For Don and Helen

by Lila Kalinich

Don and Helen Meyers are extremely generous people. They share everything they have, even when there’s not much to go around. This occasionally creates a good deal of hilarity.

Take, for example, our 1989 trip from the Rome airport to the Hilton where the IPA was meeting. Having rented a car, Don and Helen offered my family a ride to the hotel. Of course, we accepted. So, we crowded into some version of a Fiat—Don and Helen in the front seat, my husband and I with our large pre-teen children in the back. Helen’s luggage occupied all the trunk space, so we had our bags in the back seat too. Then we got lost. Convulsed with laughter, we toured neighborhood after neighborhood, stopping here and there to enlist the aid of a passerby. Though we had no fewer than five languages among us, we spoke no Italian. Utterly failing at any communication, we followed many false leads. Don eventually bought a map, and we found our way to the Hilton where we emerged, ruddy with heat and cheer, to begin our Roman holiday.

In Amsterdam in ‘93 we knew better. We took taxi’s to the Kransnapolsky. Helen had one taxi completely to herself!

Sometimes that generosity is dangerous. Ask Arlene Kramer Richards about the time Captain Don treated us to an excursion in the Mediterranean in a 19 foot boat. Unlike the Fiat, this time there was ample room for all of us—Arlene, my husband, kids, and I—just not for the 8 foot waves that tried to displace us. Don has it all on videotape!! And imagine Helen, speeding to Monaco to show us around, craning to point out the precise spot where Princess Grace took the plunge.

But mostly, sharing what they have is very serious business to Don and Helen. They do it with a passion and a vigor that demonstrates that generosity is the organizing principle in their lives. They have given me memories encrypted in a rare lushness:
—lemon tress and umbrella pines
—fireworks on the promenade
—elephants in Aida
—weeds around Chagall’s grave
—mussels on Saint Tropez
—acres of flowers at auction
—HUGE mounds of ice cream near the old church ....

Ideas have a sensuality and a texture for Don and Helen. The concept of ‘‘psychic reality’’ will forever have the color of aquamarine and the feel of wrinkled skin after a long discussion of it in the Meyers’ pool. And they share ideas as happily as they share a great meal. (There have been plenty of those. Remember the $16 kir?). They have invited so many of us to the banquet table of psychoanalysis over the years, helping us to the meat and potatoes of classical work spiced with the flavors of the Orient and other distant shores. Like butter on a roll at Executive Committee, it makes the hard stuff go down better.

Don and Helen Meyers are a testament to the truth of the parable of the five loaves feeding the multitude. They give everything they have, generously, and, in a way, indiscriminately, even to the least of us—accomplished or not, ambitious or not, elegant or not, in favor or not. Ultimately these distinctions don’t matter much to them. As a result, they have leavened the entire community of psychoanalysis, particularly at Columbia.

Thanks, Don. Thanks, Helen. God grant you many years.