30. May 2013 · Comments Off on Paralyzed Arm · Categories: N. Staying Alive

My husband’s father was perhaps the most successful negligence lawyer in New York.   When Herb was a boy, they lived in a mansion in Brooklyn.   At the turn of the century his father had come with his family from Russia when he was still a baby.  He worked his way up and achieved his American dream.


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He had even bigger dreams for his own firstborn son.  He wanted him to be a part of America’s history, maybe even a decorated general bringing honor to the family.  He named him Herbert Lee.

Back then, even in prime neighborhoods, boys often fought one another in the streets.   When Herb came home with a bloody nose and black eye, his father said, toughen up!

Herb went to the gym every day.  He learned to fight.   One day, he took on the bullies.  They never bothered him again.


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At eighteen, tall, handsome and broad-shouldered, Herb graduated from Poly Tech Preparatory School.   His mother said that he turned in an essay that was so brilliant his teachers called him in to make sure that he did write an original essay.

Just as his father hoped, he was commissioned as a cadet at the United States Military Academy.  This was in 1944 when World War II was still raging and smoke rose from the death camp chimneys.


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Training was tough.  Hazing was tough.   But the streets had been the real test.  He could take it.

Then someone at the Academy crossed a line.   I never knew what that line was.   Herb did not talk about it.   His mother told me part of the story and his father told me how he saved himself.

In any case, Herb fought back with such fury that no one could stop him.  Just before he destroyed his life, he stopped himself.

He paralyzed his own right arm.



the fighter The Fighter,  oil on canvas, 1991 by Neil Grayson


They gave him a medical discharge from the Military Academy.


manBeingLedAwayMan Being Led Away, oil on canvas, 1993 by Neil Grayson


He was hospitalized and endured shock treatments before there were muscle relaxants.  The treatments broke his wrist.   But he healed without a trace of injury.

Then he rose like a phoenix and flew out of there.

He went on to the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania where three years later he graduated at the top of his class.  Then he got his law degree from New York University, also graduating at the top.

The demons of self-paralysis would re-assert themselves in clever ways.  Demons are Trojan horses.   Once in, they pretend the war is over.  Then they sabotage.   Or they suddenly break out and go viral.

There is no expiration date on demons.

Herb has tremendous resilience and the powers of the phoenix, rising again and again.  But now there is the taste of ashes in all our mouths.




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