In Treatment 2-- Gina, week 5

Kate meets Paul at the train. She expresses her sorrow about his father. Paul says he appreciates that she came to the funeral and let the kids come that weekend. Paul tells Kate he wants them to try again, that he wants to come home, he loves her and he wants another chance. Kate says she is seeing someone and she might be in love with him, that she can't do it again. 

Gina asks Paul how he is as he enters her office. He thanks her for the orchid she sent. He said he was sorry she wasn't there. She says she didn't think it was her place to be there. He learned at the funeral from people who knew him that he liked to sing, which he had never known.

Paul says he thinks women are good at loss but men aren't, because for men it means they lost. Paul asks how he can help his patients when his own life is such a mess. Paul denigrates his ability based on his situation. Gina points out he can't observe himself as he does his patients. She asks about the funeral. Paul says he is glad the kids were there and he hopes his children will be better about death and loss than he is. He says he learned more about his father after he died than he knew. He has no idea really who his father was, all he knows is the story he has grown up with and he never knew he was an interesting man. Gina says Paul knew he was interesting man and that is why he was so angry he wasn't home. That it was his father who had the choice to be home and he wasn't. Gina remind shim that not everyone has it in him to be a good parent. And maybe his father chose to give himself to his parent instead of his family, that he chose to fight the battle he thought he could win. Paul tells her about sitting with his father in the last moments and talking to him as he died. He apologized to his father and then he says he started complaining about his life, as he always does, and when he looked up, his father was dead. Gina asks if he thought his father waited until he came to let go. Paul denied it.

Paul says there is more between parents and children than a connection, that there are obligations and responsibilities. He does not want his children not to be like him. Gina says she wants him to talk about himself and asks if the watch he is wearing is his father's. Paul sees the things he talked about to his father as whining Gina lists the things -- divorce, his children, getting sued. She suggests he might have been hoping his father would say something meaningful to him. He says he wishes he had done or said something besides taking his watch. Gina asks if there are things he wishes he had said. He said he would have asked if his father was proud of him. Gina says he is a good doctor and he would have been proud. Paul wishes he had gone sooner, that he was afraid if he had gone sooner, after a life time of hating him, his father would have loved him. That love wouldn't have meant anything if he hadn't gotten when he needed it. Gina says Paul won't do what his father did, because he knows love matters. Paul asks if she means his father loved him. She says yes, he loved him and he did what he did. And she is sorry he didn't get the father he deserved. Maybe he can be a father to himself as he is to his boys.

Paul looks at his watch. He says he has to meet Alex's father. He leaves.

He enters a restaurant where he sees Aex's father. Paul apologizes for being late. The father says he is only meeting him there because he didn't want to stand when he talked to him. He says the lawyer told him the suit could take years so he is dropping the case. That he will drop the case and take the settlement offered by the insurance company provided he write a letter taking full responsibility for Alex's death. Paul wants to know for what purpose. He maintains he won't use the letter or institute a malpractice suit. He wants something that lets him know Paul knows he has blood on his hands. He tells Paul to talk with his lawyer and let him know what he decides.

When a parent with whom we have a history of conflict dies without any resolution, we  are left to try to do the work of resolution after the death. And this is what Paul is struggling with. He had successfully kept his father at arm's length for most of his life, hating him for abandoning him and leaving him with his mother. Yet there has also been a lifetime of yearning which surfaces now in the regrets that he didn't really know his father. The tension of these contradictory feelings is evident throughout the session as he moves from scorn for his father to wishing he knew him to self deprecation. Perhaps the most telling thing he said about this was that he believes he didn't go to see him sooner because he didn't want to have his father tell him he loved him, that he preferred to hold on to his hatred because it would be too painful to learn of the love he had so wanted and needed as a child. Gina deals with all of this deftly by letting him talk because this is what he needs to do.

Paul did not tell Gina about his abortive effort to reconcile with Kate, a very painful blow to his hopes for reconstituting his family and thus somehow preventing his children coming to regard him as he did his father.

When he meets Alex's father, we see clearly what Paul had said earlier about how men respond to death and loss, that it is a defeat. Alex's father wants to win, one way or another. So now that he knows the lawsuit would be long and drawn out and possibly not winnable, he seizes on a letter of confession as the victory he will accept. Clinging to this need for a victory keeps Alex's dad from being able to complete his grieving, as much as any parent can do so, and keeps him from having to know his own part in the death of his son. All he knows is that someone has to be responsible and he wants Paul to be that someone.

Now Paul would be crazy, I believe, to agree to this demand. There would be no way to protect himself from the letter being used against him some time. And it is also true that the letter would be false. It may be that Paul could have acted to try to keep Alex from flying but that in no way means he would have succeeded or that Alex wouldn't have found some other way to kill himself. Paul needs not to become like Walter, claiming sole responsibility for something that is not his alone. Remember that Walter said that both he ad Paul have blood on their hands. I can't believe any attorney would recommend Paul accept this settlement.

© Cheryl Fuller, 2018. All  rights reserved.