Today I am honored to speak with Dr. Patricia Bay, Psy.D. She's a Licensed Marriage, Family Therapist with a private practice in Redding where she works with children, adolescents, adults, families and relationships. Prior to private practice, she worked for Child Protective Services, where she did sexual abuse investigation and gained the reputation as an expert witness in court proceedings.
Patricia and her husband, Richard, had two daughters and one granddaughter. In 2008, Richard became ill with the terminal brain disease Frontotemporal Degeneration - Behavioral Variant Type (known as FTD). Richard died in January of 2016. Since Rich’s death, two new son-in-laws and two new grandchildren have been added to the family.
Please join me in welcoming Dr. Patricia Bay to A News Cafe.com.
Although your professional name is Dr. Patricia Bay, but if you're OK with it, I'll call you Patty, OK? You can call me Doni, not Donielle Leilani, and we'll be even. 😉
Full disclosure, I find myself wanting to lighten up the start of our conversation after the sad ending of my introduction about you. How about if we start with some basics, and we can return to FTD later? You have also had some other recent sad news in your life that we'll address in a moment, too.
Yes, we can return to discussions about FTD, and more recent loss, later. In fact, I will probably be writing about it in my column.
You're known in the north state as a long-time therapist of high regard, but what are other facets of your personality and interests that might surprise some people?
Thank you, Doni, for the kind words. Music is one of my passions. I have played classical flute since I was 7-years-old and piano for the past 25 years. I began playing Native American Flutes and the Aboriginal instrument, the didgeridoo in 2007.
My husband, Rich, really wanted me to play and bought me my first NA Flute as a graduation gift for my Doctorate in Psychology in 2007. The sound of this beautiful instrument gave him a lot of comfort during his illness. He was also a drummer so we often played music together. Those will always be priceless memories.
Rich and I taught clogging since 1981 here in Redding. We had three exhibition teams; Shasta County Cloggers; Attitude Clogging Team; and Take That Clogging Team. The latter two, our junior teams, were national champions in clogging competitions. I choreographed their dances and taught the teams, as well as public clogging classes for over 25 years. Clogging is a huge part of who I am. Clogging is “in my blood” and in my daughters’ blood.
I have several other interests. I have decorated cakes since 1973 and have made countless wedding cakes for family and friends. It is a gift of love that I give as a wedding present when someone means a lot to me. I also do pine needle basket weaving. This is a hobby that has given me a lot of solace, especially during Rich’s long illness. I also love to garden and cooking is a passion of mine, as well.
You and I really connected earlier this year over wedding cakes. You were kind enough to allow me to learn about wedding cakes in your kitchen as you created a cake for your daughter's wedding. It was fun, and I learned so much. You gave me the confidence to go on and make a wedding cake for my nephew and his bride. Thank you for sharing your cake-making talent with me.
Clearly, you are one extremely diverse woman. I've seen your handwoven baskets, for example, and they are beautiful works of art.
Thank you. They are an incredible challenge and comfort to create.
I do have many other interests in addition to being a therapist, but being a mom and grandmother are my most cherished roles. Anyone that knows me will tell you that my family means everything to me. We have gone through so much together and we are all very supportive and close with one another. Rich and I were blessed with two amazing daughters and I count both of them as two of my closest people in my life. I would say “friends” but we are much more than friends. We are family and that is sacred. My brother and his wife and their kids, as well as my sister-in-law, Claire and her husband, are also extremely important to me. I also have extended family that I love dearly. My mom was also one of the closest people in my life, and I cherished all the time we had with her.
You speak of your mother in the past tense, which is extremely recent. You suffered the unexpected passing of your mother. I met your mom only once, at your daughter's wedding, but I was so taken by her beautiful smile, and her vitality. I am so sorry for your loss.
Thank you. Yes, my mom died on September 17. On Tuesday of that week the family celebrated her 90th birthday and had a wonderful time. She was laughing and talking and enjoying her family. She loved what she called "all my chickens in the nest." Two days later she fell in the bathroom at her independent living apartment at River Commons. She didn't break anything, but wrenched her back and was in extreme pain. Her heart simply couldn't withstand the pain and the medications to try to keep her comfortable. She passed peacefully in her sleep. It is how she always wanted to go. I think it is how most of us wish we could go.
I have always considered my mom one of my best friends. Many of my friends wished my mom was their mom. She was awesome. I miss her tremendously, but I am happy that she is kicking it with my dad again. They were married 63 years when he died in 2009. I also know that Rich met her on the other side and told her that she owes him a whole bunch of apple pies. I am happy for her. I am very sad that we all lost an amazing person here on Earth.
Oh, Patty, what a wonderful tribute to your mother, and what a gift that you had one another, that she was your mother, and you were her daughter.
