Early letters from Richard Chase to Dean Trivette display an underlying, and occasionally overt, teacher-student-like unequal power dynamic. Their age difference quickly caught up to Chase, however. As Trivette entered into adulthood and began the exciting journey of carving a life path for himself, Chase’s health and quality of life began to deteriorate. Chase’s perceptions of his situation illuminate the evolution of their relationship.
When Trivette was studying at Berea College, Chase would gently chide Trivette for his misspellings, his poor grades, and for not taking better care of himself. Their age difference and Chase’s teaching work influenced this well-defined early dynamic. As Trivette entered adulthood and came into his own, however, both shared musings, poetry, music, and art with each other, establishing a more equitable intellectual connection.
After finishing undergrad at Berea, Trivette got his Master’s at the University of Kentucky and worked in their library. Trivette moved to New York City in the 1970s and began work in the business sector there. To Chase, this change seemed drastic and incomprehensible. These changes, along with the lack of correspondence, reinforced the fear that he was losing their strong connection. Did he then realize that Trivette held power in their relationship and could ultimately end it?
This letter provides insight into the challenges Chase faced as he aged and his health deteriorated. Because of a visual impairment, Chase required that his outgoing letters be dictated and his incoming letters be read to him. This fundamentally altered the way in which Chase and Trivette communicated. If one were to read only letters from this period, one might conclude that Trivette was simply a former student and an old friend. Likely frustrated by this system, Chase wanted to visit Trivette and talk in person, but did not want to appear burdensome in his present condition, as evidenced by his reassurances that he could still provide for himself. The closest that Chase got to the passion and desperation he was able to exude in his earlier letters is the statement “I am practically helpless.” It is unlikely that the meeting in New York City ever came to fruition.