By Tom Erikson
Although I have lived in San Francisco for over 20 years, I always return to New England at least once a year to see my family. They don’t come to visit me, so If I want to see them I have to go east. I’m the youngest of four children and all of us have struggled to find out who we are apart from our workaholic professor father and our shy English mother. For a while in the eighties my older sister Ann was seeing a therapist and it was agreed that the whole family would attend a session together to try to intervene in my father’s reckless spending on his new research institute.
This was the first time I directly confronted my father on his use of his work as a wall between himself and his family and it did not go well. He walked out on the session, angry, and got into his car and drove away alone, leaving us standing in the driveway wondering if we had done more harm than good. My brothers did manage to arrange for some of my dad’s university pension to go directly into an account for my mother, so the bills could get paid, but my dad wouldn’t talk to me for a couple of years after that. It was very sad for Ann who, perhaps more than the rest of us, felt the overwhelming influence of my father. As he stormed off there was a tear in her eye, and my mother tried to comfort her.