The Watch They Keep

neither out far nor in deep

George Hoffman

George Hoffman
Stow, Ohio, USA
November 27
Chock Full Of Nuts
"They cannot look out far, They cannot look in deep. But when was that a bar, From the watch they keep?" Neither Out Far Nor In Too Deep by Robert Frost Since my return to the big PX, I have lived in this parallel universe: a war veteran in a nation of civilians. It's like being in a fun house at a carnival. Only I'm on the other side of the distorting mirrors. That's why I have quoted the last stanza of that poem by Robert Frost and decided to change the name of my blog to The Watch They Keep. So my blog is a work in progress, much as I am also evolving and changing and coming to terms with my life and the world around me. I'm on the yellow brick road to The Emerald City. With one slight detour during my tour of duty in Vietnam. "Lions and tigers and bears. Oh my!"


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MAY 12, 2011 5:13AM

A Love Letter To My Lovely Social Worker

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Three and a half years ago I began this roller coaster ride called recovery. During a session with my social worker at the VA clinic, I related to her what a revelation women had become in my life. I was mesmerized by them in the rooms at meetings , sitting on the benches at the bus stops, browsing through books in the library stacks and waiting in the check-out lines of grocery stores. I knew how Moses felt when he saw The Promised Land. Biblical emotions. "When the hell did women get so beautiful?" I asked.

"Well, let me ask you a couple of questions?" she replied. "How old are you now?

"Sixty-one," I replied. "That was easy. Do I get a gold star now?"

"Not yet, George. One more question. As you know I told you during our first session I'm not an alcoholic. But I have been trained in chemical dependency." With a sweep of her right arm she pointed her hand backward to the wall where her framed degrees were hanging.

"But if I'm not mistaken, isn't there a point in a lead where the person tells when she or he stopped abusing alcohol and became an alcoholic?"  I just nodded. I felt my heart sink during her hand-modeling. It was definitely a bad omen. "Well, George, when did you actually start to abuse alcohol?"

"Abused?" I asked.

"Yes," she replied.

"Not crossed the line?" I asked again.

"That's how they say it," she replied. "Right. Not crossed the line." 

I stared at her and tossed my head from one side of my shoulder and then to the other side. I felt like a cat watching a ball of yarn being swung back and forth in front of me. But it was just beyond the reach of my paws. My beautiful, coy mistress perched in her throne was toying with me. 

"The grave's a fine and private place/But none, I think, do there embrace." 

"Are you thinking, George?" she asked.

"I'm thinking," I answered. 

"OK," she replied. She looked at me.

"I'm thinking," I said. "So take it easy, OK?"

"OK," she replied. 

There was a minute or two of complete silence in the room. She sat patiently waiting for me. She leaned back in her chair. At least her hands were folded in her lap. 

Suddenly a cartoon bubble popped out of my bald spot and inside it a 60-watt light bulb blinked on and off. I looked down at the carpet and then up at the social worker. A smirk appeared on my face. I shook my head in disbelief.

"Well?" she asked.

I laughed.

"What's so funny?" she asked.  

"I can't tell you," I said.

"Why?" she asked.

"You'll just laugh at me," I said.

"I won't," she said. "Go ahead." 

"Promise?" I asked.

"Of course," she replied. 

"Well, I was around sixteen," I said.

"Why was that so funny to you?" she asked.

"Well, I had this really crazy thought," I said.

"What was that?" she asked. 

"You couldn't be saying that about me," I said. "It's absurd."

"Try me," she said. 

"It's ridiculous," I said. "You'll laugh."

"I won't laugh," she said. "Promise."

"OK," I said. "Here it goes. But this is really wiggy."

"OK," she replied. 

"Are you saying chronologically I'm sixty-one," I said. "But emotionally I'm sixteen?"

"Bravo," she said. 

  Bravo? Did she just say Bravo? Yes, she did.

I just blinked my eyes at her. 

"You see, George," she said and began explaining in precise, clinical terms to me the concept of arrested emotional development. But gradually her voice faded into a drone and I stared out into space.

"George, are you listening?" she asked.

"Kind of," I said. "Well, not really."

