a notebook that will never find its way home
Randy was 38 and had lived a life devoid of regret. Until he found the notebook anyway. Left behind at a coffee shop by a local psychotherapist. He found that out when he started flipping through it. Session notes.
At the top of each entry was all the pertinent information from each encounter; the patient’s name, Medicaid number, date of service, and beginning and ending times. Pretty dry stuff actually.
At least until he came to Joe Mustard’s session.
Under Progress Notes was the following;
Joe’s feelings of helplessness when it comes to his relationship with his wife continue. Today he wishes to explore his frustration with his wife’s cleaning of the house.
It went on like that for a few paragraphs, recapping prior visits and reviewing their goals, and Randy was about to move on when he got to the examples that the patient started to give.
His frustration centers on the fact that while his wife is home alone all week, Joe at work and the three kids at school, the only time his wife will clean is when they are all home. What she does when they are all away remains a mystery to him. I asked him to give me some examples. He started with vacuuming. He stated that the only time she vacuums is when they are all together in a room. Watching TV for example. He goes into some detail about how annoying it is and how he and kids can almost predict when she will “haul out the vacuum” to disrupt their viewing. The same can be said of their attempts to move to another room to read or play on the computer.
Randy was no psychologist but it seemed to him that the wife was just looking to be appreciated. She was simply in of need attention. The next part seemed to bear that out.
The same goes for dusting and putting things away. We talked about his wife’s need to feel appreciated and he was open to the idea of spending more time with her. He continued with another example, this time in the kitchen. According to him, the only time she will do dishes or clean the counters is if he has friends over. As soon as he offers them a drink or a sandwich she will begin to “crash around the kitchen” making as much noise as possible. It makes his friends uncomfortable and he is embarrassed by her behavior.
“Hmmm” Randy said to himself, scratching his chin. This last observation required some deeper analysis and he put the kettle on. Not once in all his years of HVAC repair had he come upon such a quandary. Once the water had boiled and the tea steeped he returned to the journal and continued reading.
It was his next example that threw me. At first I thought I had misunderstood so I asked him to repeat it to me. He did. “The only time she cleans the toilet is when I’m taking a shit.” A smile threatened to crawl across my face and it was everything I could do not to laugh. Then Joe started mimicking the way his wife would use the scrub brush between his legs and I couldn’t help myself. The way his hand pumped up and down with the make-believe brush was perhaps the funniest thing I’ve ever seen. “Water and shit splashing everywhere!” When he went on to describe how the stiff bristles kept scraping his thighs I thought I was going to burst. The worst part was that he was so serious and obviously traumatized by these incidents.
Wiping tears from his eyes and trying to compose himself, Randy suddenly felt true regret.
“I should have been a therapist.”