Transcript of 24th Session between Charles Balis, M.D. and Ms. Katherine Lippard, Wednesday, November 5, 1997 at 4:00 pm.

Dr. Balis: Katherine, come in.
Ms. Lippard: Hi. Do you like jazz?
Dr. Balis: A little. I'm guess I'm more into classical music.
Ms. Lippard: I haven't heard any good jazz in a long time. Jake listens to that one album all the time--it's tonic now--and Phil's into acoustic. So I was hanging around the house last night--nothing to do--and I decided to put on some jazz. Old favorites: Desmond, Coltrane, Brubeck. I lit some candles and sat back. Then it occurred to me that I'd like a nice, relaxing bath. So I took some burgundy to the bath, put in some oils, and lit more candles, and just soaked in the dark to jazz piano and saxophone.
Dr. Balis: Sounds nice.
Ms. Lippard: Yeah, it was amazingly relaxing. I'd forgotten how nice it is to just enjoy the simple things in life and let the rest of it go. I came to work today feeling better than I have in weeks. And I still feel it. I'll have to do this more often.
Dr. Balis: There's a good jazz club in the East Bay--a place called Yoshi's. They've got live music several nights a week. And there's probably some good clubs in the city. I can't think of any right now, but I'll try them for you if you like.
Ms. Lippard: That'd be great! Go to some cramped little room, smoke cigarettes, drink gin, sit back and just let the music soak into me...yeah, I want to do that. Will you go with me?
Dr. Balis: Well, you know I...
Ms. Lippard: Relax, I wasn't serious. It wouldn't do to mix your work and social life, would it? Still, if you weren't treating me, I think we could be friends.
Dr. Balis: I think so too.
Ms. Lippard: So while I was in the tub, approaching Blue Note Nirvana, I got to thinking about some things we said last week.
Dr. Balis: Oh?
Ms. Lippard: Yeah. Like how I never really got to come to terms with Daddy leaving, and how I don't allow myself to experience my grief.
Dr. Balis: And?
Ms. Lippard: I think I'm starting to understand why Daddy had to go. When we talked and in the letters he wrote, he told me how great it was where he was, how wonderful he felt pursuing his dream. I began to understand that he wanted us to come with him and that Mama wouldn't do it. I suspect that part of the reason why she told him to stop calling is that he was talking about me maybe coming to live with him. Well, I brought it up. But I was definitely going to visit. So what I think is that you were right--if we had continued to communicate, I would have realized that he hadn't deserted me and that it wasn't about me at all. He just had to pursue his dream, and he was trying to have it both ways--keep in touch with the family and go after what made him complete. But when he stopped calling, that solidified it in my mind that he had deserted us. And I began to think that everything he had said--about me coming up there and him not wanting to lose contact with us--was just a lie. It's the old "actions speak louder than words" syndrome, you know? He said he wanted to stay in touch, but then he didn't.
Dr. Balis: So you no longer believe he deserted you?
Ms. Lippard: I'm not sure. I don't want to believe that, that's for sure. But again, I'm torn. I have evidence both ways. On the one hand, he said these things, and I want to believe them. On the other hand, he let himself be bullied into losing all contact with me. And--here's the big one--if he really wanted to keep in touch, he could have gotten in touch with me later, when Mama couldn't stop him any more. He could have sent me a damn card for graduation or just a note after I turned eighteen or something. But he never did.
Dr. Balis: Hmm. Did your family move?
Ms. Lippard: What do you mean?
Dr. Balis: After he stopped calling, did your mother move the family to another address?
Ms. Lippard: Sure. We got the, we were in the apartment the last time I heard from him. We got the house--I don't know--a few years later, before high school, anyway. And Mama moved again after all the kids left. Why?
Dr. Balis: It could be as simple as he didn't have your new address.
Ms. Lippard: We were in the book. And I've been listed ever since I've been on my own.
Dr. Balis: Hmm.
Ms. Lippard: Of course, now that you mention it, once I left, he still could have called my mother and found out where I was. Oh, well. I still think I may try to track him down.
Dr. Balis: How would you do that?
Ms. Lippard: Private detective. I have the money.
Dr. Balis: Oh yes, I remember.
Ms. Lippard: I haven't decided for sure yet. So I was in the tub, thinking all these things, and I asked myself, "How do I feel about Mama now?" And the answer is I'm still mad. Only now, I have another reason, too. She purposefully kept me from visiting my father and maybe moving to Alaska with him. I didn't get to choose between them, she decided for me. Oh, I can hear the arguments: moving a child too much would be bad for her; the schools wouldn't be as good; the conditions are too hard; he'd be gone too much; a child should be with her mother. And that's all legitimate. But I didn't even get the option. And I'm mad that she made me think he deserted me. And I'm mad that she chose divorce over moving--she decided to split the family up and make us poor.
Dr. Balis: You said yourself that he didn't have any money after he moved. And it sounds like your father wanted to be in the wilderness in Alaska, where it would have been very hard to raise a family.
Ms. Lippard: Hey, who's side are you on, anyway?
Dr. Balis: I'm your advocate as always, Katherine. But I'm asking you to see all sides of the picture. In this case, your mother might have been right. Divorce may have seemed like the better option. Look at the education you got, the success all the children made of themselves. Are you sure you could have done that well in the wilds of Alaska?
Ms. Lippard: Yeah, yeah, okay. You're right on this one. I can see how that may have been the better choice. But I can still be mad about it, can't I?
