The Therapist Emeritus has a breakthrough


Mother Earth continued to moan and groan for a few long minutes, like the old lady she was; long enough for even the newcomers to get used to it and realize they weren’t going to die. No earthquake followed, even though the scientist-types insisted the sounds were earthquake related. No volcano blew its top, even though the more imaginative envisioned fire and brimstone. If there was an apocalypse, it passed by the Epiphany Cafe. So, the Lisping Barista went back to work. Soon you couldn’t hear the supernatural over the blender.

It took longer for most of us at the Epiphany Cafe to get used to the fact that the Lisping Barista had said yes to the Geeky Guy. The event was as uncanny as wonderful. As dangerous as astonishing. It was the next step in a dark room. A jump into the cold water. If this could happen, then what else was possible?

There was one person, though, who knew it was going to happen. She knew because she had set it up. She knew because she was a master head shrinker of the eclectic school of Narrative Rogerian, Experiential Jungian, Integrated Lacanian, Interpersonal Freudian, ad hoc Cognitive Dialectical Behavioral Family Therapy. She knew more about you than you could ever know, and she hasn’t even met you. She can read your mind and tell you why you did the things you didn’t know you did. She could interpret the dreams you forgot. If she analyzed you, you’d stay analyzed. If she hypnotized you, you’d bark like a seal.

She knew because she, and only she, was the Therapist Emeritus.

There were other therapists in the Kenilworth area. There was a community mental health clinic up the road in Middletown where the staff were so busy that they did their paperwork while you talked. There was a pinstriped psychiatrist who was free with the anxiolytics until you got addicted, then he wouldn’t see you anymore. There was a score of young women in private practice who took more care picking out their outfits and selecting their office furniture than they spent on your anguish. There was a halfway house all the way out in the woods where the counselors would shout slogans by day and take a Bacardi behind a tree at night. There were self help groups, mutual help groups, and groups that were no help at all. There was a whole league of life coaches who would never utter a discouraging word. With its enchanted forests, hills that grind their teeth, caffeine addicted river running uphill, and well-insured, half-mad clientele, the area was a boomtown for therapists, a hotbed of holistic healing. The business of head shrinking was expanding in Kenilworth. All species of psych people flocked to the area, but none like the Therapist Emeritus.

Alas, she had recently retired.

The Therapist Emeritus had taken inventory of her 401(k), took down her shingle, and sold her couch on Craig’s List. She dutifully parceled out her clients to colleagues and planned to take up weaving. There was no special reason to weave, she was already a woolly woman with hair as curly, fine, and gray as a sheep. She thought she would like working with her hands, rather than her ears; spinning fibers into threads and threads into yarn, shuttling between warp and woof. The woven cloth would gather warm on her lap. She could lose her thoughts in its intricacies. Her cat would play at her feet. When it was finished, well, something would be finished. She had never finished anything before.

The Therapist Emeritus liked buying the materials well enough, loading skeins in her arms when she could have used a shopping cart. She insisted on assembling the loom herself and spent the better part of a week doing so, cursing at the instructions written in a language other than her own. Then, when it was time for her to make her first blanket, she found that the blanket would not make itself. She called her friends and invited herself over for tea.

Once she started going to tea, she forgot all about the weaving. Wrapping her fingers around the cup, slowly rocking in her chair, nodding and making encouraging sounds whenever they were called for, seemed to fit her better. She felt more at home doing that than she ever felt on the bench by the loom. On the bench, she had been a strand out of place, a loose thread, a dropped stitch. She was made for tea and trouble.

Because she was a reflective person, the Therapist Emeritus reflected that the way you spend your years changes you. Just as a laborer develops calluses on his hands, and may develop them on his heart, fitting him better for his work, so too, does spending one’s life as a therapist. It made her reflective, for one. It also gave her a capacity to ever so slightly nudge things along and sit and watch the rest happen. Blankets don’t get made that way.

The Therapist Emeritus had a lot of friends, but not enough friends to fill up a retirement, so she started calling her old clients. They were all glad to hear from her and told her stories about their new therapists. Nine colleagues talked too little, six talked too much. One had an annoying thing she did with her pen. Another seemed intent on the clock on the wall. Still another didn’t match his socks to his tie and one shoe was more scuffed than the other. No couch was as comfortable as the Therapist Emeritus’ couch, no one’s tea was nearly as hot, no one’s stress balls were quite as firm. The plants by the windows failed to grow and the books on the shelves looked like they’d never been read. There was something not right about her former client’s new therapists, nothing that deserved calling the ethics board, but still, something not quite right. It didn’t take long before the Therapist Emeritus started meeting her old clients for tea.

It turned out that the Therapist Emeritus liked her clients better than her friends and certainly liked them better than weaving; so she sold the loom and most of her fibers before she even had made a single scarf, leaving a ball of yarn for the cat. She volunteered to see her old clients gratis at the Epiphany Cafe and soon had a permanent spot in the comfy chairs over in the back corner, behind a potted plant. I often set up nearby, knowing good stories would follow.

The Geeky Guy had been one of the Therapist Emeritus’ old clients for years. They met twice a week. Lately, he’d been talking about being lonely, so she began a new nudging campaign.

The Therapist Emeritus was a nudger extraordinaire. She had found that it did no good to tell people what to do, make recommendations, prescribe courses of action. Instead, she would nudge. Soon the Geeky Guy was asking every woman in the cafe out on a date so that the Therapist Emeritus could observe. He thought it was his idea. Every woman turned him down until there was one left, the Lisping Barista. She’d been saved for last. Not because she was undesirable, but because no one thought he’d have a chance.

But the Lisping Barista said yes, surprising everyone but the Therapist Emeritus.

You might say, by knitting people together, the Therapist Emeritus already was a master weaver.


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S. Harry Zade

Writing a blog keeps me alive.

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