Transcript of 27th Session between Charles Balis, M.D. and Ms. Katherine Lippard, Wednesday, November 26, 1997 at 4:00 pm.

Ms. Lippard: Hello, Doctor Balis. Happy Thanksgiving.
Dr. Balis: Thank you, Katherine. Same to you.
Ms. Lippard: Thanks. Listen, I was thinking--after I left here last week, I got to feeling kind of embarrassed at how I acted. But then I thought, "No, I'm supposed to do that stuff." That's kind of the point, right?
Dr. Balis: Yes, Katherine, that's just right. This process works best if you can feel free to experience and express whatever you're feeling. Here in the office, the normal rules of protocol are suspended so you can do just that.
Ms. Lippard: With the exception of replacing whatever I break.
Dr. Balis: Well, I'd rather you didn't break anything, but if it should come to that, yes.
Ms. Lippard: Deal.
Dr. Balis: So what's on your mind this week?
Ms. Lippard: Thanksgiving. And Christmas.
Dr. Balis: What about them?
Ms. Lippard: Old family memories--daddy mangling the hell out of some poor turkey, little bits flying off the electric knife; hanging construction-paper decorations we made in school; the time we strung popcorn and cranberries, eating as we did it even though the popcorn was stale and the cranberries sour. We hung it on a little pine tree outside, and the birds ate it. That was beautiful--flocks of little birds all over the yard and the tree, flittering hither and yon. I even remember Daddy teaching me what "hither and yon" meant while we watched. Then they all shat pink for days because of the cranberries, and the walk and Daddy's car were just a mess! And I remember when Daddy had to be away one Christmas, and we were sad. But Mama kept us busy and joyful until he got back three days after Christmas, and we had it then, because we had saved it for him. I remember Mama wanted an artificial tree, but Daddy wouldn't hear of it. He insisted we get a real one every year, then he lectured us all about fire safety and keeping it watered. I can remember the smell...I can smell it right now. There were always a few needles that got stuck in the carpet, and it was absolute hell to get them out. And cookies...Mama baked all kinds of cookies for Christmas, and the house smelled just incredible. I walked into a bakery last weekend, and it smelled like that. That's what got all this started in my head. There were Chris Chickies, and Sour Cream Softies, and gingerbread snowmen, and those stamps in the shape of Santa Claus and Christmas trees--we decorated them with sprinkles and icing. I expect a package of those in a few weeks. Mama's been sending us all some every year since we moved away. Except Joey, of course; he's still in town. Phil just gets a cup of tea and sits down and eats them all at once. But I save mine, just have a few every day, so they last for weeks. That's how it was when we were kids--there were cookies for weeks. Mama would make huge batches, and we weren't allowed to have more than a few at a time--can't spoil your appetite, you know.
Dr. Balis: No, certainly not. It sounds like you have some pretty nice memories of your childhood Christmas times.
Ms. Lippard: Yeah. Yeah, I do. Sometimes I think that seeing a psychiatrist, I should have some horrendous tales of childhood abuse to relate, but it wasn't like that. Mama and Daddy loved us, they took care of us, they were never mean. Certainly, they never beat us. Daddy never even raised his voice to me, not to any of us. Not that I can remember.
Dr. Balis: What about your mother?
Ms. Lippard: Well, Mama was a different story, though it wasn't that bad before Daddy left. In fact, when he was gone on business, she was extra nice to us, made sure there was always harmony while he was away. But she could still yell sometimes. Of course, the yelling wasn't the worst. I told you about how she would make us feel useless, and stupid, and guilty, didn't I?
Dr. Balis: Yes, you did.
Ms. Lippard: Damn, how did I get on this? I was remembering happy stuff. Oh, well, anyway. It seems like it got worse after Daddy left. Or maybe it was just because we were getting older, I don't know. Maybe we were getting less afraid of her, so she had to step up the level of terror.
Dr. Balis: Did you feel terrorized by your mother?
Ms. Lippard: Huh? No, no, that was...uh, just a bad choice of words. You know how you build up resistance to a drug, so it takes a stronger and stronger dose to get the same effect? It was like that, I think.
Dr. Balis: I see.
Ms. Lippard: Or maybe it was just that she didn't have Daddy's calming influence any more. You know, in the beginning, she was sympathetic to me after Daddy left, but after a while, I think she lost patience with it...with me. Finally, she was just barking at me to snap out of it, get over it. He was gone and that was that, and I'd better just learn to live with it. Hey...she cut me off from that, too. I was doing the whole grief thing, being sad about it, and she made me stop. Damn. Like I need another reason to be mad at her.
Dr. Balis: So you weren't allowed to experience your sadness, work your way through it at your own pace?
Ms. Lippard: Right. And I got no sympathy for it. Well, only a little.
Dr. Balis: How long were you allowed to grieve?
Ms. Lippard: Hmm. He called for a couple of months, then stopped, then...I don't know, four months? Maybe five.
Dr. Balis: So your father kept in contact for two months. Then after three more months of no contact, your mother told you to stop grieving, is that right?
Ms. Lippard: Close as I can come. Is that enough? I mean, what's the average?
Dr. Balis: Well, it varies. It's hard to say just how long someone should grieve; the only correct answer is until it's over. Obviously in your case, it was not long enough.
Ms. Lippard: You still didn't answer me. How long, usually, for this sort of thing?
Dr. Balis: It's not unusual for more than a year to pass before a child comes to grips with the loss of a parent.
Ms. Lippard: A year. So I've been shortchanged seven to nine months of grieving.
Dr. Balis: You could look at it that way. Alternately, the grief has been on hold since then--still there, but not allowed to surface because you were still held by your mother's command.
Ms. Lippard: Held? Well, I guess so. I mean, I believed her. She said I should be over it, so I believed her. Hmm...I don't think I could just start grieving again and be over it seven months from now. I think the time for that has passed; I've missed the window of opportunity.
Dr. Balis: Not necessarily. I think you're in an excellent place to do just that.
Ms. Lippard: What do you mean?
Dr. Balis: You're much more mature now--independent and able to make your own decisions and judgments. You have the whole picture, you have perspective, and most importantly, you're in therapy. What an excellent opportunity to experience your loss, talk about it, feel it without judgment, and work through it.
Ms. Lippard: Hmm. You're right. You've said yourself I do therapy really well; I should be able to put this behind me in no time.
Dr. Balis: I agree.
Ms. Lippard:, how do I start? Well, I've started already, of course. So what's next?
Dr. Balis: I think you should reconsider how much responsibility your father shares in all this.
Ms. Lippard: I thought you might say that. I noticed last time you wanted me to be madder at him.
Dr. Balis: I don't want you to be anything, Katherine. But I do think he shares in the responsibility for causing an eleven year old girl a great deal of sorrow. Hmm...okay, homework. I want you...
Ms. Lippard: Oh, come on, Professor! Homework over the Thanksgiving break?
Dr. Balis: I know, I'm an ogre. I want you to consider your father's part in this with an open mind. And see if you think he may indeed share some responsibility.
Ms. Lippard: Okay. Are you going to see your family this weekend?
Dr. Balis: Yes, I'm leaving tonight. What about you?
Ms. Lippard: No. Mama asked, but we were just up for the birthdays. Jake and I are cooking seafood at my house. He doesn't like his family much, either.
Dr. Balis: Well, have a good time.
Ms. Lippard: I anticipate a very quiet two days, full of laziness and lovemaking.
Dr. Balis: That sounds good. See you next week.
Ms. Lippard: Enjoy New York. Happy Thanksgiving.
Dr. Balis: Thank you. You too.
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