This third and final episode, Frank has arrived.
Between appointments, a rare event in my practice occurred. Frank’s friend, Jimmy, called me. HIPAA laws are strict and practitioners in mental health fields must follow them diligently. I took the call but couldn’t say anything more than to describe Frank as a customer. I politely hung up.
I called Frank to let him know about Jimmy’s attempt to reach me. I explained the laws I had to follow. Moreover, I told him that with his agreement, I could have contact with Jimmy. I wanted to encourage their connection. By law, if I consented, I could take a call from Jimmy and just listen. I could not pass on treatment information. Also, if Frank wanted Jimmy to join us for a session, again consent would allow that option to arise. I explained this to Frank during this session. Given his consent, he asked if Jimmy could attend. I said yes.
“I’m calling Jimmy right now. Is that okay with you?”
Yes, Frank. Frank gave Jimmy directions. Ten minutes later, Jimmy arrived. Frank shook his hand and Jimmy then shook mine. Welcome Jimmy. I explained the HIPAA laws more concisely. What is discussed here will stay here. Thanks for coming, Jimmy.
“Oh, that’s great. I’m so glad Frank made an appointment with you.
Jimmy, I want to point out that your humanity, your compassion for Frank as he described it, to me is astounding.
“Thank you for the compliment. I want to tell you that I feel some personal angst.
How’s that, Jimmy?
“After Frank and I hooked up at the grocery store, I had a moment of unease. Where was I all this time? Why hadn’t I contacted Frank or other people I knew “You see, I’m retired. My wife is still working. I spend time with my dog on walks and adventures. We weren’t close friends, Frank and I. The connection with him made me recalled other men whom I had not seen for a long time.
Jimmy, Frank described you as confident. What inspired you to do things like lunch and walks with your dog so early? Some people may have just said hello and no longer logged in.
“You know, (looks at Frank), I felt something in my heart that I can’t explain. I know there are many people who live alone. Some are alone. I want to tell you, Frank, there’s something about this moment at the grocery store that I treasure. You didn’t look sad or depressed. You just looked, I don’t know, stiff. I don’t have a better way to put it.
“I think you’re right, Jimmy. I do not go out much. When I do, I just want to get what I need and go home. I have to be honest with you, bumping into you at the store, well, like the man just said, most people wouldn’t have stopped.
Tears well up in both men’s eyes. I let them fully enjoy the experience. Frank, can you tell us a bit about your life up until you and Jimmy met? Frank took some tissues, dabbed his eyes and blew his nose.
“This life of mine has been hard on me. My wife passed away. She meant everything to me. My kids are great but they live far away and they have their own lives. I talk to them occasionally. I don’t want to not bother them or make them think I’m in need. They know this is my house. There’s no discussion about me getting closer to them. We talked about that option after their mother passed away. house is paid for in full. I just have bills and utilities. My income covers my expenses. Financially, I’m fine. Time has passed since my wife died. I’ve had to get used to living without her. We had friends, but most of them live their own lives, so I keep busy at home. I cook simple meals and go out to shop. I guess I’ve become a hermit. ( (look at Jimmy) You know, you said hello at the store. Nobody said hello before. That’s me, I guess. Maybe I d gives off an “I don’t want to be disturbed” vibe. Thank you, Jimmy, for coming into my life and wanting to include me in your life. I am blown away! Since we’re here, may I ask… is your friendship temporary?
“No Frank. The man here said I was assertive. I have to be honest, bringing subs to you, I surprised myself a bit. I’m terribly sorry that I haven’t been in contact with you all these years. I don’t want to step on your toes, Frank. If you prefer to be alone, I will withdraw.
“No, Jimmy, remember an old ad that said ‘thanks, I needed this.’ I needed you to open your heart to me I felt uneasy I guess your way of reaching out was new I want to have my time alone, yet you come into my life I need to be more social Thanks Jimmy. (Tears abound)
Can I tell you, Jimmy and Frank, you are both an example of change. Yes, people can change although some people may oppose this principle. Frank, you felt comfortable in your widowhood role, so to speak. I think you open your heart. This time presents a new stage in your life. Your wife’s death left you alone. I wonder if you mourned his death. I realize the sensitive nature of this subject. It’s up to you to decide. It’s an experience. I invite you to share if you think the advice can be useful. Reflect. In the meantime, I think you might want to consider doing some writing. Some people just write their thoughts, others write a daily entry; something to consider. I thank you both.
May peace be on earth and may it begin with me.