This breakfast place is packed. I’m supposed to be meeting a friend. He’s nowhere in sight.
I wait ten minutes and my friend calls to say he’s canceling. If I had a nickel for every time he canceled, I could buy a Lincoln-Ford dealership.
The waitress says, “If you don’t mind eating with a stranger, I can seat you at a two-top now. Or you can wait forty more minutes.”
“I like strangers,” I say.
Right this way.
He’s an older man with hair like cotton. He wears two hearing aids, thick glasses, and tucked-in shirt.
He squints at me when I sit.
“Mister Dan?” yells my waitress. “Can this gentleman eat with you?”
He smiles. He didn’t hear a word she said. He adjusts his hearing aids and shouts, “HOW’S THAT?”
And so it goes.
He is half-deaf, but he tells me he enjoys his elderly hearing deficit.
“I can turn my hearing aids ALL the way down,” Mister Dan shouts, demonstrating. “And suddenly, I have peace and quiet.”
How about that.
His wife died two years ago. She was the quintessential woman. She took care of him.
She cooked big breakfasts from scratch while he piddled. Then he’d piddle through lunchtime. And every night after supper, he piddled some more.
Then they’d play Gin Rummy.
“Started playing when our kids were in high school,” he says. “They’d stay out late, neither of us could sleep until they were home safe.”
The couple kept a scorecard going for thirty-some years. When she passed, Mister Dan was ahead fifty-nine points.
“If I’d known she was sick,” he said. “I woulda been letting her win. She probably woulda murdered me if I EVER intentionally lost.”
Her death nearly killed him. His house became a tomb. His kids live out of state.
What good is piddling when there’s nobody to piddle for?
One day, Mister Dan refused to suffer from loneliness any longer. He started taking walks. He forced himself to make friends with neighbors.
He walks a neighborhood dog twice each day—a beagle named Dennis. Sometimes he keeps Dennis when his neighbors go out of town.
“He’s a good ole boy,” says Mister Dan. “Can piss a river, though.”
Mister Dan comes here for breakfast often. The waitresses take good care of him.
He hugs a brunette server. He asks about her kids.
Last month he started playing Bunko with some ladies in town. They are younger than him. He’s only played twice so far, but he’s playing again tonight.
“It’s kinda fun,” he adds. “But ain’t as much fun as playing cards with my wife. I sure do miss my honey.”
He’s lonely. He lives in an empty house. He does his own laundry. He’s Every Old Man U.S.A, sitting at a breakfast table alone.
Mister Dan pays his tab. We shake hands. He hobbles toward the door. And while I write this tonight, he is playing Bunko.
“Take care of yourself,” he shouts before leaving.
I shout back. But he can’t hear me. He’s already turned off his hearing aids.
I ask the waitress for my bill.
“Oh,” she says. “Breakfast was Mister Dan’s treat, sweetie. He said he liked having some company today.”
Well, Mister Dan.
So did I.
Lucretia Jones - November 3, 2017 9:29 am
I love you Sean of the South. You ground me in love and peace. “Take care of yourself.”
Connie - November 3, 2017 10:15 am
God bless him. Thank you for sharing his story, and reminding us daily to reach out to the people who need someone to listen.
Annie from Elloree - November 3, 2017 10:18 am
Marty from Alabama - November 3, 2017 11:11 am
Ok, kids that live out of town or even still live in town, you need to be making/taking time to go see your aging father or mother. Someday you will wish you could.
Carole Lea - November 3, 2017 1:46 pm
This story made me cry…in a good way. Just beautiful, Sean!
Jack Darnell - November 3, 2017 2:00 pm
I like this. I relate. I wore out hearing aids, now have two Cochlear implants. I still have my wife of 60+ years, I sure hate to think of her being alone, or God forbid, it is me left. But like old Dan, we know it will happen. I like how you relate. ? THANKS
Diana Williams- McAfee - November 3, 2017 2:10 pm
Beautiful Story! As always, you touched my heart. Although my husband and I are not as old as Mister Dan, My husband is basically deaf without his hearing aids, and hopefully getting Cochlear implants soon. I can relate to this story. I hope someone as nice as you would have lunch with my husband if he were eating alone.
Thank you for sharing your journeys with us.
Jack Quanstrum - November 3, 2017 2:11 pm
How Wonderful. There is alot of good people out there. Thank you for sharing their stories with us! It counteracts the bad stuff out there that the news media pilies out there everyday.
Steve Welch - November 3, 2017 2:54 pm
Damn Sean, once again you have taken a perfectly ordinary old man that is so typical of the people most of us overlook everyday, and given him personality and life. I look forward to your “slice of real life” pieces daily. Keep it up.
Thanks for making me cry, then smile.
Sam Hunneman - November 3, 2017 3:26 pm
I’ll just bet he enjoyed your company, Mr. Sean. And here in the north country, we are suddenly hearing southern drawls this morning… line workers imported from southern Ohio (really southern from the sounds of him!) and Kentucky come to put us back together since last weekend’s windstorm. We have a generator, and water, and a gas stove, and still, it will be a great relief to get back to normal. Time for another little donation to those poor Puerto Rican’s.
Dolores Fort - November 3, 2017 4:07 pm
Thank you, Sean. You did it again.
And, those of us ladies who have lost our husbands get lonely, too.
Ernest (Skip) Dalle Molle - November 3, 2017 4:31 pm
Linda Chipman - November 3, 2017 4:46 pm
Judy - November 3, 2017 4:57 pm
I can’t add anything to what has already been said … so I think I will just to say thank you.
Jo Brooks - November 3, 2017 7:55 pm
Thank you for the great story. Three cheers for Mister Dan and his efforts to make new friends and forge a life outside a tomb. I hope my mom can do the same; last Thanksgiving she lost my Dad after 67 years of marriage.
Pat - November 3, 2017 11:36 pm
Somehow I knew you would be treated to breakfast. That’s the way my mother taught me…do something nice for someone and keep your mouth shut about your good deed.
Donna Burson - November 3, 2017 11:48 pm
I really like this one.
Debra - November 4, 2017 12:57 am
So sad and lovely at the same time
Valorie - November 6, 2017 4:59 pm
Love your writing style.