The phone rang and I picked it up. It was my longtime client, James.
“How are things going with business and in your world?” I asked.
“I made more money than I ever thought I would have last year,” James replied. “And this year will be the same. Covid helped save our business. We are thriving. I am in escrow on another piece of real estate in Mammoth.”
“Wow, man, that is awesome,” I said. “Things sound like they are really going well.”
“Yes, for sure on the business side, but…I may have to put Jesse into a home,” he said almost apologetically, his voice filled with sadness.
“As he’s gotten older, and with puberty, it has gotten much more difficult to manage his outbursts. I need to start thinking about his future and not burdening his sister,” he added.
Jesse was James’ teenage son who had autism. He was pretty far on the spectrum and could even become violent at times. When Jesse was younger, he would run so much and so far that they had to fence in the family home.
“Jeremy, I am just tired, man. When did I get so old?” James asked.
James had been a client and friend for more than 20 years. He was now 56 years old and, from the outside, had it all figured out: he was a Triathlete, good looking, wealthy, and successful – at the helm of his multi-generational family business.
He also cared deeply for Jesse and his family and always worked so hard to do the right thing.
“I don’t know what I should do with Jesse,” he said. “He is my son. MY SON. But this is taking a toll on me and the rest of the family. What would you do?”
I sat there for a minute, sitting in my car in front of my house. James had called me on my cell phone a couple of times that week, but we kept missing each other. So, this time, I made sure to drop everything and answer, even though I was driving and pulling up to my house. I knew maybe it was important, although I had no idea the gravity of the conversation.
“James, you’ve always done and will do whatever is right for you AND your family, I said.
“But where you are today is not your fault. You’ve been given all that you can handle – and then some. And you’ve successfully navigated through all of it, creating a wonderful life.
So, when the time comes that you feel like you cannot do this anymore, then I am confident you will make the right decision for you, Jesse and the rest of your family.”
I paused. I heard him breathing, taking it all in, although he didn’t answer.
“Take a deep breath,” I added. “Go for a run. Get your mind free and come back with what is right for you and the family. No guilt. No regrets. I promise you that no matter what you decide, you’ll do it with Jesse’s best interests in mind.”
We sat on the phone in silence for what felt like an hour. Then, this successful, wealthy, tough-as-nails athlete began to sob. I sat there with him for a few minutes on the phone as he let it all out – years of built-up frustration, fear, and emotion. I said nothing. I just listened, there with him in the moment.
“Thank you,” he finally replied.
James and I have known each other for 20 years. We were friendly and I respected him, but we weren’t really close. So, I was honored and appreciative that he’d reached out to me and could open up.
He’d just needed someone to talk to, someone who would listen without judging him. Just to talk and unburden.
Sometimes that’s just what we all need.
There is no shame in asking for help. And there is certainly no shame in letting your guard down and letting people in.
Of course, it’s a life lesson that’s hard for us when we’re the one who is vulnerable and asks for help, but even more important for that very reason.
I knew James would do the right thing – for Jesse, for his family, and also for his own life so he could be healthy and happy.
I’m so glad he’d shared that with me – and very thankful that I picked up his phone call.