Somewhere outside Smyrna, Tennessee—several elderly people in wheelchairs sit parked on the sidewalk at a restaurant. They’ve just deboarded a nursing-home bus.
A herd of nurses in purple scrubs wheel the small army into the restaurant in wagon-train fashion.
In the dining room, the old folks take up four tables. Their wheelchairs are positioned in a long row.
One of the battleworn nurses explains, “You think this is something, you shoulda seen us rolling around the damn zoo.”
When their food arrives, everyone holds hands. An old woman in a wheelchair asks a blessing in a loud voice.
She says the same five-word prayer every old timer uses at a supper table. An ancient prayer which younger generations quit using a long time ago.
“Lord, make us truly grateful.”
I catch myself smiling. If you’ve never seen an old woman pray, you should.
Everyone mumbles, “Amen.”
Seated on my other side is a young couple. She is pretty, with dreadlocks pulled backward.
The man with her is wearing a fire-medic uniform—radio attached to his shoulder.
The man touches the girl’s hand and I overhear him say, “I was thinking we could go to the lake when I get time off, and finally have our honeymoon.”
“OH REALLY?” she says. “I’d LOVE that.”
Not long into their meal, his radio makes a noise.
In the back of the restaurant, there is a group of men, also wearing radios. They receive the same transmission.
The man kisses his girl. He calls his friends from the back, they leave together.
Minutes later, I hear sirens in the distance.
An elderly couple walks through the restaurant doors, holding onto one another.
She’s small, and walks with a hunch. He is wearing jeans, suspenders, and has oiled hair.
If I ever make it to old age, God willing, I will wear jeans, suspenders, oil my hair, and utter five-word blessings at the supper table.
They sit. They open menus. The waitress has to shout when she talks to him.
This makes the waitress laugh. Which makes the old man laugh. Which makes his wife laugh.
Which makes me resolve to buy suspenders after lunch.
The old man places his skinny arm around the waitress’ waist and gives her a sideways hug.
“Sorry, sugar bee, I’m half deaf,” he says. “I was in a war that made a lotta men deaf.”
I pay my tab. My waitress—named Amanda—asks if I had a good meal. She is young, with a sweet face.
I tell her my meal was perfect. Then, I ask if she’s had a good day.
“Sorta,” she says. “I’m kinda tired, I’m in my final semester of nursing school, I was up all last night, studying. Can’t wait to be finished.”
I ask what made her choose nursing school.
“When I’s a kid,” she says. “My mother died in the hospital…
“The nurses made a real impact on me, they were all so kind to me. After that, all I ever wanted to do is be a nurse for some little girl going through losing her mother.”
Well. Would that the world had more Amandas.
And would that this world could see these old people pray.
Lord. Make me truly grateful.