AUGUST 17, 2007
LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON
by Troy Kroger
When I was a kid I wanted to be shrink when I grew up, like my old man. I used to hang out at his office sometimes after school. Mostly I just sat in the waiting room with the crazies and tried to hear what was going in inside the office, but sometimes when my dad didn't have a patient or went out for a minute I would sneak into his office and sit in his chair and pretend to be a shrink like him. I had these imaginary patients who came to me with their problems – like there was this dude who would only eat white food until I told him how awesome pizza was and then he was cured, and there was a lady who was always screaming at her grandkids to stop playing video games, but then I told her that video games were really fun and don't rot your brain and actually make you smarter, and then she totally got it and played them too and everyone was happy. For a 4th grader, I was one hell of a shrink. There was no imaginary problem I couldn't fix.
'Cause I was such a good therapist and my imaginary patients were pretty much cured right away, I didn't get why my dad's patients were always coming back. I thought maybe he was a bad shrink or something. He said that in his job you don't just write a prescription or slap on a band-aid and make everything better, and that lots of times therapy takes a while to work. I wasn't buying it though. I was sure he just sucked at his job and didn't want to admit it.
And the older I got, the worse he seemed. I know the police department sends my old man a bunch of their nutjobs and even though you gotta figure they wouldn't bother if he was total garbage, I still don't see him being this great shrink. I mean, aren't therapists supposed to be good at understanding other people's problems? Isn't that kind of like the number one rule for a therapist? Because my dad really blows at that. I mean, he can spit out all that "and how does that make you feel" crap and everything, but it just never seems like he gets anything. It kind of made me think maybe this whole therapy thing was just a massive waste of time.
But you know, I'm starting to realize that maybe all this head-shrinking and psychobabble isn't totally stupid. There's this one patient of my dad's who I'd seen around before, at my dad's office or sometimes in the bushes outside our house, and I knew the guy had some major issues. Every time I've seen him he's been rearranging magazines or cutting our grass one blade at a time or touching the tip of something with his finger – what's that about? I used to think maybe my dad just couldn't help him, and that someone should just throw him in the loony bin. But then I spent a little one-on-one time with the guy – let's call him Mr. M. – and I realized that yes, the guy's kind of cracked. But I actually helped him. Me. He was having a total freak-out, and I calmed him down. And I'm not even a trained professional, you know? I mean, I didn't cure him or anything, but I helped him. I bet my dad does the same thing all the time. No, Mr. M. isn't like a completely normal person or anything, but I bet without my dad and without therapy he'd be a million times weirder than he is.
I don't know if I would make a great shrink but I'm thinking maybe I'll give it a shot after all. It's not like I want to be like my old man or anything, but I figure if I could help a guy like Mr. M., then maybe I wouldn't completely suck as a shrink. I mean, if Mr. M. can be this awesome detective even though he's totally nuts in other ways, maybe anything's possible.