Empathy No. 024
08/05/02, Brawney off. 3:31 PM
DR. BRAWNEY: First, I'm glad that you found a way to work this into your schedule.
ELEANOR: There's a little flexibility in my hours, so that's not as much of a problem as I thought it would be.
DR. BRAWNEY: And I see you were able to persuade Roderick into coming back?
ELEANOR: He's not too happy, but he's level-headed enough to understand that this could help him.
DR. BRAWNEY: Okay. Eleanor, we might need to go into some areas that are sensitive. Would you be willing to discuss topics of a more private nature?
ELEANOR: ...I guess.
DR. BRAWNEY: That's good. I'd actually like to talk about Roderick's father today. You indicated that you know who he is, but he probably doesn't know that the two of you have a child together.
ELEANOR: Uh...You know, I haven't seen or heard from him in a long time.
DR. BRAWNEY: This is more about background. Knowing more about Roderick's heritage might help me understand the root of some of his problems, but it may help you as well. This was surely one of the most impactful relationships you've ever had.
ELEANOR: Yes, it was.
DR. BRAWNEY: Tell me about him. How did the two of you meet?
ELEANOR: Okay. Well...his name was Charles. It's funny, I don't even really remember where I met him - we'd just moved again, we moved a lot back then, and it was a much smaller town. I bumped into him a lot, and one day we were outside of this little coffee shop and went in, and...we were together for most of a year after that. It really is funny thinking about it now.
DR. BRAWNEY: What was so unusual about your relationship?
ELEANOR: Well, there's the age for one. I was only 19 when we first started dating, and Charles was older, he must have been...30, 32. And I never knew why he was so interested in me. He was athletic, he was charming, exciting, lots of friends around town. Why would he want me? Look, you have to understand what I was like back then, in high school. I was awkward, unattractive...I was a geek! I didn't have anything to offer someone like that.
DR. BRAWNEY: Was this your first serious relationship?
ELEANOR: It was my first relationship, period.
DR. BRAWNEY: Then he was your first sexual partner?
ELEANOR: Uh...that's a little...
DR. BRAWNEY: I realize that this is an uncomfortable area for many people. You don't need to answer-
ELEANOR: No, that's okay, it's just...Yes, he was my...my first. But it was very innocent at the start, I wasn't even sure if I was his girlfriend for a while. It was more like we were good friends, or maybe like he was my mentor or something. After a few months, I went to see him at his place...It's just that in my family, we didn't talk about things like this.
DR. BRAWNEY: You don't need to go into any more detail.
ELEANOR: It's just that I never thought about things like that, until after...and then it was a regular thing. And it wasn't dirty like I thought, I wasn't ashamed.
DR. BRAWNEY: How did the relationship end?
ELEANOR: Well, it wasn't dramatic. His life changed, my life changed, and that was it. We both moved on, or at least I thought I did. A few weeks after that, I was late. After the test came back positive, I tried to find him, but he was gone, he'd moved away. No one knew where he was, his mother had moved away before that. It was like he never existed, except I had his son.
DR. BRAWNEY: Has Roderick ever asked you about his father?
ELEANOR: Oh, he wouldn't, he's just not that direct.
DR. BRAWNEY: If he wanted to know, how would he try to find out?
ELEANOR: He might hint about it. When he was little, he'd go to birthday parties sometimes, and when we came home he'd talk about the parents, the fathers of the other children, and I always thought he was trying to open up a conversation. I wanted to wait until he was older, though. I have a lot of old letters and things from back then, and some of them are from Charles, but I didn't think he was mature enough to handle it, and once he was old enough, he didn't seem interested.
DR. BRAWNEY: What kind of relationship does Roderick have with his stepfather?
ELEANOR: Not much of one right now, I think Lloyd wants to be closer to him, but...I think I can answer your next question before you ask it, because it's something I used to think about and worry about. Roderick really hasn't had any male figures in his life. He was raised around women - my father died when Roderick was about eight, so there was my mother, my sisters, and they have daughters. I don't know, how could that affect him?
DR. BRAWNEY: Personality and identity are very complex, we can't break them down to a single factor like that. But how do you think it affected him?
ELEANOR: I mean...what friends he had were all girls. He didn't know how to deal with other boys, and when they got older, the girls didn't want to have anything to do with him. That's when he started having problems at school. I just always worried that maybe that's why he ended up like he is. He's my little man, but there are so many things I can't do for him.