“God, Maurice, don’t you ever shut up? She’s obviously trying to work and you keep on yacking.”

Neither of us could see her but we heard her loud and clear.

Their relationship reminded me of my parents: constant bickering with only one doing the actual bickering.

It didn’t matter where she was in the house — she was listening to every word being exchanged, and my dad was the same way. You’d think you’d be having a private conversation and he’d appear from around some corner to impose his thoughts in a stern and matter of fact way.

I couldn’t get out of their house fast enough, but here…here I felt comfortable. I was needed and my presence had value to them. I never felt needed as a child. I don’t know if many kids do.

The longer I was there the more clear it became as to why Maurice gravitated towards me and never left my side. I listened to him. I was interested. Engaged. He would say something and I would follow up with a question, share my thoughts, etc…you know, have a conversation….whereas his wife (I think that’s what she was) was constantly trying to shut him up.

“Maurice, why are you asking that?” “Do we have to talk about that NOW?” “I don’t understand where you’re going with that question.” “Why are you bringing this up?” “Do you have a point?”

Her posture was erect. He was halfway to the ground with only a walker and tennis balls holding him up.

(I’d be halfway to the ground, too, if I lived under surround sound squabbling.)

Maurice was very interested in the technology I was using to complete their project. He had never seen a laser measure before and the idea of a small computer (an ipad) was completely novel.

He somehow took the technology cues to mean that I would be interested in hearing about how the house was retrofitted to be earthquake safe recently and he went on and on and on about lateral and uplifting forces, continuous load paths, and seismic this and thats. I wasn’t interested, but I’m great at multi-tasking and I never say no to learning something new, so I listened…and it wasn’t like it’d be too long before wife swooped in and shut him up anyway.

And she did.

“What does that have to do with this, Maurice? WHAT? Tell me.”

“Well, it might affect the drapery.”

I had to save him somehow, poor guy.

“He might be saying that the walls have more reinforcement in them than usual, giving the installer several more options when he’s looking for a secure spot to drill into.”

Total bullshit. I hate putting words into people’s mouths, but she took it.

At that point, Maurice’s presence become purposeful. He talked to me for the rest of the appointment uninterrupted.

It was probably the highlight of his day.

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