In addition to being a daughter, you are also a mother and grandmother. How does being a therapist influence those maternal roles, or when it comes to your own kids, does all the therapy go out the window?
It’s funny that you ask if therapy goes out the window with my family. They probably wish that sometimes it would. I have told all of them, long ago, that being a therapist is not just “what I do,: it is an integral part of who I am. This is truly for all my other roles in life such as mom, grandmother, sister, etc. I am all of these things. Thinking that I can isolate one part from another and not bring all of who I am to any given situation, is ludicrous. When people say to their therapist family member, “Don’t therapize me!” They have no idea what they are asking. If you were an electrician and there was a power outage, would anyone say to you, “Don’t use your electrical knowledge during this situation.” Of course not. We are who we are and all of that goes into making up how we deal with the world. Knowing when to keep your mouth shut is probably the bigger issue. I’ve gotten better at that the older I become. (Smiling ruefully here ... LOL)
You and Richard were quite the dynamic duo. He was a highly respected attorney whose specialty was fighting for kids' rights.
I am so sorry, not just that he died so relatively early in life, but the way in which he suffered horribly with FTD - a disease I'd never heard about until I read your blog about it.
In my column, I plan to talk about in my column what our journey through the horrid disease of Frontotemporal Degeneration – Behavior Variant Type (bvFTD), taught me as a wife, mother and person, and what our family gleaned from the experience. I will hopefully be helping people understand bv-FTD, as well as caregiving a terminally ill person, Death With Dignity issues, grief, profound loss and weird, subtle nuances that go with these emotions. Things I never knew until I had to walk those paths.
What would you like us to know about Rich, and what happened to him?
Rich was an amazing man, husband and father. He was an attorney who represented thousands of abused children over 30 years and changed their lives. He struggled for at least eight years, most likely longer, with a tortuous brain disease. He fought valiantly and stayed for as long as he could because nothing was more important to him then his family. I miss him. I always will. He was my soul mate and father of my children. Our granddaughter, Allison, was the light of his life and made his final years bearable. In the end, he was hanging on as long as he could for her. I do not miss his brain disease. I am relieved for him, and for all of us, that he is out of pain.
How did you and your family cope with the illness, and your eventual loss?
This is actually a huge question, and one that I will devote some quality time to answering in my column. There are so many facets of what we dealt with and how we managed. I will be choosing really important things to discuss. It is like me, and it is my plan, to give deep, heartfelt honest discussion about my journey through Rich’s illness. He and I talked about this at length. He wanted me to tell people about FTD and about his choice for a Death With Dignity. He also desperately wanted me to live my life and to find happiness again.
Obviously, Patty, you're what I'd call a thriver, not just a survivor. And now you're taking what you learned and are educating us about FTD. Thank you.
It feels like a calling, Doni. I am supposed to help others by sharing what we learned, Rich, my family and me, about love, living, dying and surviving.
So, you deal with a lot of serious stuff. What do you do for fun, or to keep stress at bay?
My key stress reducers are music, family, friends, cooking, gardening and basket-making. I try to remember that life does not come with any guarantees. It can also be far shorter than we want it to be. I have learned to feel extreme gratitude for all the love that is in my life and all that I have .
I'm especially excited to be talking with you today because I'm pleased to announce that your columns will soon appear on A News Cafe.com. How would you describe your columns? What can we expect? Any surprises?
I am very excited to become a part of A News Café’s writing staff. I have a lot of plans for my column. I want to talk about REAL life. Relationships, love, loss, sexual issues, grief, terminal illness, Death With Dignity issues, family, fears… in short, REAL LIFE. My style is one of blatant honesty and sharing, with that additional perspective of being a therapist for over 30 years.
I've read your book, and your website, and really enjoy your writing. You have quite the topical range, from relationship and dating advice, to humorous pieces with a lot of truth about aging, our bodies and our perceptions, to even a sweet little piece called "Nappy" -- seemingly about a hummingbird, but the pushy little guy reminded me of a few people I know.
How much does being a therapist influence your writing?
As I stated earlier, the therapist in me is an integral part of all that I do. You will see it in everything I do. Since I write about my experiences, especially as they relate to most peoples’ experiences, the therapist part of me will always be there. You will know when that voice is present.
I'm delighted your column will be part of A News Cafe.com, and so appreciate your taking time to share yourself with us. What else would you like us to know about you?
By the time I’ve written my column in A News Café for a while, the readers will get to know who I am. I will be present in every piece. Since I like to write about real life, I will be sharing the good, the bad and the ugly. Let’s allow that to unfold.
Perfect! Thank you, Patty! I know it's going to be good. Thank you!