I am thinking about calling my old psychoanalyst and I don’t know why. Well, I sort of do. He was as close to a healthy father/daughter relationship that I have ever had and I am home and there is a part of me that wants him to know I am back and that I am better than I was when I saw him last. I want him to know I am happy and not happy. I want him to know that I didn’t have the baby. Yet, that old feeling of failing comes back. That feeling that it is something wrong with me and that this speaks of some kind of intrinsic and unchangeable flaw in me. I want him to know that I am writing as the reason I started analysis was that I couldn’t write and my father had just died. I feel somewhat ashamed to say that I am not working and that I am not getting paid to write. I would like to go back to him in total triumph.
I saw him in a brick building in Santa Monica, California, just blocks from the beach, for ten long and transference filled years. I will never do the math on how much I paid him, no good can come of it and should you want me to collapse into a catechismic depression I suggest that you do the math for me. Superman has kryptonite and I have the balance sheets on my student loans and the paid amount of money I paid to my analyst. Now, if you asked him, and I suppose you can’t because he is not legally allowed to talk about me with you, but if you did and he could, he would say that he was way underpaid and that is true. I was not an easy client. I was secretive, highly sensitive and somewhat passively aggressively angry. But, that said, it was and is a lot of money to me.
I went Wednesday’s at 11 a.m. and Friday’s at 10 a.m. I would drive on the 405 freeway to see him and sit in traffic. I would search the streets of Santa Monica for someplace to park. I would see celebrities and would-be celebrities buying organic fruits and veg at the Farmer’s Market. I would walk blocks to his office among tourists and trendies who walked Third Street with an egalitarian lack of urgency. As I always feared I would be late I would weave and race to get past the men-children, who seemed to be a cliched array of screenwriters and homeless men who sipped Starbucks and sack covered bottles as they sauntered down Santa Monica, and the waitress-actresses who occupied Ocean Avenue.
I would sit in his shabby waiting room that looked like it was a 1962 Smithsonian time capsule of “Psychoanalyst Office, USA.” I would flip through his antiquated copies of Utne Reader and Psychoanalytic Journals that sat on his dusty oak credenza once I had flipped the light to let him know I was there. As I read about “The 50 most charitable companies to work for in Berkley” I would plan what I would tell him. When he would come out of his office with his 10 o’clock client we would begin our well orchestrated routine. I would avert my eyes so I would not see his last client. I don’t think I wanted to share him with anyone else.
Once his client departed he would give me a quick nod and somehow silently indicate that he was going to the washroom( his language, not mine). He repeated this ritual for 10 years which always made me wonder if he actually went to the bathroom each and every time or if he washed his hands or did some other psyche clearing ablutions in the men’s room. He would return and greet me as enthusiastically as his Nordic heritage and analytic training would allow. Then he would do the international hand gesture for “come on in.” I would rise and avoid eye contact with him as I carefully walked past him so that there was no danger that we touched. Not one thing about this changed in the 10 years that we met. He did update his furniture and eventually got a better clock radio that served as the privacy filter. Classical music was the only thing that kept me from eavesdropping on his 10:00. And, it was Mahler that kept his 12:00 from hearing about my mother complex.
I am not altogether sure if I can articulate what I got out of this therapy, well at least not in the context of this post, but I know that it gave me the experience of having a father like figure and there are times when I long for that again. At year ten of analysis I felt like I had worked on my father relationship adequately and that it was time to begin to deal with my mother. My analyst encouraged me to stay and I think he was genuinely sad to see me go. But, I felt a strong desire to start seeing a woman analyst and ultimately desired to quit analysis altogether and instead spend my free cash on important things like manicures and massages.
Before we moved to Chicago I saw him to tell him that I was leaving L.A. We briefly talked about my move and our work together. I talked about how difficult the work had been for me and how I imagine at times it was for him too. He didn’t disagree with me and that little sting has stuck with me the last few years. What I took with me from that session was that I was a difficult child. That was not an unfamiliar message for me. It was a painful one to get from my shrink.
Shrink? I am not sure why I called him that. I never called him that before. I think I did that for you. It was a way to minimize his importance and to show you a casualness about it that is completely at odds with the amount of time I kept going to him.
I called him a shortened version of his name that I added a “y” to for a little more casual irnoy. No, not to his face but when I would speak about him outside of the session. And, speak of him I would. I concocted entire narratives about his wife, his daughter and even what he did when he was not so lucky as to listen to me talk about my father and my mother and the “you won’t believe what she said this time(s)”…that filled our sessions.
Last night when He-weasel and I went to dinner I was reminded of a story about my father and for a moment I genuinely and actually missed him and for a moment I wondered what he would think of me. This may not sound uncommon to you. People do, after all, miss their deceased relatives. I, however, can count the times I have missed my father on my fingers and toes. That is when I think I started to move from random free floating desire to call my old analyst into a clear and conscious thought. I want to pick up the phone and dial his number, the number I still know by heart. I want to call him because I cannot call my father and I might want to have my state of babylessness, joblessness and dependency mirrored by him. Geeze, I could really could use some therapy.