Monday, April 13, 2020

24 good minutes

Yesterday, we had our own small Easter miracle. I called Henry, and we managed to get through the entire call without mention of furlough vs. medical leave, or his rage about his hospitalization over New Year's.

I told him I saw him on the Facebook feed from his church. He wore his Sunday best pink shirt and did a reading in Spanish. We laughed when he asked me how he did.

"Honey, I don't speak Spanish."

"Yes! I forget!" He told me he read the Bible verse where Mary Magdalene encounters Christ outside the tomb, and he calls her by her name. It was very important to him to participate in the Sunday service. There were only three of them in church yesterday: the pastor, Henry and his friend Phyllis, who also did a reading and was his wheels to and from.

I worshiped with Henry at that church on Christmas, and there was no Spanish read. I didn't notice any accented English from the parishioners before or after the service. But Henry's condition has deteriorated since Christmas -- I don't know why, but it clearly has -- and I suspect this was a kindness on the part of the pastor. With no job to go to, to help define him, Henry has become less moored to reality. Being assigned this reading on such an important Sunday meant a great deal to my friend. (So good on you, Pastor!)

We compared our Easter menus. Patrick was making a feast for the household -- baked ham, spaghetti squash and a dessert made using a can of pears from the cupboard. I grilled myself a steak and had sides I picked up Boston Market (mashed potatoes and creamed spinach).

He got weepy when he talked about our mothers. Henry recalled that my mother loved decorating her house for Easter -- they met only once, but I swear he remembers everything she said. He still insists the first book he ever read was a gift from his mother -- Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. When he was in pre-school. I don't see how that is remotely possible, and if it was, I think it shows dubious parenting on the part of his mother. But whatever. Yesterday Henry was sad because that copy, the one Mother presumably placed in his 4-year-old hands, was damaged by mold and mildew.

I knew we were headed to Crazy Town. Tears never precede anything good with my friend. So I told him to preserve the book by wrapping it Saran Wrap* and said I had to go: Jesus Christ, Superstar was about to start on NBC.

I told him to tell Patrick and Reg "hi." I reminded him to eat, eat, eat! We said we loved each other.

I hung up happy. I must remember the lessons of Sunday's call -- keep it short and have an agenda before I dial (or, as if more often the case, pick up) so I can pivot back to it.

*Is that true? I don't know. I just wanted to divert him.


  1. That's an excellent phone strategy, Gal. These are difficult times for everyone, especially your Henry. I admire the way you tenderly take care of him and glad your call ended on a happy note.

  2. It's great you've discovered the strategy of brief, structured calls.

    And I'm happy you're happy!

  3. Book mold can be mitigated in several ways. One is to put the book along with a lot of baking soda in a plastic bag in the freezer for a very long time. Take it out of the bag and vacuum it. The mold usually dies and the book smells better. You can also kill mold by leaving the book out in the sun on a less humid day, but I found the freezer method works better. Maybe that's something you could tell him to try. It doesn't always work, especially if it is badly damaged, but it's worth giving it a whirl. And I believe he could have read Anne Frank at the age of 4. I was reading Wuthering Heights at 6 or 7. I didn't understand a lot of it, but I read it. I hope he saves his book and I'm glad your call with him went well. Thumbs up.