Building a Family, Part One

In his recently published memoir Enough to Be Dangerous, Mort Meisner recalls the violence he experienced in his family of origin.

Given the rage and anger that filled every corner of his childhood home, it wouldn’t have been surprising if Mort had opted to not have a family of his own.

But as with every aspect of his life, Mort wasn’t going to let his dark history stop him from building a family. And despite the obstacles along the way, he’d successfully rise to the occasion.

Saying Goodbye to His Own Parents

After a bout in the hospital in 1985 and a subsequent surgery, Mort’s father’s life came to an end. From his memoir:

After the surgery, the doctor came to us, his face long and drawn. After telling us about tremendous blood loss, as well as brain damage, the doctor said with absolute certainty, You dont want this.”

He said that my father wouldnt have any sort of quality of life in that state. My brother and I had to make the tough decision to take him off life support. Then they pronounced my father dead. It was 3:17 p.m. on Thursday, March 14, 1985.  We all went in and it was surreal. There was my dad, 70-year-old Morris Meisner, this once huge, powerful, and blustery man—now lying there dead. Gone.

Shortly after his death, Mort’s mother was attacked in her home and subsequently had a stroke. His mother had always trusted people, even letting strangers into her home to give them cookies and brownies. The police suspected it was someone who’d been to the house before. She was moved into a nursing home where Mort would regularly visit.

In 1988, Mort and his wife Leslie decided it was time to build a family. They tried for four years and had no luck conceiving. Meanwhile, his mother’s condition slowly worsened until she died in 1992. Mort was with her the night before she passed.

He and Leslie still hadn’t conceived.

Along Came Nicole

Two months after his mother’s death, Mort received a call from his friend and WJBK employee, Murray Feldman. He recalls:

I know its none of my business that you and Leslie have been trying to have kids and havent had any success,” he said, then paused. Have you considered adoption?”

We hadnt.

He said to me that his sister-in-law, Judy, had adopted a child out of Kansas and they knew of someone else whose 15-year-old daughter was pregnant and would be putting the baby up for adoption.

Though we hadnt considered adoption before, it made sense. After all, we wanted a baby. And the opportunity was presenting itself. We pondered it for a couple of days, then called Murray to get more information.

Five days later, he and Leslie were heading to Philadelphia to meet the birth mother, Nicole, her mother, Sue, and the birth father. In October, they received the call. Nicole was in labor.

By this time, Nicole and her mother had relocated to Kansas to have the child because she’d been harassed by the birth father, who had threatened her with bodily harm. They figured she’d be safe there.

When the baby was born, Mort and Leslie named her Nicole because they loved the name and wanted to honor her birth mother. They flew home the next day with their beautiful, two-day-old daughter, knowing they’d have to fly to Missouri 30 days later to finalize the adoption in court.

They thought it would be simple.

The Challenge of Building a Family

When they returned to Missouri, they were informed that the birth father had changed his mind. This started a three-state, two-year, $150,000 legal battle. The case would end up going all the way to the Supreme Court in Kansas and subsequently change child’s rights laws in Michigan. Mort and Leslie had even set up contingencies to hide their daughter in Canada, if need be.

Fortunately, none of that happened and they eventually prevailed. To this day, both Mort and Leslie can say with certainty that it was the best money they’ve ever spent – having the honor of raising their wonderful daughter, Nicole.

Then, as is often the case with adoptions, just two weeks after they brought Nicole home, Leslie found out she was finally pregnant. Nine months later, Nicole’s brother Mark was born…

The Joy of Fatherhood

Interestingly enough, Mort was already a father to his son Jason by the time Nicole and Mark came along.

Our next blog post will look at how Mort handled the challenges of both long distance fatherhood and being an everyday dad while saving dying news stations across the country.

In the meantime, get your copy of Enough to Be Dangerous by clicking here. And if you’re interested in the book launch party and other events, be sure to subscribe to our blog!

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