: Try Not to Worry, Dr. Leopold :

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an excerpt by Joann Kobin

Elaine McHugh, his noon hour patient on Wednesday, has gone to an African Violet convention in Atlantic City, left the home she shared with her mother, ventured far afield, and returned victorious. “I’ve met someone, Dr. Leopold,” she says, her face aglow with good news. He can feel his own heart quicken, a flush of anticipation. I’ve met someone. Knowing how evanescent new relationships can be, however, he moderates his pleasure: if he allows himself to want love and marriage for Elaine McHugh, he’ll end up sounding just like her mother. Still, does he feel pleased with the direction of the therapeutic work? Yes he does! Does he feel skillful and insightful and a tiny bit wise? You bet! Does he feel hopeful that Elaine McHugh will move out of her mother’s house, leave her job at the Registry of Motor Vehicles, and expand her social horizons? Yes, honestly, he does, but he diverts himself from thinking any further about Elaine McHugh and the happy future he’s presumably helping her to have. It makes him feel too good.

With two hours to spare before his next patient, he’s on his way to meet Curt Linscott, a child psychiatrist new to the area, for a swim and then lunch at the health club, which Lisa, his wife, encouraged him to join after his big 60th birthday bash. When he gets there – no sign of Linscott. There are two people swimming laps whom he recognizes: psychotherapists – social workers or psychologists, he’s not sure – who’ve sent their clients to him for medication. It’s something he occasionally does but prefers not to. He’s not comfortable prescribing meds to people he hasn’t himself seen over a period of time, and rebels against the idea of a steady diet of pills for kids and teenagers or the knee-jerk use of anti-depressants for everyone; he occasionally does it because he doesn’t want to jeopardize the good graces of his referral network.