In the waiting room we sit in silence. I have a feeling pressure, the emotional kind, lies heavy on his heart today. I wait for him to speak. Glass of cold water in right hand; eyes fixed on something down and beyond. The doctor didn’t help him as much as he usual does today. Silence. And then, “I’m in a bad way…” he reveals to me. I continue to look at him as I nod my head, somehow understanding the deeper shades of his meaning. “My heart is breaking,” Morris takes another sip so as to keep the rumble from erupting in his throat. “Yes.” I say. He looks at me with the sincerest and longing of eyes before continuing, “My girlfriend of 20 years doesn’t want me anymore.” He takes a sip.
Morris, a frail 80-something year old gentleman, some kind of retired editor/writer, is one of the most charming men I have ever encountered. We connected the first time we met, my second day on the job. He needs you to show him your lips when you speak otherwise he doesn’t know you’re talking to him. He’d always return a sincere smile when I’d smile at him. A deep resonant voice of a man, the kind that sounds like he’s smoked for 40 years before kicking the habit last year. “I was scared to pop the question because my other two marriages eventually collapsed when I did. I wanted this one to be different.” For the past 20 years, she has been there through thick and thin, bad and good – exasperated, he interrupts himself, “but I helped that gal so much -”
He takes another sip.
I nod my head. “The first time she brought this fella’s name up I knew this was different. They had an immediate connection.” Another sip and he looks up this time before he continues, “You see, I can’t…perform. Anymore. I’m getting older. He’s a younger man who – ” Another sip. “Yes,” I say softly. I reach for his arm and soothe him. “Twenty years…” he trails off into memory. I fade for a moment…
He whispers, “I’m angry. Very angry. I don’t have the strength to release this anger on my own. I thought maybe the doctor could help. And anger mixed with arthritis is killing me.” I suggest a therapist, “Maybe you just need someone to listen a couple of times a week.” He looks at me, as if I can be that candidate. I smile a, “Thank you but I meant a specialist.” He smiles and looks away. After a breath, “Yes…I think you’re right,” he says.
Last Thursday, Morris failed to come in for his appointment. We received a voicemail from his daughter informing us in a matter-of-fact-way that her father was taken to the Emergency Room early that morning and does not know when he’ll return to the clinic.