Sometimes the stars align. An alarm clock set accidentally to an hour earlier than usual. A last minute change in schedule. Road construction forcing an alternative, and quicker route, to my destination. I was headed to a funeral. Running about thirty minutes early, I decided to grab a bite and some coffee. I stopped at a Hardee’s down the road from the little country Baptist church where the service was to be held. After ordering a low-carb breakfast bowl and a medium coffee I took a seat at a booth. I can’t remember the last time I actually dined-in at a fast food place. It was meant to be.
I sat and scanned the perpetually streaming emails scrolling in the window of my Blackberry. Just a few booths away, next to the window, was this guy sitting and enjoying breakfast. He was engaged in conversation. A laugh here and a comment there. At times he was animated and then serious and quiet.
Here’s the thing, though — he was alone.
I tried to appear inconspicuous as I looked for what must have been his bluetooth device or earpiece and a cell phone.
Nope. He was just talking and listening … to no one. My mind went immediately to what must have been a troubled or mentally disabled older man. I wondered what psychological condition could be attributed to his imaginary conversation. I also thought maybe he just enjoys his own company and might be a little eccentric. Who cares?
I tried to drink my coffee and pay attention to my own small world.
One of the servers was wiping down tables. She smiled as she approached mine and said, “Good morning.” I returned with my own greeting and wished her a happy day. She glanced over at the man by the window and turned back to me.
“He’s really okay,” she said as she grinned. She went on to tell me his story. She shuffled salt and pepper shakers and promotional place-holders while she talked.
“You see, he and his wife came in here every Tuesday and Friday for as long as I’ve been here. That’s been at least ten years. He ordered black coffee and a biscuit and gravy for him, and a raisin biscuit for her. They shared the coffee.” She went on to say that they always sat in the same booth. “They stayed for about an hour and always seemed to have the best time.”
“She died about four or five months ago. We didn’t see him for a month or so after she died. But ever since, he comes in at least once a week, orders his biscuit and coffee. He sits and at some point just starts talking to his wife, like she’s sitting right there.”
“At first we were a little worried, but then I thought to myself…‘What’s wrong with that?’”
I smiled and thanked my new friend for sharing this story with me.
That kind of love…
She is still so much a part of his life that he meets her for breakfast and talks and laughs and shares his morning with her. It’s the stuff of movies. No, it’s the stuff of life for a loving husband on a morning in a small country town.
The stars aligned and I got to be a spectator in this sweet and enduring adventure of love.
That kind of love…This kind of love.