June 05, 2019I'm sitting in my favorite booth at Whitey's, being attended to by Chelsea, a friendly, courteous and professional server. As it is something of a routine for me to drive out to Davison at least once a month, Chelsea has gotten to know me and my rather simple tastes.
A glass of water. A glass of chardonnay. The salad bar—a dinner plate, please.
I don't even have to utter the words. Chelsea simply asks me if I'm going to have 'the usual,' and I always say "yes."
I'm about half-way through the huge mountain of lettuce, carrots, onions, mushrooms, chickpeas, beets, hot peppers and sunflower seeds that make up the dinner-sized salad I created when two men walk by and sit down in the booth behind me.
Chelsea takes their drink order—and the dinner order of the older gentleman. The younger one, who appears to be in his 50s or so, needs a bit more time to decide.
I cannot see either one of them, but soon enough they elicit such emotion in me that I have to remove my glasses and dab my eyes with one of the extra paper napkins Chelsea always provides.
They are father and son. The father speaks in the loud, somewhat gravelly voice that some people who are hard of hearing sometimes use. He's telling his son about his own father, who he says complained about nothing.
He's thanking his son for picking him up and taking him out, telling him that every time a white vehicle went by his house he got up, put his jacket on and eagerly walked toward the door.
"I finally saw a Saturn and then knew it was you," the old man laughs. "I'm glad you come to visit."
The dad asks the son if he's eaten yet today.
"Sometimes I ask ya and you'll say 'hmmmm, well, I had a cookie,'" Dad chuckles. "You know you have to remember to eat so you stay healthy," he says.
The son laughs and says he eats plenty well enough, tells his dad not to worry.
Their easy conversation about this and that—things going on at the house, the son's job at a machine shop, plans for the afternoon and the weather—is bittersweet to my ears.
This simplicity, the every-day-ness of it makes me weep. I, too, once had such easy-going conversations.
The sky darkens and thunder rumbles through the building. The father and son joke about it, wondering if it's yet another train (the tracks are right smack next to the restaurant) or a storm rolling by. They determine it's the latter, and that's reason enough to order a beer.
Each of them do.
I'm done with my salad, and with my wine, but the storm, and the emotional storm within, prompt me to order another one, too.
As rain pours down the windows and tears flow from my eyes, I drink a toast to the gentleman and his son, and to my father and his father, whom I never met. And to my mother, and her mother—the strongest women I have ever known.
What I wouldn't give to be sitting at a booth in a friendly restaurant shooting the breeze and tipping a beer with all of them.
I want to get up and join the pair. To let them know how lovely their conversation is and how they should cherish each moment they have together for—as my husband often reminded me when I was down and choosing to stay there. "We don't have forever together, you know," he'd say.
Yes, now I do know. Every single minute is a gift. A most precious one, at that.
Email Catherine at email@example.com.
Catherine Minolli is Managing Editor of the Tri-City Times. She began as a freelance writer with the Times in 1994. She enjoys the country life, including raising ducks and chickens.