his mother, brothers, grandmother and family with all of us. Take that piece of porcelain or glass with those intricate designs and place in on a special shelf and remember to protect it always.


Fran Lewis: reviewer


















Between Two Eternities: my review

Between Two Eternities

Barbara Brett


The portrait of a family should include all of its members. Each one distinctly painted, colors vividly depicted and smiles beaming at their unknown audience as each face has its own expression that they want to leave when they are gone. But, portraits as is life never last forever, as the paint fades, the colors blend and the faces that were once young have aged and the final scene that many see after so many years differs from the original But, what happens when one member in this portrait is caught or blindsided by fate, has no idea that the next painting will not have their image or face and the world as they knew it and would see for just a short time is about to come to an end? Between Two Eternities will leave readers with many ethical questions, debates that some have had over the issues brought to light in this novel and unanswered questions that many would have liked to ask the characters themselves.


Robert and Marcie Silver lived what they thought was an idyllic life. Not rich but comfortable Robert a college professor and Marcie an artist in her own right. Hoping to create illustrations for Bambi every child’s favorite storybook little does Marcie know that her life span as some might say has not been cut short but is complete. Although only 32 and the mother of two children we do not decide how much time we have on earth but it is up to each one of us to use it wisely, embrace the good times and manage to hard ones. Some feel that death is more than just losing a spouse and a mother. Understanding that “no life can be cut short before it is complete, that death, evil and tragedy are all a part of living,” can be difficult to comprehend. When Marcie starts to feel tired, looks pale and finds it hard to function she ignores the symptoms and feels that it might be a virus that will eventually go away. As we meet her and Robert attending a function of one of his faculty members, we learn to what lengths she will go in order to help Robert attain tenure, deal with some difficult people and even handle one that would like more than just his attention. defines eternity as: “infinite time; duration without beginning or end. Eternal existence, especially as contrasted with mortal life: the eternity of God.

Theology: the timeless state into which the soul passes at a person’s death.” But, Marcie and Robert faced more than just understanding the meaning of eternity or everlasting. Robert faced and made a decision that brings to light what the role of a doctor is when having to tell a patient they are terminal. As we get to know Dr. Halpern he seems callous, cold and not accessible nor is his partner. Almost like trying to avoid the inevitable and when he does the conversation between him and Robert just might leave the reader cold. An inoperable brain tumor with no chance of survival told to him by her internist. Claiming that his best neuro men looked at the results and gave him the final diagnosis still should have sent Robert elsewhere looking for answers but it did not as Dr. Halpern convinced him that all roads would lead back to him. But, what happens next is totally questionable as Robert demands and pleads that Marcie not be told. This is where ethics comes into play and where her final wishes if she had a Living Will or DNR should have been respected.


Told she had a virus and not really concerned Robert began noticing little changes within her and rather than face them what he does will surprise the reader as their closeness was one thing that most thought would never falter and the temptations placed in front of him should have been ignored. But, being what some say is only human what happens creates more than just a wide rift between him and Marcie. His children are so precious and her mother so supportive yet no one seems to realize what is happening to Marcie and Robert is hiding from the truth, as you will learn from his actions.



Marcie is astute, resourceful and definitely one to be trifled with as a major outburst that she cannot explain or control sends her to finding out what is wrong with her and as the doctor states: all roads led back to him. So, what happens when the lies, truths and falsehoods come out and how do they deal with the final outcome? Robert and Marcie are special and when she learns the truth they decide to live life to the fullest, take chances and enjoy the time they had. With the help of her courageous mother, her two children and one special weekend Marcie will get to not only live out a special dream but hopefully enjoy her time on earth.


With references to the Torah and definitions that will help the reader understand more we learn that there are two kinds of immortality: “ there’s the finite kind right here on earth, where we live on in the hearts and memories of those who loved us; there’s the infinite kind, where our souls return to God, who created them.” The reader learns more about the traditions the author shares and the feelings of both characters, Robert and Marcie come through loud and clear as each one voices his/her thoughts about the final outcome. As Marcie comes full circle with her feelings, her final wishes expressed quite clearly will Robert respect what she says. When trying to give her a special weekend the thoughts that are shared will bring tears to your eyes and hope that some kind of miracle will occur. But, truths are told, facts are real and the end result you will have to decide for yourself whether you agree with the final outcome. Do you respect the wishes of someone even when they are given verbally and not written down? What are the rights of the patient? What are the rights of the family? What role do the doctors and nurses have? Why did all of the medical personnel seem so cold and unfeeling? What happens when people need compassion? What happens when one man is torn between two eternities? This is one book that everyone should read to understand that time is short and we need to life and love life to the fullest because you just never know. Author Barbara Brett presents many issues that so many will debate after reading this heartbreaking and enlightening novel. Some portraits will change and others we know will last for eternity if just in our hearts and minds.

Fran Lewis: reviewer