It is done. The Trifecta in the big therapists office in the sky is complete. Donald Eric Arvidson passed away on Sunday, December 6, 2015.
I got my period at age 12. In the spring. That summer, something changed. I morphed into a depressed, sullen kid who had trouble with the simplest things. I told my mom, “Something’s wrong with me. I think I need help.” She never looked up from her computer work, “You’re fine. There’s nothing wrong with you.” That fall, I tried a feeble suicide attempt because, oh I don’t know- I was stealing my parents wine, drinking it on the bus to school, and taking very long hall passes while sneaking pulls of wine that I had stashed in my leather jacket sleeve in my locker during class. The police came, the ambulance came, they heard it on the very small town police scanner. So, the next day at school, thank God, more people were concerned with treating me with kindness and compassion more than scorn.
So, I, naturally, started to see Mrs. Chrichton, the school’s best counselor. I’d get a hall pass to go see her and I would go down and try to talk to her. Hmm, no wonder I can’t sleep. High winds and today was Don’s memorial. I digress. Mrs. Chricton could relate to me. She was a wonderful, tough, and loving woman, who, ultimately, recommended me to Don.
I was terrified. I’m going to see a shrink? I’m 14! I must really be screwed up! So, I go to Rochester. And I met, ugh, a man of smallish stature, blonde hair, blue eyes and a great smile. But I loved his smile, his openness, and his matter of fact, nonchalance. He also dismissed my parental unit. It was love at first session.
I came to know Don through his office changes, his relationship changes and my life teenage changes. I told him about the drinking. He introduced me to Nathaniel Branden- Romantic Love- and that not only did my secret, greasy heart desire it, it required and deserved some romantic love. He thought I might be Bipolar, but was hesitant to label me at such a tender age, so he sent me to Bette.
Enter Bette. I met her at her office in Birmingham. She laid out the MMPI for me. A week later, in her electric blue suit with leopard print go go boots, she gave me the results of my test. And I quote: “You see this peak right here? The one that goes off the page? That’s PTSD.” What’s that, I asked, horrified. “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. You have the stress of a Vietnam Vet in a POW camp. It was something that happened to you at a young age. Figure it out. This second peak? The one that almost goes off the page, but not as bad as the PTSD? That’s addictive personality. If it’s addictable, you’ll become addicted to it, so stay away from it. Oh yeah, and you’re bipolar.” She then turned on her heeled leopard print ankle booties, blonde, coiffed mane held high, and probably went to catch a nooner with Albert Ellis. No shit. She fucked REBT man. That’s what a bad ass Bette was. Don knew how much I idolized her, and on one of my visits to him, he gave me some of her books, mixed in with some of his. As soon as I returned home, the books went on the shelf, and have not left.
Mrs. Chricton passed from Breast cancer in the early double odds. Bette passed somewhere in between, and now Don.
I’d known Don for 20+ years. He was my father, friend, confidante, mentor and teacher. He taught me the value of loving kindness for not only yourself, but your fellow man, compassion, boundaries, that it was okay to be where you were at- as long as you were authentic about it, and that it was okay to be awkward. As long as you were authentic about it. No walls, open heart, big Leo. Big Grin. Big hugs.
No one will call me kiddo again. No one will give me heart to heart, soul to soul hugs. No more Don. But he went peacefully, quietly and with dignity and grace. Tough till the end. That was our don. We are going to, and do, miss him very much.
We last spoke in March. It was the last time we spoke. I knew it would be the last time I spoke with him ever. I found a picture of him Saturday. He was in his usual state- high on Valium. I tore up the picture. The one and only photo of Don I had, I didn’t want to remember him high. I wanted to remember the impish grin, the slitty eyes, the guffaw, the quiet soothing tone of his voice.
The trifecta of therapy is now complete. Heaven, or the cosmos has gained some great clinicians. Lucky bastards. I’d like to end with a Don-ism, or something clever. But it is what it is. Don was Buddhist. Light a stick of incense, not just for ones you have lost, but for life and yours as well. Nam ay oh ho ring gay quo…