Dear Nick and Dear Nora:

So you agreed to a lunch date at the Biltmore a week in advance. Nora, with some — but not a lot of — trepidation made the initial move by calling Nick.

“Nick, it’s Nora.”

She referred to him by his real name rather than “Pinky,” so Nick knew she was calling in earnest, but he couldn’t guess what it was about. “Are the kids OK?”

“Why do you ask that?”

“We haven’t talked by phone since you stopped leaving nasty messages on my voicemail, so when you telephone and call me Nick instead of Pinky, I worry that something bad has happened.”

“As far as I know the children are fine; I think I would know if they weren’t — and what do you mean ‘nasty messages’ on your voicemail? I suppose I left a lot of messages for you shortly after we separated, but it was to remind you to do things I knew you’d forget about. OK … and sometimes I had to tell you how to do them. Are you saying you didn’t need my help?”

“Just before the first Mother’s Day after we split, you left a message telling me to send Mom flowers. Then you said flowers weren’t enough and that I had to personally contact her by phone — not with a card and not by email. You told me what flowers to order and where to get them. Then, you had the nerve to tell me that you were the mother of my children (thank you for that), and I needed to send flowers to you, too. The arrangement didn’t have to be bigger and shouldn’t be smaller than what I sent to my mother. Because you were going to call my mom with your own Happy Mother’s Day message, you would find out from her if the flowers I sent to her were better or worse than what I sent to you. Then, you said that as far as you were concerned, I could skip the phone call and the email in perpetuity.”

“And you thought I was being nasty?”

“Yes, and so do the 300 or 400 people who’ve heard the story.”

“You are such a sensitive man. Give me one example of something nasty I said in a message for you.”

“I don’t remember.”

“You say I left nasty voicemail messages, but you don’t know what I said?”

“Look, Nora. After the patronizing Mother’s Day reminder, I stopped listening.”

“You didn’t listen to the voicemail I left for you?”

“That’s correct.”

“Well, that explains a lot.”

“Like what?”

“Like the fact that every time I needed you to do something or I needed to get something or I needed to tell you something, I had to pay my lawyer to call your lawyer who would call you to repeat some twisted version of my original message. Then she would tell my lawyer what you said, and my lawyer would tell me what your lawyer said you said. After the message went through that many synapses neither my lawyer nor I understood what you had said. Nevertheless, you and I paid for each lawyer-to-lawyer transmission just because you wouldn’t listen to my voicemail.”

“Nora, did you call to chew my butt because I didn’t want to listen to voicemail you left for me more than two years ago?”

“No, of course not. You baited me and I took it. That’s a change. Look, we need to talk — in person.”

“Are you going to Uncle Frank’s funeral tomorrow?”

“Of course. Why do you even ask?”

“You weren’t at the wake last night.”

“Nick, you know I can’t stand your family’s wakes. Did they prop-up Uncle Frank?”

“Yea, my mom is taking care of the arrangements.”

“Where my poor children are once again exposed to your family’s primitive funeral practices?”

“Of course. They loved their Uncle Frank. They were a little afraid of him when they were kids because he was so eccentric, but they grew to love him.”

“So did I, but what a screwball — a lovable screwball, but a total nut. I think it’s genetic.”

“On behalf of past, present and future generations of my family, I take that as a compliment. I’ll see you tomorrow and we can have your face-to-face then.”

“No, Nick! Not at a funeral. I want to talk to you when your mind isn’t somewhere else. And tomorrow I’ll have to pay attention to your whole family — about 20 or 30 people I haven’t seen for two years. They are all goofy and they are all big talkers. Your Uncle Herb is the only listener in the whole bunch, and he’s the one I like being with the most. But tomorrow I’ll have to compete with a couple dozen extroverts to get his attention. I’m going to have to take a nap as soon as we’re off the phone because it’s exhausting to think about it. And our kids will be there. I’m going to have to take a nap after just describing it. Anyway, I need to see you for lunch. Call it a business lunch.”


“A week from today.”

“What time?”

“What time do you think? Let’s see … lunch? How about noon? That’s it, lunch at noon.”

“Did you say noon?”

“Maybe not. We should try to beat the rush. Let’s say 11:45.”


“The Biltmore.”

“So I’ll have to get a haircut and wear a jacket and tie?”

“They don’t do that anymore. They don’t care what you wear or whether you wash your hands. It’s the same everywhere.”

“I’m going to wear a coat and tie anyway.”

Nora said, “When we first came to Santa Barbara I remember the little old ladies waiting for buses and they all wore hats and white gloves. I had white gloves when I was a little girl.”

“Yes, you did. I remember. Back in the day.”



“Those little old ladies were as old as I am now.”

“That’s probably true, but you’re better preserved.”

“They’re all as dead as Uncle Frank.”

“Yes, they were old almost 40 years ago, so I think you’re probably right. Nora, are you sniveling?”

“I can’t remember the last time I wore white gloves. I haven’t had a pair in years. When did it all end?”

“When did what end?”

“It’s amazing we stayed together as long as we did.”

Nick disengaged, “So Nora, what I want to know is who’s going to pay for this lunch at the Biltmore?”

“You are.”

Your friend,

— Brian H. Burke is a certified family law specialist practicing family law and mediation in Santa Barbara. A researcher and educator in the field of divorce and family conflicts, he is also the creator of the Legal Road Map™. Click here for more information, call 805.965.2888 or e-mail Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.