She had to take a call so I’m waiting in my therapist’s office, scanning the only picture on her desk. It’s a framed five by seven snapshot of my pretty psychologist and a four year old girl on a swing in a park. This looks like a mommy-daughter thing. But where’s daddy? No husband pictures, and no wedding band I’ve ever seen. Maybe she’s divorced. That’s probably it.
So would I want to be a daddy now, dating her? I like little girls. Actually I like all girls. Dated a lot of them as I grew up. And I married one. Dana. We were happy. Very happy. And then she died, and part of me died with her.
My stunning psychologist enters the room, grabs a writing pad off the desk and sits in a chair beside me. “You look glum today,” she says.
“I don’t want to write anymore,” comes back to her.
“Just don’t. No desire. No inspiration. No energy.”
“Are you consumed with other issues?” she asks, knowing the answer.
“You mean, like life?”
“That’s a good start.”
“Could be, except I don’t want to do these sessions anymore either.”
“What do you want to do?”
“Sounds like you’re depressed.”
“Ya think!” Wow… That was aggressive. Why did I do that?
“About what?” she responds, ignoring my facetious remark. This woman is so together. I can’t be mean. But I just don’t want to explain again!
“Look…” I mutter. “Why don’t you tell me why I’m depressed.”
“Do you think that would help?”
“Because depression doesn’t have to be about anything. It just is.”
“When did it start?”
“When I was born. And now you think I’m blaming my parents.”
“They influenced everything about you. Of course, your disposition was in place first.”
I sigh. “They told me I was a mistake. Or rather…a ‘miracle.’ Seems I never should have been born, according to my mom’s monthly calendar. And they couldn’t afford me either. My dad reminded me of that again when I left for college. I still haven’t paid them back.”
“The deal. They raise me, put me through school, then I get rich and take care of them. I was an expensive insurance policy.”
“Are you paying out now?”
“Yeah, but not like they wanted…or need. I broke the contract I never signed.”
“Are they asking you for support?”
“They don’t have to. They need it. And my dad, he’s senile now, and every conversation we have, he keeps reminding me how much in demand I am, how famous I am.”
“No. And I always wonder if I died tomorrow, would anybody show up at my funeral. That’s why I don’t have birthday parties or let anyone talk about it at work. I don’t want to be embarrassed when no one comes to watch me cut the cake. I hate cake.”
“You are depressed.”
“No more than usual. I just hate cake. But a birthday pie’s okay.”
“Have you always been depressed?”
“Yeah, even before I knew what it was.”
“Let’s go back to your parents. Tell me about your baby years.”
“Do we have to? I wasn’t an orphan. I didn’t grow up in a war. No one died on me. I wasn’t abused, and I wasn’t hungry.”
“But you obviously were…emotionally.”
“I was abandoned.”
“They both worked. I was toilet trained by two, put into a nursery school five days a week, slept in the attic, they didn’t like me in their bed. Mom couldn’t drive so by five I was walking to kindergarten alone. At six my sister was born, a super high maintenance baby. That’s when I learned to cook.”
“Sort of. Dad was out of the house by eight and Mom was wrestling with my sister keeping her in the crib. I learned how to heat up milk, throw in some cocoa and make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Then off to school I went. But I didn’t know anything different so it all felt normal. I didn’t resent anybody or anything. I just did what I had to do.”
“Were there distressing incidents you’re not talking about?”
“Let’s just say there were times I wish I had some help…like unbuckling my rain boots in nursery school, or Mom coming to get me at kindergarten when it rained, or keeping the door unlocked so I could get back in the house.”
“Sounds like you couldn’t trust them.”
“They never spanked me.”
“But you couldn’t trust them.”
“Dinner was always on the table. I had enough clothes. Dad bought me a camera…bottom of the line.”
“But you didn’t trust them.”
“They sent me to camp, put me through college.”
“But you didn’t trust them.”
I stand. “NO! Because they never followed through on their promises! And they were never on time! NEVER! At the end of summer camp, I was waiting for hours to be brought home. Even the staff had left. And at airports, I finished homework while I waited for their car to drive up. They brought me to cub scout meetings late, and they were late for my school plays!
“You couldn’t trust them.”
“No. But that’s just little stuff. Nobody ever hit me, they bought me my first two cars, let me major in what I wanted. They did the best they could.”
“But you still didn’t trust them.”
“You keep saying that.”
“Have you said it?”
“Have you thought it?”
“Not until now.”
“Okay. So think about this: If you can’t trust your parents to be there for you when you need them, especially at five, who CAN you trust? WHAT can you trust? Why would you believe that everything is going to work out when it didn’t? Why would you feel secure about anything?”
“You think that’s why I’m depressed?”
“I think this adds to you general feeling of anxiety. I think you were emotionally handicapped at a very young age.”
“I don’t know. There are lots of people who had much worse childhoods than mine and end up just fine – famous scientists, athletes, movie stars, financiers…”
“And they have no inner struggles?”
“They got past them.”
“Did they? How would you know?”
“They don’t blame their parents.”
“How would you know?”
“I’m not gonna blame mine. They did the best they could.”
“But it still hurts, doesn’t it?”
I look at the floor, I look at the ceiling, I look at her picture on the desk with the little girl. Then I look at her. “Yeah… It still hurts.”
“Do you love them?”
“I don’t know. I just hope I cry when they die.”
“And if you don’t.”
“Then I’ll cry about that. I don’t want to talk about this anymore. And I still don’t feel like writing.”
The room falls into a hush. Our session is not over and she’s waiting for more dribble to come out of me. I look into her brown wise eyes. They’re letting me be ME, with all the crap I’m carrying, sounding like an ungrateful, immature son. Not a hint of judgment do I see coming from her; just a open heart and soul, a person who wants to help me, even though I’m paying her to do it.
“Can we go out for coffee sometime?” I ask, barely audible.
“Irving…” she responds with a hint of a smile, “I’m your therapist.”
“I don’t care. I love you.”
“Oh…” Jesus. That explains the no-daddy picture. My eyes raise to meet hers. “I still love you.”
Again, her kind smile. “Would you be terribly disappointed if we kept the relationship the way it is?”
“Do you want to stop the therapy?”
“Did I add to your depression?”
“Will you write again?”
“If you want me to.”
“Then I guess I will.”