Saturday, May 31, 2008

Stories From The Office


I'm not sure where I'm going with this story or even why I'm telling it. I've convinced myself that it's okay to tell it, even though it's a real patient story, and I'll confabulate some details, but basically it's true. I haven't seen the patient in over ten years, I don't recall his name, I'm not sure if he's even alive. It's one of those stories, however, that sticks in my head; one I think about from time to time, one that makes me wish I could tell it to the people it involves.

So John (not his real name) was an elderly, but not old, gentleman. He laughed easily and found joy in many things. He and his wife of 53 years had many wonderful things going on in their lives.

He talked about his father who had come to this country from Europe. His father had very definitive ideas about how John should live his life and the rules were spelled out quite clearly. As a young man, John had fallen in love with a young woman and he'd wanted to propose-- his father disapproved and wanted him to put his education first. The young woman married someone else and my patient met his current, and only, wife. He'd long ago lost touch with his first love, but he did know what had become of her-- she'd become quite prominent in her own career and John knew that she still lived in town.

He had spent 54 years thinking about this woman, feeling he'd made a mistake, pining for the one that got away. His wife was kind and attentive, and they got along well, but he'd lived out his adult life quietly wondering 'What if?'

And why is this a blog-worthy story? In fact, I've wanted to write about it for 2 years, I' m not sure what has quite stopped me.

So the patient told me his first love's name. I knew this woman-- she is the mother of one of my friends. I didn't know her 54 years ago, but in the here and now, she's a cranky soul and, if you ask me, my patient is better off with the lovely wife he has. The funny thing is that my friend's dad is a lot like my patient.

I wondered then if I should say something. What would I say and would it help? I didn't, by the way-- I was afraid it might make things worse and that I would regret having opened this door. It's always a little awkward when my worlds intersect.

8 comments:

Jena said...

I think you were right in not telling your patient, as it would be violating the boundaries of the therapeutic alliance. It is interesting for you that you knew this information, and I could see exactly why you would want to tell him on a person-to-person level. I wonder if having this conversation with your patient would cross that boundary, briefly changing the kind of relationship between the two of you. If so, my thought is that difficulties often arise when there is an attempt to have a professional and non-professional relationship at the same time.

Dragonfly said...

Probably right not to tell the patient as you found out from a consultation. I can understand the temptation to though.... Difficult when worlds collide.

roses said...

Oh my goodness - what a beautiful story. Oh my goodness - so lovely!

I hope my hubby dreams of someone who got away. Some how the torture of that kind of dreaming, helps us through the miriad of 'today' in real life.

He's a lucky man. His wife is a very lucky woman.

I wonder do they know? How lucky they are i mean...

roses

ps. I hope you never have to tell them. But if you do, then, i hope it works out for them. The people in our dreams - they are real and they matter, and they make our lives so much richer.

Therapy Patient said...

My husband looked up "the one who got away" over 40 years earlier and left me for her following a 3 month telephone romance. He moved 1,000 miles away then found that his passion for her fizzled in a matter of hours. In the mean time he had wrecked my trust and said so many hurtful things that I was unable to settle back in to life with him when he wanted to return. I guess that is why I do not share "Roses" enthusiasm for the "beauty" of the story and how "lucky" they are.

I had a few relationships in my past that remain sweet memories, but pining for one who got away goes beyond fond remembrances of a youthful romance.

Midwife with a Knife said...

You totally did the right thing. It's hard to get through life without some wistful regret, and the life we have is the life we have....

Although... I am not sure I'd say the same thing were he single/widowed...

Anonymous said...

So I'm not sure it's a boundary issue to tell someone I know the person they are talking about. I thought my perspective might give him some relief, but I wasn't sure, and so I decided not to say something that might make things worse. This is one where I really did wish I had a crystal ball: if revealing my out-of-office perspective that the lost love was a creep would help, then it would be a good thing to reveal. Given that I couldn't possibly know that it wouldn't stir things up, I decided not to reveal this.

The weirder part-- and there's simply no issue here-- is that I can't reveal this to my friend, the child of the long lost lover. 10 years later and I haven't. No issue....

Clink thinks I'm treading towards dangerous waters here. Rest assured, I haven't seen this patient in over a decade, and the details have been changed to protect the innocent.

roses said...

Therapy Patient,
I'm so sorry it happened that way for you. Its a terrible thing that happened to you. I hope both of you aren't living in a "bitter" place and if you are? Well, I hope the sun shines on you and warms you all up.

Wouldn't it be nice if life wasn't such an exciting thing? It chops and changes just like the ocean. Frightening but oh, so beautiful all at the same time.

I hope you haven't forgotten how beautiful you are.

roses

Anonymous said...

I don't find anything so out of the ordinary in this story, in fact, there must been myriads of books and movies that use a similar plot, the unrequitted love, that first love of long ago. It's human nature to think, What if?, and it is also human nature to romanticize a loved one of long ago. This condition is also known as 'living in the past"--not good for one's emotional well-being. Yes, it would probably be good for the man to, once and for all, see for himself that his love didn't turn out so nice, but that isn't your responsibility. And, who knows, maybe if she HAD married him, she would be a different person today!