"What's wrong?" she asked.

"I feel like you just threw a bucket of cold water in my face," I said.

"Well, it couldn't have been that bad," she said.

"That's easy for you to say," I replied. "You're the thrower. I'm the throw-ee." 

She laughed. I laughed.

"Is the session over?" I said. "I'm kind of tired."

"OK," she said.

But she instead spent a minute or two talking about what progress I was making in my recovery and how far I had come during the last several months. All I could think about was just getting out of her office and out of the building.

I was on the road to recovery. For some reason the phrase - on the road to recovery - reminded me of an old Bob Hope and Bing Crosby musical comedy from Paramount Studios. I saw them trekking over the sand dunes through the Sahara Desert on a camel and singing the title song from the movie as the introductory credits rolled.

I tried to imagine her as Dorothy Lamour with us in the film On The Road To Recovery. I'm sure I was Bob Hope by the way. It just didn't work and I sighed.

She reminded me of Katherine Hepburn in The Philadelphia Story. She was langy with long legs in her black pants and fluffy white blouse.She was tall as me with a trim and fit athletic frame. Katherine Hepburn all the way. And she had that killer smile. It made my heart skip a beat sometimes when I was alone with her.

How could she be so sexy yet so cerebral?  Why did she have to be married? Oh God, I'm in love with my social worker. A Goddess from Mount Olypmus throwing her thunderbolts down at a mere mortal. George, I am going to throw up on you if you continue with this infantile behavior.  

Finally she finished her prep talk to me and got out of her chair. She was beaming with a special glow. 

She never looked better and she always looked great. She was one of the most attractive and stylish women I have ever met.

Early in my therapy, I texted a young woman in the program about my beautiful social worker: I think I'm in love with my therapist at the VA clinic. Am I an incurable romantic or just another psychotic in the program? The young woman texted back: George, you're actually both. I couldn't stop laughing.

I wrote the social worker a letter after I moved to Akron. I told her how much she had meant to me: as a social worker, as a mentor, as an understanding surrogate mother and as a woman. And I wrote that I would always carry her around with me in my heart. And I knew she would never write back. She was strict about professional boundaries. Now I know I was writing her a closure letter.

I miss her. Of course it was about how sexually attractive she was to me. But she was also the conduit to the awakening of my spiritual experience in recovery. Sexuality and spirituality are intertwined for me in the process of recovery. In fact, I told her exactly that in one of our last sessions. She was a bit taken back by my honest confession.

"George, can I ask you a question?" she said.

"Sure," I replied, "Shoot."

"Are you sober?" she asked.

"Yes," I replied. "Do you have a breathalyzer in your desk?"

"That won't be necessary," she replied.

"I don't mind," I said. "Really. I've been in two homeless shelters."

And I started to laugh.

"Will you stop being silly," she said.

I couldn't stop laughing. I bared my soul about her being a part of my spiritual experience, and she thought I'm just loaded or stoned.  

Life is so strange, destination unknown, when you're on the road to recovery. 

She escorted me out of her office, down the hallway and into the waiting room.

"See you in two weeks," she said.

"Wonderful, " I said. "Can't wait."

"We had a good session," she said to the receptionist.

"Is that so?" the receptionist asked.

"Just peachy keen," I replied.

The social worker laughed and walked back to her office. 



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Very nice telling of erotic transference.
I can say from having been on both sides, that you cannot hear someone's hopes, fears, dreams, inner most thoughts without developing a deep bond with them. And you cannot be heard in that way without loving the person willing to listen to you. I think it's what makes therapy work. Even without all the theories and specialized language- the simple bond (with clean, well established boundaries) is what matters.
Lovely. It touched me in ways I can never explain or understand.
Two things. Why didn't I find you sooner is one--you're favorite'd now, for posterity. And second...The Philadelphia Story--anyone who says anything about that movie, for any reason, in a post is my hero. Of course...your reason is different from what my reason would be, but bless you anyway. And man, you write like I try to. (Ooops, Bukowski said not to try, didn't he?) I'll be readin' ya'!
You wrote nice words in this post. I think she felled in love with you.
Asigurare CASCO