Sometimes I hear voices. They haunt my nights and I cannot sleep. They haunt my days and leave me feeling as if I am walking inside a cloud that both dims the sun and makes breathing toxic.
If I had only known. Famous last words, right? If -- If you wish in one hand and piss in the other, watch which one fills up fastest.
I started out life with the best of intentions -- and then I met my parents. Maybe that is what made me so sensitive to the fears and desires, and the dreams and nightmares of others. Some called me an empath. But the label that seemed to stick was the one the sensation-seeking journalists gave me -- The Murder Doctor. I was a therapist to many people whose lives were linked by common elements -- homicide, and other forms of violence. They were victims and in some cases, perpetrators. As I will tell you in a moment, my own life was inextricably intertwined with those same foul acts.
My name is Robert Sand, Ph.D., with a string of licensing and association-membership alphabet soup strung after it. Perhaps I should start at the beginning. When I came into the world, my name was Robert Sandspan. No, I didn’t change my name because I was ashamed of my ethnicity. I changed my family name because my father left an indelible stain upon it when he murdered my mother in her sleep and then hanged himself from the third-floor window of our Brooklyn, NY apartment. I changed my given name because my mother -- God rest her tortured soul -- called me Robbie, even when I was a college student who brought home a date to show her off to my parents. My mother loved her only child but if love were a weight, hers would have been measured in metric tons. It was crushing and stultifying rather than supportive.
My father was the penultimate invisible man. In some aspects of my adult life, I became better at it than he had ever been. We’ll leave that for later. My grandmother, a wise and sacrificing woman who was a product of her era, called her darling son a luftmensch. The literal translation of that German-Yiddish term is a man of the air. In practical terms, it is a person of no substance and that was my father. He was like a man in a bathtub full of water. When he arose, he left no traces that he had ever been there -- except for those last moments of his life.
I feel the need to tell some of my stories. As a therapist, much of what I came to know was pieced together from what I was told. They say that a psychotherapist is proof of reincarnation. He leads many lives, and screws up all of them. Most of what I will tell you about the people with whom I was involved came from their own retelling in their therapy sessions. Some comes from my drawing conclusions and filling in the gaps to make the fibers of their stories connect into whole cloth. I will attempt to level the field with common sense so that their stories are as close to their truths and their perceptions as I can make them.
A story that often haunts me is that of a family of clients, the Lefebvres, (pronounced Loo Fey). Gabe and Lenore and their eighteen-year-old daughter, Jennifer, began their connection to my life with a middle-of-the-night phone call. When I took them on as clients, my own life was a -- I wouldn’t call it a train wreck because a train wreck can be cleaned up in a few hours or days at the most. My personal life was in a perpetual state of chaos. My marriage had fallen apart. I was lonely, isolated and yet, in my office, I put on a front of competence and normalcy.
This story had its beginnings with a young woman I never met. Her name was Marianne.