This time around, the message was not so cheery: "Could you possibly call me as soon as you can? I have new information about my brother Paul."
Paul is an old friend, too, although I haven't kept in touch with him as much as I have Psychic Sue. I certainly never performed in any productions of Love Letters with him. However, he was a kind, loving bear of a man, with a love for old Three Stooges routines, and he had appeared in a few of the wildly amateurish mystery nights that I had written and directed (and sometimes appeared in) back in the days that I still had hair. His character was usually that of Scumbiscuit, a jovial French chef with an atrocious French accent.
Last I had heard from Psychic Sue, Paul had fallen upon hard times. He had been diagnosed with diabetes and as a result, lost his eyesight for some time, although two painful surgeries had partially restored that. He had even been homeless for a while, although Sue and family had managed to find him a good place to live.
Immediately, I called Sue back. Sure enough, the news was bad. After a short peaceful lull, things were tough for Paul once again. "He scratched his toe a few months ago," Sue told me. "And because he has diabetes, things got bad quickly. They've had to amputate that toe. But even worse, because circulation is so poor down there, the other toes started to die. So, they've made the decision to cut all of his toes off on one foot."
What could I say? I said the words that you say. To repeat them here would be pointless.
"Ted, the thing is, through all that he's been through, he's always maintained a good attitude. You know how he always was. Always smiling, always there to listen to other people. Never thought badly of anyone. But this one's getting him down. He's grown really moody in the rehab center. Still has good days. The other day, he told me that he had had the best day of his life, can you believe it? I asked why, and he said that they held a Halloween party for some area kids, and he had never laughed so much in his life. But there are other days...well, he gets down."
I waited for the next step. I knew that Psychic Sue was formulating a plan.
"So, I was thinking about the fact that loved the mystery nights he was involved in, and also Mousetrap. And I was wondering, do you have any photos from those shows he was in? He still talks about all of them, and how much he loved them. They still bring a smile to his face...so I was wondering, do you have any--"
Aha! "Actually, Z, yes, I do," I said, moving into the bedroom. Josie and I had kept good care to record all of the shows we were in, back in the days when we involved with Eldredge Community Theater. We took dozens of photos, and maintained beautiful scrapbooks that Josie spent hours putting together. When we left the group, under not-too-pleasant circumstances, we had kept them, fearing that they would not have been treated very nicely by the group that was then in power. So, yes, I had many dozens of photos on hand.
Sue was amazed. "Oh wow...if you could just find a way to share them with Paul, that'd be great. I'll be coming home for Thanksgiving, but I'm not sure when I could stop over. I'll be with family all day Thursday, and then we're visiting Paul on Friday..."
I took a deep breath. "How about if I go with you to visit him on Friday? I could bring the scrapbooks with me. He could see them firsthand"
You could hear the relief in her voice. "Ted, would you really do that? I think it would mean the world to him."
Absolutely I would.
It's nice to know that those old memories mean as much to someone else as they do to me. All those old friends and the silly adventures that people went along with me on. They were foolish and unpolished, but in many ways, those are some of my fondest memories, back in the days when I was young and extremely foolish.
It's time to pay it forward, I think. Seeing Paul on Friday...Operation Scumbiscuit...is going to be a pleasure.