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My Friendship with Norm
Hugh Tilson

Life at Carolina Meadows provides welcome surprises, and sometimes, surprising insights. Norm delivered both. There I was, singing happily in the back row of the MeadowSingers, our community chorus. Next to me sat a delightful guy, hunched over with a bad back, but still an enthusiastic fellow bass. “At least I got some of the notes right,” he said, critiquing his own performance of some of our more complex music with infectious good humor.

As fellow singers, we both enjoyed the music and the camaraderie during the weekly rehearsals. His enthusiasm for my now-retired solo voice was a happy surprise. How could I decline when he nominated me (during one of my occasional absences from rehearsal) to sing the solo for “Good King Wenceslas” in the Winter concert?

When the Spring concert rehearsals started, Norm wasn’t in his chair. I found him in the dining room during lunch, his hands wrapped in bandages. “They aren’t sure what’s going on,” he reported. I offered to help. A couple of weeks later I had a phone call. It was Norm: “I’m at Duke Hospital and I need some things from my villa. Would you be willing?” His call underscored for me the joy of helping a friend—no burden at all.

Immediately upon discharge from the hospital, Norm invited me to lunch. We talked about our lives and work and families and friends. I learned about his career in national economics policy, and his treatise on macro-economics. He offered me a copy. I told him I didn’t expect to understand it, but would be honored to have one because I had now witnessed his fine mind first-hand! And I told him I didn’t expect him to like my textbook on pharmacoepidemiology any better. Mutual chuckles. We made a date for a follow-up lunch and book signing in the fall when Judy and I got back from Maine.

I was more than a thousand miles away when I learned that Norm died over the Fourth of July weekend. He offered friendship in the finest Carolina Meadows tradition. I’ll be remembering that and celebrating Norm—maybe even with an occasional chuckle—as I take my position in the back row for MeadowSingers rehearsals in the fall.

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