Sitting in the catbird seat

“Your column about the catbird appeared at just the right time,” the email from Bill began.

While I used to frequently exchange messages with his wife Kathryn and I knew they shared the site, I couldn’t remember ever hearing from him before. “Not the bird,” he continued, “but that marvelous feeling of sitting on top of the world in, as you explained it, the catbird seat.”

I had written earlier of meeting a changed man who happily explained his metamorphosis as coming after he began to attend Al-Anon meetings. A name I didn’t know, I quickly learned Al-Anon is an open organization for family and friends of problem drinkers and, now, other types of addiction as well. Meeting up with those who shared his misery had given Bill the support and encouragement he needed.

I can tell you I felt my doubts that any organization could be responsible for such an amazing transformation and in just a few months at that. Doubts were not however what Bill needed to hear. I kept quiet.

That was just as well for he eagerly continued.

“Al-Anon has been wonderful,” his message went on. “I needed these people and they had so much to give me. Know what?” Bill was off and running now. “It’s helped me to learn a lot about me too.

“When I was a newcomer, I found myself constantly annoyed by one of the other men in the group. There were few of us males so I felt an initial bond only I’m afraid he started to grate pretty fast for he tended to monopolize the meetings talking about himself. I’d have to sit and listen to the same stories week after week, usually only peripherally if even that related to the topic the group had chosen to discuss.”

I could easily imagine how annoying that would be for I’ve known people like that too. Had he learned what I had? I let him continue.

“It got pretty bad, I confess. But then, Susan, the most amazing thing happened. Somebody else in the group made a comment not really even to my point but enough to make me realize that I had been appreciating all the group had to give to me. Not that I was ever disappointed but I saw that I needed to give back too.”

I returned to Bill’s email after checking the dogs: “I started to listen to what this fellow was saying.

No, it didn’t get any better but I began to recognize his need to talk, to have somebody to listen. ‘How lonely he must be,’ I thought. He’d spoken often of all the friendships he had people he came in contact with but perhaps they too were put off by this vexatious tendency. Maybe all he needed was a friend. A real friend.”

I waited to hear what Bill would say next and wasn’t terribly surprised for I knew what a kind and outgoing man he was. They’d met two or three times for coffee and then started having lunch weekly, discovering many common interests along the way.

“Yes, indeedy,” Bill continued as I flinched at the expression. “I’ve gotten a new friend and, best of all and this is really the reason I wanted to contact you I have my loving wife back.”

That was happy news, more than I expected to hear. My heart raced, eager to share his joy.

“It’s only been nine days,” he continued. “But almost like old times. It’s a pleasure again to come home after work, finding a smiling wife and something cooking, not the drinker I’d grown to fear encountering.

“I’m no fool.” Bill found it necessary to add. “Nine days is just a bare beginning. But Kathryn has been going to Alcoholics Anonymous, has a sponsor and truly feels she can beat this. I’m doing all I can to help. Pray for us both.”

He reminded me then of the well-known prayer that has been universally borrowed from A.A.:

“God grant me the serenity

To accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.”

I promised to keep them in my prayers.

Susan Crossett is a Cassadaga resident. Send comments to