I have written my own obituary, ahead of time, in order to guarantee accuracy.
Obituary of Fredric J. Neuman, M.D.
Fredric J Neuman, a man of great personal charm, died yesterday at the age of 104 surrounded by family and friends and some young women who wandered in from the street. According to a reporter from “People” magazine, who was present, Dr. Neuman’s last words were “Man’s destiny lies among the stars,” a sage remark that provoked sighs of appreciation and wonderment from those gathered around the bed, loud enough to obscure the doctor’s death rattle. But, finally, his demise became all too obvious. It is not true that Mrs. Susan Neuman Esq., his wife, then ran from the room crying out, “Free at last! Free at last!” For one thing Mrs. Neuman cannot run. She has been increasingly hobbled by arthritis and except for “The Hobble-Master,” a device invented and then commercialized by her husband, she would not be able to move at all. Indeed, at the time of which we are speaking, the latest model of “The Hobble-Master X-2,” which she usually drove around the living room at top speed, had broken down, and Mrs. Neuman lay at an angle under the bed. (The Deluxe version of the Hobble-Master X-2 with the telescope already installed is called the “Hobble Telescope.”)
Dr. Neuman was born during the depths of the depression somewhere in the depths of the Bronx. Little is known of his early years until he burst forth upon the literary scene at the age of four with a short panegyric about the Roosevelt administration. Literary critics were particularly admiring of his lyrical account of the Social Security Administration, “insights which could only have been recognized by a person of short stature, such as a dwarf,” they said, “or a four year old child.” They would become more critical years later when he used his gift for poesy in an attempt to exonerate Richard Nixon.
Dr. Neuman was a man of many talents, although he was best known for his ability to bridge the gap between psychiatry and musical comedy. “The Moon in June and the Passive-Aggressive Personality” was his first Broadway success. “Oedipus got nothin’ on me” was the foot-stomping hit song from “The Libidinal Follies of 1964.” The featured dance number, which came to be called, “The Bipolar Gavotte,” became immensely popular that year despite the injuries suffered by amateurs trying to emulate the sky throw, in which the male dancer hurls his partner into a tree before trampolining up to her, whereupon they both shinny down the tree trunk with their elbows. This dance number, and others, presaged Dr. Neuman’s subsequent work in choreography and set design.
Dr. Neuman maintained his many creative activities throughout his fabled career by using the few minutes between patients—time used by other therapists to eat or to visit the bathroom—to free- associate ponderous thoughts about philosophical and political matters. In politics, he was always on the side of the underdog. He defended the right of small countries, like Lithuania, to have their names capitalized just like the big countries. His philosophical musings were illustrated with pencil drawings, doodles which some experts have traced back to his graffiti period during the early years of his marriage. The graphic drawings he composed during that earlier time, mostly under cover of darkness, and the arrests that ensued, became a cause celebrè marked by protests from the Black Panthers and radical feminists. The time he spent in the hospital after being hit in the head with a rock caused his life to take a more contemplative turn. He briefly became a priest and then a Buddhist monk. This religious period came to an abrupt end when he attempted to become a nun. He returned home from Rome a chastened man more dedicated to his career and his growing family.
“It’s okay with me,” his wife, Susan, said, “as long as he stays out of the kitchen.”
At this point in his life, briefly, his psychiatric career took precedence over his other interests. It was the time of the Vietnam War, and he was laying low. Although trained as a child psychiatrist, he began to specialize in those disorders peculiar to men and women thirty-seven years of age. Because of his seminal work, this time of life soon came to be known as the “Commuter” stage, which follows the Oedipal stage by about a mile. The principal psychological feature of the “Commuter” stage is a tendency to want to be somewhere else. Men laugh too heartily and women give themselves over to sighing. Certain sexual practices, previously unthinkable, now become common in a desperate attempt to make up for poor television programming.
Dr.Neuman went about the country lecturing to large crowds about how to ameliorate the bitter ennui of the “Commuter” stage. “I have a dream,” he began, gesturing vaguely to the ceiling, “to make money, because money is the only cure for the spiritual emptiness of this unfortunate stage of life.” These talks were well-received, and he did, indeed, make a lot of money. However, the remainder of his lecture tour was cancelled when a spectator got carried away and hit him in the head with a rock. Immediately, he began to declaim the Gettysburg Address, which he knew by heart, but had not recited since his high school graduation.
His wife, Susan, felt he was spreading himself too thin: “But I support him no matter what,” she said, “as long as he doesn’t leave his socks on the floor.”
A few years later, after an intense and sustained effort to understand the human condition, Dr. Neuman was suddenly taken by the urge to play the oboe. It turned out he needed three hands to hold the oboe (he claimed), so, instead, he threw himself into writing symphonic music. As the result, he was once again struck in the head with a rock. This time of his life is often overlooked by his biographers, but he, himself, used to insist that getting hit over the head repeatedly by a rock had changed his perspective on life in general and on rocks in particular. He took to hiding surreptitiously behind lampposts or tall bushes.
Also painful to him as the years wore on was his growing fame. Excessively modest, he was particularly put out by the adulation of his many fans and acolytes, “Your majestic honor” and “Your SuperSolomon” being just two of those terms that made him uncomfortable. “Fredric the Great,” he pointed out to them over and over again was a reference to a completely different person. He often had to hide from this attention by covering himself with leaves and old newspapers.
Finally, gathering all his creative energies into a single unimaginable effort so intense that dishes in the next room began to rattle, he turned his attention finally to “The Great Apotheosis,” as it was called by the philosophers of his time. Intertwining his genius at ratiocination and gourmet cooking (“I told you to stay out of the kitchen,” his wife, Susan, complained,) along with his musical and athletic abilities, honed to a sharp edge by his skills at enumeration, he reached what he described as a final understanding of the nature of the universe. When he opened the doors to his terrace to reveal his discovery to the crowds beneath, he was struck in the head one more time—for the last time—by a rock It is thought that his final words, spoken a few hours later, that business about man’s place in the stars, summed up his discovery. The world will never know exactly what he meant. Probably something to do with space travel.
He had at least three children, Eve, James and Michael. They have all survived him along with four grandchildren and twenty-seven great-grandchildren. (This last figure is a “guesstimate.”) © Fredric Neuman (c) Fredric Neuman