I married a shrink

Posted on October 26, 2010


I Married a Shrink

By Ophelia McKewan

Chapter 1:  Do you take this man…?

They say those who become shrinks do so hoping to solve their own personal problems.

They say that those of us who marry them are unconsciously seeking help.

I’m Philly. I married David. He’s a shrink.

Part of this story I’ve gleaned from my husband’s diaries, part from what he and others told me, but most of it from living with the man – for better and for worse.

Certainly David has problems and “ how the twig is bent so grows the tree.” Well as a kid his twig got bent, twisted and twirled. I think he sees patients so he can spend time with people who have more problems than he does. Peeking inside their tortured minds makes him feel almost normal. He lost an eye for peeking inside one of those minds. It was his left eye so he says “now I can only see what’s right.”

Ha ha!  He jokes about everything… including me.

We got married in the garden behind the Unitarian Church, just the minister,  his wife, and two friends –  one of  mine and one of Davids’s.  When the Reverend Jenkins asked me “Do you take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband to love and cherish as long as you both shall live?” I started to giggle. It took me a while to calm down and mumble, “I do”.

OK, so when I’m nervous I don’t cry, I giggle.

Well you’d think David being a shrink would understand. But oh no, whenever the topic of weddings come up he gets a cheap laugh telling how I burst into hysterical laughter when asked if I’d have him for a husband.

Makes me look like a flake!

My parents are both dead and it was several years before either of my brothers met David. First he met Peter and his wife Anne. Pete’s a geologists, not filthy rich but owns a couple of small Gold mines and some promising claims. Like all geologists he’s a perennial optimist so blabbers on about a major strike – always just around the corner. David lights up and wants to buy in. Pete says he doesn’t like taking money from relatives in case things don’t work out. David keeps pushing. Pete wavers, weakens and gives in.

David says: ” We can’t invest much we’re a little short of cash… at least  until Philly solves her drinking problem.”

I don’t have a drinking problem. Not even close.

But of course neither my bother nor his wife knows this. I tell them that David a joker. He winks. They smile nervously.

Now I’m not only a flake but also a drunk.

I could kill him. People don’t know when he’s joking. I tell him to leave me out of his silly stories. He’s not stupid. but now that he’s grown up instead of making funny faces and strange noises, like he did as a kid, he get’s attention by telling dumb jokes. He apologizes, promises to stop and does … until the next time.

The problem is he tells pretty good stories. People enjoy it. Fine, But leave me outa them.

In the beginning of his practice as a therapist he was a better story teller than a shrink. Until he learned the tricks of the trade depressed patients made him depressed. Anxious patients made him anxious. Confused patients confused him. He really didn’t know how to treat them so … he tells them funny stories. Some paients feel a bit better when they leave, but often don’t come back.  They can get better stories for free on TV. And of course some really don’t like his jokes – particularly the suspicious, paranoid ones who think people are laughing at them.

That’s how David lost his left eye. He told the wrong guy the wrong story.

The one-eyed shrink got a lot of publicity, pictures of David being discharged from Hospital with his head wrapped in bandages. Later photos of the handsome Doc with the black eye patch. I don’t want to sound insensitive but … it was good for business.

Shrinks tend to party together. I think they make the rest of us feel uncomfortable – we’re afraid they’ll read our minds. At one party I asked one of David’s colleagues why my husband has to turn everything into a joke? Like most therapists he blames everything on early experience, not Freudian stuff like hating his father and lusting after his mother. He say maybe David was the ‘psychological runt of the litter’, so attempting to get attention he becomes a clown.

That might explain it. As a kid he spent a lot of time making weird faces and noises.  David was born into a large clan of big frogs in a small pond. He was only six when his father died. He, his brother, sister and mother moved into the biggest house in town to live with his grandmother and grandfather. Gramp owned a large department store, part of a bank, several farms, his own grain elevator  and a mink ranch in Waymouth North Dakota – flat grain growing country near the Canadian border. People said that it was so flat that if your dog ran away it took three days for it to disappear over the horizon… the wind blew so hard it turned bottles inside out. But the sky was big and blue; the sunsets worth painting and the meadowlarks sang ‘fit to break your heart’.

After his dad died David’s mother got a job as head cashier at the big store so she and Gramps went off to work every morning  leaving Gram to raise the kids. There was never any doubt about what Gram thought  – her pet hates were dirt, drink and socialism. Whenever the Women’s Temperance Federation met at her house for tea Gram insisted David take the chair cushions out in the back yard and beat the b’jeusus our of them. Gram would grumble: “I’m sure I saw something crawling on Mrs. Roadatze shoulder.”

When David came home from Boy Scout camp she made him strip naked in the garage and hosed him down before letting him in the house. She had the maid boil all his clothes.

Gramp was Episcopalian and Gram was hard core Baptist – they went to separate churches. The Sunday schools met at different times so David was sent to both – too much religion. That’s probably why we were married in the Unitarian church – Unitarians aren’t sure what they believe. They built a new church in Bismark and spent two years arguing over what symbol to put up behind the pulpit… not a cross. Maybe a question mark?

When a new minister arrived at Gram’s Baptist Church she pegged him for a closet socialist. Being a died-in-the wool Republican she hated hearing ‘social claptrap’. Nevertheless she wouldn’t leave her religion so she moved from the front pew to the very last one nearest the door. That way she could still remain in HER church but get as far away from socialism as possible.

During the dirty thirties the hobos – the unemployed – rode the rails back and forth across the country seeking work. They’d drop off at towns and cities looking for jobs or handouts, leaving secret marks identifying which houses were generous and which stingy or hostile. Grandfather’s house got both marks. If Grandfather answered the door he’d send them down to the store to pick up warm underwear and boots and enough money for a meal. Gram usually gave them a lecture about thrift, cleanliness and hard work and sent them on their way.

Periodically and mysteriously Gram would go soft, she might actually let the maid feed one of the nere-do-wells in the garage.

David’s older sister and brother, and all his cousins were bright. David couldn’t spell and the only A’s he got were for attendance.

After his two sibs graduated from high school and left town David’s report card zoomed upward – but he still can’t spell. I asked his brother Ken what David was like as a kid. He remembered him making a lot of weird faces and sounds, he added on his fingers and of course couldn’t spell.

Everybody in the clan was surprised when David went to university, got a Ph.D. and published books…?

His sister Gracie said they must give away PhD’s in Crackerjack. She had a mean streak. When David bugged her she’d twist his ear til he cried. His right ear is still somewhat misshapen, lumpy like a wrestler’s.

His brother Ken said when they were kids snd he had friends over David would hang around in the background making weird noises until he got a kick the pants and disappeared.

Sometimes in order to get David and his noises out of  the house their mother made Gracie or ken take him with them. Ken remembers he and Gracie taking David to a movie ‘The Speckled Band’ – the bad guys wanted to kill the good guy so they imported this speckled, poisonous snake from India, drilled a small hole into his bedroom high above his head and late one night after the hero was asleep, to the gentle sound of snake charmer music, they released the lethal reptile through the hole. As it slithered down the wall toward the sleeping hero David took off for home on the dead run.

That night after he was tucked in bed Gracie snuck up to his door humming the snake charmer music.

That night David slept with Mum. Funny thing, for several years after that whenever David annoyed Gracie  he’d have a ‘nightmare’ – he’d hear the snake charmer music outside his door.

If you were smart you didn’t mess with Gracie.