About 20 years ago my old high school friend began a slow retreat from the world. She rejected her “stupid” siblings, eventually becoming estranged; she argued with her grown sons, alienating them permanently; and she found reason to dislike nearly every friend and acquaintance, old and new.
I recognized her depression early on, broached the subject infrequently and carefully, but never took the risk of making it clear that her future would be dark, painful and lonely. I didn’t want to argue, so I discussed the issues tentatively at best. I didn’t want to tell the truth.
Now my friend is critically ill. She has little income, her relatives avoid her, and her sons are cold and aloof. I am her only friend. And I live 1,500 miles away. She asks me how she became so vulnerable and estranged. Now I tell her what she’s done, though I realize it’s probably too late. I should have told the truth 20 years ago when I could have made a difference.
The AARP Bulletin's "What I Really Know" column comes from our readers. Each month we solicit short personal essays on a selected topic and post some of our favorites in print and online. Lee Warner is a reader from Valdosta, Ga.