Amy’s voice is on the line before Ellen even hears a full ring.

“Thank God you called.  I’m at my wit’s end today, Ellen – he is On. My. Last. Nerve.”

Ellen sighs into her receiver; in her ear the air reverberates with a harsh blast. “What time did he wake you up?” She pinches the bridge of her nose between her eyes, pulls her hand slowly across her temple.

“Six-freaking-AM!  He wanted waffles.  Wouldn’t stop yelling until I made some waffles and then he knocked over the bowl of batter and it went everywhere. He spread it around the table with his hands; it was a fabulous freaking mess.”

“Did you try playing that puzzle that I sent you a few weeks ago?  Sometimes if you can get him to do something constructive with his hands—”

“I tried the puzzle!  He kept getting up from the table and getting into the cupboards instead.  He’s going through everything, pulling out papers and silverware and…” Amy’s voice is thick and wobbling as it trails off, fat clouds of tears gathering, ready to open and pour.  “Jason can’t stand it. He can’t sleep either and then he yells at me and…I don’t know if our marriage can handle this.”

“I’m sorry.  I know it’s hard.”  Ellen bites the inside of her cheek, a raw, smooth, sweet-tasting spot that she’s been making worse all month, an aching worry stone for these daily phone conversations with her sister. “Maybe it’s time to consider some other living arrangements for him.”  There.  It’s out.

Amy is silent in her ear, only breathing. Then a sniffle, a shaky breath.   Ellen listens hard, her body clenched, waves of energy pulsing toward the phone in her hand. Finally: “Maybe.”

“Poor dad.”

“Yeah.  Poor dad.”

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