Thursday, January 22, 2009

a small moment of great significance

Because of crossed signals, I sat alone at a strange restaurant yesterday waiting for my college roommate--but I had my current manuscript in hand with a pen and made good use of my time editing and writing revision notes in the margins while ordering a sandwich and coffee.

While I sat in my booth by the window so I could watch for Kel's arrival (which is rescheduled for next week), a very frail old man came in, supported by a much younger woman. He was bundled up--scarf, coat, mittens, hat. He had clear plastic tubing running into his nose and pushed a walker ahead of his shuffling steps. I took little notice--family style restaurants cater to older folks and from the looks of the place, I was probably the only patron not using my AARP card to get a discount.

With all the care of a museum curator handing the dust of ancient Egyptian pharaohs, the young woman eased the man into the booth in front of me and sat across from him. A moment later the waitress came over and said, "How are you? It is so good to see you again." She paused and that's when I looked up. "I think I'm going to cry--I'm so happy right now." Tears welled in her eyes and I couldn't hear his answer. She introduced herself to the man's helpmate--his granddaughter.

Then another waitress came over and introduced herself to the granddaughter and welcomed the man back--from where, I do not know--but she also had a gentle way with this fragile man who somehow had returned to his restaurant where he was a regular.

The third waitress came over to the table, again expressing her pleasure to see the man again, introducing herself by name to the granddaughter. She also had tears in her eyes.

It touched me--the genuine affection for this gentleman. I wondered what he'd done to merit it--and what happened to make his return so wonderful for these waitresses. It pleased me to know that three waitresses care so much about their customers--they know the names of their regulars, the concerns of their regulars and make them feel at home
in those booths of the Apple City Family Restaurant.

19 comments:

  1. What a lovely moment.

    I've found that, in general, restaurant personnel can be amazing and wonderful. Whenever we go out with my father, one of us always pulls the hostess aside and explains that he's terminally ill. So, when he asks for his food in a certain way, he's not actually trying to be difficult, but simply trying to find something he can keep down. We also have to ask for a table near the rest room, as he'll get up a lot. And we have to explain why he's wearing purple latex gloves (problems related to his chemo). All that takes about two minutes and you wouldn't believe how helpful it is. Our server is usually unbelievably solicitous and kind.

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  2. I used to care for elderly people. I had one gentleman that I used to take for lunch to his favorite restaurant. The waitresses were always so happy to see him.

    I had another client with Alzheimers. I took her to church every Sunday for about a year. Everyone in the small church would come to greet her and gently remind her of who they were and tell her how pretty she looked.

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  3. What a sweet story! Maybe that old gent was the guy whose coat you had with the matches in the pocket--love that Hepburn coat you own, a classic, don't ever get rid of it.

    What is it about old people? I think it's knowing the roads they've traveled to get where they are, a deep respect for age and experience.

    Even though your original purpose was off, you had this great moment and got some editing done, so it's all good.

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  4. Thank you for sharing your experience.

    As a family, we are blessed to enjoy four generations of my husband's family living closeby. At our church, we always sit in front, "with all the grandmas and grandpas" my children say. And it makes me sad when older people aren't valued and acknowledged, because to us they are like gold. They know so much and have a gentle, composed way of relating to even the barely contained chaos that is my clan.

    I especially loved your label at the end. Thanks for a good read.

    - Julia

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  5. It's the best we can all hope for, I think, as we age, is to be the kind of people who have had that kind of positive impact in our community. What a touching story.

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  6. What a gift to witness that moment of human compassion and genuine concern for our fellow man.

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  7. "Wow...that's some heavy-duty security. A large district? "
    It's a tad on the ridiculous side at times. Imagine the adventure involved in picking up someone else's child after school.

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  8. How wonderful! Now I really need to more of the story. Why are they so happy. What has happened. Etc...

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  9. What a touching moment - and a wonderful observation.

    I look forward to someday being a regular in a restaurant.

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  10. Maybe you could write his story? And hi! I missed you!

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  11. Oh how I loved that.

    And now I want you to go back to that restaurant, wait for the man again, and take his pic so I can put it together with this story.

    (Please?)

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  12. That is such a beautiful story! I worked in a similar restaurant while going to college and I know from personal experience that many of our customers were like family to us. That is so great that you are working on a manuscript! You are a wonderful writer but how do you find the time to blog so consistently and keep up with other bloggers and read and take care of Team Testosterone AND work on a manuscript? I wish I had half your energy!

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  13. Ah, that's so sweet. That's the kind of thing I miss about my small hometown.

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  14. Apple City? I think I know where that is. How wonderful that they cared enough to introduce themselves, not just work. What sweeties.

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  15. ;-) THIS is why you got that present. I saw exactly what you did.

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  16. It's a wonderful world - especially at moments like this.

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  17. I don't have any real comment.. other than to say thanks for sharing that story :)

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  18. Yes, a very touching read, Melissa. At so many smaller, family-type restaurants, I, too, have watched this type scenario played out. During the 20 years or so I worked in my family's restaurant, the entire staff had a close relationship with regular customers, more especially, those more elderly. Basically, they were like family to us, stopping by for dinner.

    Thanks for sharing this post.

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Spill it, reader.