Super Senior: Mimi Baird - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Super Senior: Mimi Baird

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On a side street just off downtown Woodstock, Mimi Baird is busy.

"Oh, gosh, here is some good emails," she said.

Reporter Joe Carroll: You have a full-time job here.

Mimi Baird: I do, but it's a joy.

In the kitchen, she spends much of her time writing about a man she barely knew-- her father.

"Generally recognized as the most daring of show riders in the country," Mimi read from a caption on a photo.

A Boston newspaper snapped the picture of Perry Baird jumping at a horse show.

Joe Carroll: In a nutshell, that is your dad, isn't it?

Mimi Baird: No question. There it is: competing, aggressive, I can do anything... There was a lot of self-confidence there!

He had the right to be confident, a brilliant Boston doctor at the pinnacle of his career with a family secret. Perry Baird was mentally ill.

"Keeping secrets is very insidious and very hard," Mimi said.

Dr. Baird suffered from manic depression, now commonly known as bipolar disorder. It was so severe, he was institutionalized in a Westborough Mental Hospital in Massachusetts. Mimi was just 6 at the time. Her mother kept it a secret.

"'Oh, he's away.' It was just like my father had drifted up to the sky," Mimi recalled.

It was in the early 1940s and the country was at war. The quality of care for mental patients was, at best, poor.

"Attendant: Take off your clothes! Perry: I did so. Narration: Again in a sudden and antagonistic voice he yelled... lie down on the bed!" Mimi read from her father's manuscript.

Dr. Baird became patient Baird, subjected to beatings and straitjackets to calm him down.

"I don't go down the path of being angry about that because it was the way it was," Mimi said.

Dr. Baird took detailed notes of his stay in the hospital; it was a snapshot of a life the young Mimi didn't know.

"This is my father's entire manuscript," Mimi said, showing a picture.

It is 1,172 pages and almost a foot high; Dr. Baird's own words of what he went through in various mental hospitals. He called it "Echo's from a Dungeon Cell."

Joe Carroll: When you got the manuscripts in that suitcase and you opened it up, were you overwhelmed?

Mimi: Totally... It took me a while to come to grips with that.

The manuscripts were in a relative's attic in Texas. Her cousin thought Mimi should have them and so a journey to understand who her father was began.

"The book wrote itself to be honest," Mimi said.

For the 78-year-old, the book has been 20 years in the making. It's called, "He Wanted The Moon: The Madness and Medical Genius of Dr. Perry Baird, and His Daughter's Quest to Know Him." It's a combination of his writings and Mimi's.

Dr. Baird writes with great flair about his escape from the mental hospital.

"A sudden gust of wind blew through the branches of me and made two successive coughing sounds that seemed to say to me, go ahead, go ahead," Mimi read.

Dr. Baird spent the rest of his life in and out of mental hospitals. He received a lobotomy, a common practice before modern medications. He died of a seizure and drowned in a bathtub in Detroit in 1959. He was just 55.

"The number of people who have been helped is staggering and that is what my father wanted, he a doctor and a teacher... so it's happening, cool," Mimi said.

The book, now in soft cover, has been well received by book critics. Mimi is now on the speaking tour talking about mental illness.

The success of the book has got the attention of Hollywood. Brad Pitt's production company has picked up the rights and Mimi says part of the movie will be filmed here in Woodstock. Pulitzer Prize winner Tony Kushner is writing the screenplay.

"It's going to be as authentic as the book is and they have given their word on it," Mimi said.

The book and now the movie shedding light on a dark secret so many years ago.

"This is the beginning of many more people over the years to come he's going to help-- it's amazing!" Mimi said. "He's helping from the grave really."

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