Yesterday, Don and I were in a small East Texas town having lunch at an old restaurant. This is a place where the waitresses know the regulars’ names and I was called ’hun’ –which I considered an honor. We were having a great time talking about whatever, when a tall gray-haired man, slightly stooped the way very tall people can be, took the table one over from us. As he moved, we saw he had carefully seated his much smaller very frail father–we assumed it was his father although I never heard him call him either by a proper name or dad.
This must have been a weekly ritual by the son brought back a plate of food, then went to get his own. How many times had the son gotten the same favorite foods his daddy loved? How many times had his father done this when the son was little?
Don and I looked at each other, and I know he was thinking about his father, as I was my daddy. More than just the older man’s translucent crepey skin, the stubble where a razor had missed a time or two, the white hair, or even the slight tremor as he lifted his fork. The old man proudly wore a Korea Veteran ball cap. For a very selfish moment, I wished that Don and I were able to share a lunch with our fathers just one more time.
I’m not sure the father got more than a few bites in at a time as many people stopped by to say hello. Usually I’m the one who will ask random strangers questions, but this time it was Don. He thanked the older man for his service to our county, and related that both our fathers had served in WWII. Earlier, I had mentioned the man’s unusual blue colored cap as well as patched medal, so Don asked. The son had to say that his father wouldn’t remember, in fact didn’t remember much at all.
As the waitress put the check on their table, she gave the old man’s shoulder a friendly squeeze and told him his lunch had already been paid for. I thought I saw a small smile. Then the son helped his father rise, gave him his cane and the two–one so tall and strong, the other shrunken and fragile–left the restaurant.
Don and I sat in silence thanking God for blessings granted.