Sunday, February 26, 2017

Family Shrink

I wake up around 7:30am and there is a slight drizzle outside. I’m meeting my uncle, my dad’s older brother, for breakfast at 8:30. The last time I saw him was at the Taiwanese National Psychiatry hospital where he works. Usually I pick my words like a cat tip toeing across a fence when I speak to him.

I get to the Pancake House and he is already there at a table waiting for me. He’s wearing a collared shirt tucked in to his slacks, on his wrist is an old Seiko he’s worn for decades.

“Hey Uncle Tony.”
“Hi Daniel!” he says extending his hand out to me smiling broadly. “You look good!”

“Thank you, how are you doing?”

“I’m doing well, just enjoying a short vacation with your Aunt.”

“How come she couldn’t join us this morning?”

“She’s busy meeting up some old church friends.”

“How long have you guys been in town for?”

“Just 2 days, staying until next Thursday.”

“Are you still working in Taiwan?”

“Yeah at the same hospital you came to last time.” He had let me go into the restricted psych ward and it was a little bit like a scene from “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”. The patients milling aong the long hallways would turn to him when we walked by, give a nod, and say “Hello Director”.

“I thought you were going to retire?”

“No, just a few more years and I think I’m going to move out here to the states. The air is much better and I would like to just work out in the garden.”

The server comes by and takes our orders.

“How are you feeling these days?”

“I’m okay, pretty much clockwork: painting and coaching. I was a depressed for a few months recently, but I think smoking weed helps with the anxiety.”

His brow furrows for only a second. “Didn’t California just legalize weed?”

“Yeah, would you like to try some?”

“No, no, no” he says laughing, “An old man like me shouldn’t be messing with that stuff.”

“I think you would enjoy it” I say half jokingly.

We catch up and talk about family and the things that have passed. The server brings us our food. He asks about my art and how things are going. I tell him that he should visit my studio before he has to take off.

“I would love to stop by, would this weekend work?”

“I can’t this weekend, I’m flying out to Vegas in a few hours, but any time next week I’ll be in.”

“What are you doing in Vegas?”

“A friend of mine is thinking about investing in some property out there and I’m just going along for the ride.”

“Do you gamble?”

“Yeah, too much. You?”

“Only once in awhile.”

“How long have you been practicing art now?”

“It’s been about ten years.”

“Time sure does go by fast. I’ve been looking at your new stuff, what’s it about?”

“Just something new, moving towards a more abstract style.”

“Well, I’m quite enjoying it and would love to see them in person. I’m proud of how far you’ve come along and hope you keep pursuing your talents. You’ve always been a very smart boy, if not a little rambunctious when you were young.”

“Thank you.”

“Your maternal grandfather was an artist right?”

“So is my mom.”

“Must run in the family.”

“Yes, I’d think so.”

“You know your father was quite an illustrator and designer himself before he had to work for the family business.”

“I’ve heard that before.”

“There are good and bad things about being an artist and having such an open lifestyle.”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s wonderful that you’re able to create your own little worlds and explore modes of thought, but you have to be careful.”

“Careful about what?”

“Well, I’ve had many creative patients become to caught up in the worlds they create and they lose a real grasp on reality.”

“I don’t think I’m that crazy yet.”

“I think you’re far from crazy, you just seem to be stuck on the past quite a bit. Just remember to have a balance to your life.”

“It’s a hard thing to do.”

“Yes, it’s not always easy. Are you still smoking cigarettes?”

“No, I stopped a few months ago besides when I drink.”

“That’s good, I didn’t quit until I was in my 40’s. Girlfriend?”


“You don’t want to be married?”

“Not really, no.”

“Why not?”

“Because I have to give up a lot of what I want to be with someone. I enjoy being selfish right now.”

“You don’t want any kids?”

“I would like kids, but I don’t think you necessarily have to be married to have them.” He seems disappointed when I say this, but I may just be projecting
. “It’s not like I have a real problem meeting women, just keeping them around.”

“One failed relationship, leads to another.”

“Even more reason to want to be alone.”

We finish our meal and make plans for him to visit next week. I have always enjoyed our conversations together despite my own hesitations about talking to a shrink. As we pay for the bill and say goodbye I wonder what he really things about the way my life has turned out. I drive back home to grab my bags and order an Uber to the airport, leaving for one of my least favorite places in the world.

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