That brother-in-law

Agnes leaned over the lunch table, her eyebrows bent together.

“My brother-in-law is here but he won’t speak to me.”

I had joined her table at the nursing home just before lunch was served. I glanced over my shoulder at a white-haired man staring down at the table before him. He didn’t look like he talked to anyone. “Really? That’s too bad.”

SeasonsShe nodded. “I’ve spoken to him several times but he turns away. And do you know what else? He’s changed his name from Bob to James!”

I knew her brother-in-law lived 300 miles away and so I took a deep breath. “That’s frustrating for you, I’ll bet.”

“Well,” she settled back in her chair, “I just go on. What else can you do?” She studied me for a moment and then leaned forward again.

“And then there’s a woman who denies her own children.”

How did I answer this one? “Really? That’s awful.”

Agnes tilted her head. “I know. I asked her one day about her children and she claims she doesn’t have any children. She even told me she had never married. How could she forget her own husband?”

“I can see that upsets you.”

“I went up to June and asked her, ‘Do you know Melvin Roberts?’ and she said she’d never heard of him. He was her husband for 40 years. How about that?”

I knew June, too. She sat at another table in the dining room, waving at newcomers and chatting happily with others at her table. And I knew she’d never married and her last name wasn’t Roberts.

“Do you think you’ve confused June with someone else?” I asked.

“Oh,” Agnes studied my face. “I can see they’ve convinced you, too.”

Once I would have defended my position. Once I would have tried to change Agnes’ mind. But I knew she’d forget our conversation tomorrow no matter what I said. Kindness won out.

“Well, family is important to you, isn’t it?” I said.

Her face relaxed. “I’ll never forget my husband or children.”

She probably wouldn’t. But the brother-in-law was in trouble.


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