Thursday, January 15, 2009

"It takes a long time to grow an old friend."
John Leonard

My father laments that the hardest part about living to be in his 90s is that he's outlived most of his friends. He shares an occasional lunch with some of the men he used to work with, but there aren't many close, true friends left. The ones that are still here aren't in any better health than Dad - some are worse. Lunch dates have to be scheduled around doctor's visits and naps. It's got to be tough. Dad uses the word lonely a lot.

This week was an exception. One of his buds, who has recently been missing-in-action, called to invite Dad and I out to lunch with him and his daughter. I was pleased for Dad. Kind of anxious for me. This not-so-social-nut doesn't fall far from the tree. I was happy that the men were going to get together for the first time in months, but the thought of making small talk with a person I didn't know wasn't too appealing. I didn't have an excuse NOT to go, so I pulled up my big girl panties and, if nothing else, looked forward to the Red Lobster Shrimp Scampi and cheese biscuits. A girl can get through just about anything life throws at her if she has a warm and delicate cheese biscuit in her back pocket.

My selfish fears were put to rest as soon as we walked into the restaurant. The smiles on the men's faces laid the foundation for the hour ahead of us. Old friends, embraced. Their daughters tentatively shook hands, but we both knew we were only there as witnesses to a long overdue catch-up gab-fest.

Well, okay, maybe gab-fest isn't exactly what transpired between one old guy who couldn't speak above a whisper and another who forgot his hearing aid. On occasion, either Patty or I worked as a translators to help clarify the point being made. Mostly we exchanged pleasantries and smiled. I ate biscuits. (I decided that the reason the woman sitting across looked to be in better shape than I am is because she drank water (as opposed to coke) and only nibbled one teenie biscuit half. )

The men discussed the engineering firm where they'd met so many years ago. "Just between you and me" one would say, then go on to tell a story about co-workers who could nicely be described as "pushy." At one point they shared brief medical histories. "That's what I have to look forward to," said Dan, looking across the table at my dad. We all kind of winced. The unspoken message being old ain't for sissies.

Like Cinderella's clock that chimed midnight, the call of the men's afternoon nap was not to be ignored. We finished sharing a huge dessert then made our farewells. We promised to get together again soon. One man grabbed his cane, the other his walker. They posed for a picture as the daughters looked on, knowing they were a part of something bigger than lunch.

I learned my lesson. Life is not always about me. (Could this really be true?)Maybe making small talk so someone I love can speak the language of his heart, is one of those things that people in relationship do for each other. I'm glad I was there to hear it.

Signing off, Merry ME

1 comment:

Sorrow said...

It reminds me of a play date for parents.
How many times did my Yaya sit in the lounge while i painted or tried to pound out a tune on the piano, while she tried to make small talk with women who looked down there noses at her in her hand made dresses and babushka.
Lessons of Love learned.
Thanks for the memories and smiles