Family Therapy Hospital Style

We were supposed to have family therapy at the state hospital with the therapists there so they could understand the family dynamic.   This would be interesting; the last guy who tried to heal our family gave up after about five sessions.

My father picked us up and we all drove the forty minutes to the hospital together, even my mother.  My sister and I shared the back seat.  There was some argument about what radio station to listen to, until my sister and I won out with the Top 40 channel getting airplay.  My father hated the Top 40 station, he thought it was vulgar.  I got payback when they played the entire ending to Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like the Wolf,” with the woman moaning over and over again while my parents studied the road signs pretending not to hear.   My cheeks burned in embarassment.

My brother was subdued.  It appeared he was either making progress or that he’d figured out the answers that these people wanted to hear and was returning them on cue when necessary.  My mother and father tried hard to present a united front, instead of the usual bickering that happened whenever they got within ten feet of each other.  My sister and I spent most of the hour sneaking horrified glances at the bars on the windows and the huge cobwebs in the corners.

He was coming home soon.  The therapist suggested that the plan would be to return him home to live with my mother and sister and I.  However, she admonished, the ideal situation would be for my father to assume custody of my brother.  This would allow my brother space and time without the continual challenges of having to negotiate living with two other siblings.  My father, who had recently moved into a much larger home with his partner, had made it clear that this option was not viable for him; no one was there in the afternoons for when my brother would get home from school.   I wondered how that was any different than our current living situation, in which my mother never arrived home before 7pm.   My brother didn’t want to move in there anyway, not knowing anyone in my father’s neighborhood.  Plus, if I’m being honest, the idea of living with my father and his partner couldn’t have been a positive one for a heterosexual teenage boy with anger issues.

We were being assigned a new therapist in a practice close to home, who would see us all, together, once a week until it was deemed no longer necessary to see us that often.   My brother promised that everything would be different now, that since he’d been in this hospital he understood what he had to do differently, and he looked forward to a chance to make things right with everyone.

I wanted to believe him.

Everyone left the close, rancid room with a plastered on smile as we walked toward our future.  I wondered if anyone else felt as fake about it as I did.


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