Old Friend Asks For Help

A friend of mine called me one snowy morning. She asked to meet me about a family matter. She came by my office with offerings of breakfast food. While we made haste of bagels, lox and cream cheese complimented with fruit and her special home-brewed tea, Nellie talked about her first cousins. Adam and Esther were spending the summer with Nellie and Tim. They lived in the south. Both had retired from their respective positions and needed a getaway. I knew Nellie to be a problem solver. People from all walks of life confided in her. Her calm demeanor and sweet smile would mitigate the most hardened person’s temperament. Today, however, was another story.

In between bites I futilely attempted to exchange dialogue. Talking while consuming food proved that multi-tasking wasn’t worthwhile. I decided to enjoy the treat and listen to Nellie. I was fairly adept at that multi-task.

“Marshall,” Nellie spoke, “I’m worried about my cousin, Adam. He and Esther usually spend a week with us in the summer. They enjoy a break from the scorching heat and love to go boating on the lake. We’ve gotten together for 10 years. We enjoy each other’s company. Esther called me a couple of weeks before their planned trip. Adam has been grumpy, mumbling a lot, cussing in response to minor offenses and generally ticked off. Both retired at the same time. They have no children. Listening to Esther, I shrugged it off and hoped their lengthy stay with us might have few disruptions. They planned to use our home as a second home.

“They’d be with us and, at times, go off on their own. Our kids are grown and on their own. Together, Tim and Adam have historically been free entertainment. They’re a hoot. They could be a duo stand-up comic routine. I peed my pants more than once. Well, Marshall, they’ve been here a week. Adam is, indeed, different. He does, in fact, mumble a lot. His face looks frozen from chronic irritability. He snips at Esther, which has brought her to tears. My usual calm has been challenged. A couple of days ago he yelled at Esther who had dropped a cup of coffee. She started to tear up. I tried to intervene and was met with Adam’s cold stare.

“This was a new experience. I’d never seen him this way. I talked later with Tim. He had to calm me down. Do you believe that? Tim took Adam out for a boat ride without Esther and me. Guess the guys did some talking. Tim got Adam to talk. He wouldn’t tell me anything. Damn, Marshall, am I losing my touch? Anyways, Tim somehow convinced Adam to see someone before the tension rose out of control. Then, Tim remembered that I knew you. He thought Adam might be more suited to talking with another guy. So, what do you say, Marshall?”

I swallowed the last bit of bagel before talking. Who said you can’t teach old dogs new tricks? I agreed to meet with Adam at a mutually appointed time. Tim planned to drive him to the appointment, then leave. We’d call him when we were done. Nellie sat back in her chair. “Whew! I thought you’d agree to see him, Marshall.”

Nellie and I go back a long time. We were friends and enjoyed talking current events over a beer or two. We met at an art exhibit. She and I caught each other staring at a piece of art that befuddled us. We started a conversation and her cynical humor brought me to tears. A couple days later, we were roaring. We broke protocol of how one is expected to act at an art exhibit. We’ve been friends ever since. We see each other only occasionally; busy lives. When we see each other, it’s a continuation of sick humor not shared or appreciated by our respective spouses.

Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.