Dr. Balis: Yes, certainly. Your mother made some poor decisions, but maybe she made some sound ones, too. But you were hurt. It's reasonable to be angry about those things. Let me ask you, did your mother ever discuss these things with you as they were happening?
Ms. Lippard: No. Absolutely not.
Dr. Balis: Did you ask?
Ms. Lippard: It wasn't allowed. Mama was sort of a despot. No one ever crossed Mama, or there was hell to pay. Not even Daddy. Maybe that's part of why he left.
Dr. Balis: What kind of hell?
Ms. Lippard: Oh, she never beat us. I mean there were spankings sometimes when we really deserved it, but she wasn't abusive. No, it was more the yelling, the sulking, the...uh, putting herself down. She would say things like, "You should know better than that, I'm such a bad parent--I didn't teach you that." Which of course made me feel like such a bad child because I hadn't learned it, because I knew she was the best parent you could ask for. Or she'd yell and yell and yell, making you feel just awful and worthless. No, Mama didn't have to hit us--she had words.
Dr. Balis: Words can hurt just as badly as beatings, and the wounds can last longer.
Ms. Lippard: Tell me about it. What brought that up? Oh, yeah, we never talked about Daddy leaving after he left or about him not calling. I couldn't ask, I knew she didn't want to talk about it. And she made him out to be the bad guy--he left, he stopped calling, and that's all there was to it. Of course she wouldn't tell me that she sent him away and told him to stop calling. I guess it was easier to let me believe my father had deserted me than to admit that she had something to do with it. She could do no wrong. I guess I can add that to my list of things to be mad at her about.
Dr. Balis: Hmm.
Ms. Lippard: Huh. Look...uh, I'm through with this topic for now, okay? I don't want to get all hot and raving about it.
Dr. Balis: This is the perfect place to do just that, if you need to.
Ms. Lippard: I know. But I don't want to, okay? I don't like it when I do that. It feels out of control. That's scary. I think I just want to be mad a little at a time, okay?
Dr. Balis: Fair enough. Do you have anything else that you'd specifically like to talk about today?
Ms. Lippard:, I did. Just a minute, I'll come up with it. You hate to see me shut my emotions down, don't you? Well, I'm not doing that this time. I'm going to stay angry just as long as I am angry, okay? I'm just not letting it get out of control.
Dr. Balis: Okay. Good.
Ms. Lippard: Oh yeah, I remember. It was about dealing with the grief--the grief at the loss of my father is something different from all this other stuff about desertion or Mama's splitting us up. It's just the normal grief process following a loss, right?
Dr. Balis: Yes, it can be like that--just the loss, not the circumstances.
Ms. Lippard: Okay. Well, it's been a long time since freshman Psychology. I remember there being steps: denial, desperation, acceptance...uh, blame.--something like that. Do you remember them?
Dr. Balis: I think it's denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. This process is most often associated with death. The survivor denies the death, refusing to believe it, sometimes gets angry at the loved one for dying, bargains--usually with God--for a return, experiences depression as the realization sets in that the death really has occurred and is irrevocable, and finally accepts the death. Not everyone experiences each stage. And sometimes, two or more stages can occur simultaneously. The first three stages often occur very quickly, but the depression can last for some time.
Ms. Lippard: Did you ever teach?
Dr. Balis: Why do you ask?
Ms. Lippard: You just gave me a college lecture on the subject. You even changed--you got all clinical, in some kind of professor mode. I think you'd be a good teacher.
Dr. Balis: Thank you. I taught a bit as a psychiatric resident, but it wasn't my avocation.
Ms. Lippard: So, stages. Well, I never could deny it--he was gone, simple as that. Although I did used to pray that he'd come back or that I could go there to be with him. That's your bargaining. Anger? I guess I'm in that now, although I'm not mad at Daddy.
Dr. Balis: Why not?
Ms. Lippard: Huh?
Dr. Balis: We're almost out of time, but I want to talk about that next time. Think about whether you have any anger toward your father for leaving.
Ms. Lippard: Homework, eh, professor? Okay. Maybe I'll do it in the bath. But I want to finish with this grief thing before I go. We covered denial, bargaining, anger. What's next--depression? I guess you could say I've been depressed about it for twenty years. Is that normal?
Dr. Balis: That's longer than usual, but it strikes me that this is the first opportunity you've had to really explore this loss. You certainly didn't get any support from your mother.
Ms. Lippard: No. And I knew I was supposed to be strong and bear everything silently. That's what Mama taught us. You don't get ahead being all emotional.
Dr. Balis: Hmm. But you stay behind by suppressing your emotions. We can work through your depression here, Katherine. The way you approach your therapy, it shouldn't take too long.
Ms. Lippard: Good. Good. I'd like to be through with this.
Dr. Balis: Well, our time is up for today. See you next week?
Ms. Lippard: Sure. Uh, do you know if Alex is coming today?
Dr. Balis: No, not today. Is something wrong?
Ms. Lippard: Uh, not really. I just wanted to apologize for slighting him last time I passed by. And I like him, he seems like a nice kid. Has he changed his time?
Dr. Balis: You know I can't discuss my other patients...well, maybe that's a bit too strict an application of my rule. He just cancelled today, but he'll be back next week, I think.
Ms. Lippard: Oh, okay. Thanks, Doctor Balis.
Dr. Balis: Good night, Katherine.
Ms. Lippard: Night.
Arrow, Straight, Left, Earlier Arrow, Straight, Right, Later

Button to Dr. Balis' Notes Doctor Balis' Notes on this Session

Button to Katherine Lippard's Transcripts Transcripts of Katherine Lippard's Communications
Button to Katherine Lippard's Patient File Katherine Lippard's Patient File

TCT Bottom Bar Links to Top of Page Pipsqueak Productions © 1997. All Rights Reserved.