He’s old, sitting outside the restaurant on a bench. He’s got white stubble on his face, shoes that have no laces, and a tattered ball-cap.
If I am lucky enough to see old age, I will wear a tattered ball-cap.
I sit beside him. I’m meeting a friend for lunch here. There’s a fifteen-minute wait.
“You believe this great weather?” the old man says.
And the conversational ice is broken. Elderly fellas are experts at small talk. A lost art in today’s age.
One day, I want to sit outside lunch joints and make remarks about the weather.
We talk. I learn that he’s waiting for his daughter. He hasn’t seen her in a long time. She lives a few hours away. They’ve tried to meet for lunch several times, it never works. She’s busy. So he drove to her.
He asks what I do for a living. I ask him the same thing.
He says, “Used to be a mechanic, owned my own garage. Never been so happy to retire. Everyone thinks you’re trying to screw’em when you own a garage. Life’s too short.”
One day, God-willing, I will finish all my sentences with, “Life’s too short.”
During our chat, he checks his watch a dozen times. The hostess tells him there’s a table ready. He answers, “No thanks, I’m still waiting on someone.”
He’s a nice man, but I can tell he borderlines on being grumpy.
But when he tells me about his kids, all signs of grumpiness vanish. He talks about his daughter—she’s an interior decorator for famous people whose names he can’t remember. He tells me how many grandbabies he has. Three.
His cellphone rings.
He slides on reading glasses to answer. He shouts into the receiver. “Can I help you?”
I will answer phones by shouting.
He listens. He frowns. “Of course, darling,” he says. “Oh, sure, I understand. No, don’t worry. We’ll do it some other time…”
He finishes by saying, “I love you.” And he tucks the phone into his pocket.
It was her. She’s busy today.
He stands. It looks like he slept in his clothes last night. His shirt has a few stains on it.
“Nice meeting you,” he says.”Better get going, I got a busy day today.”
I ask if he’d consider eating breakfast with me. I know we’ve only just met, and I don’t want to embarrass him. But we seem to get along.
He gives me a courtesy laugh. I see his smile. I’ll bet he was a lady-killer before that ratty hat. He shakes my hand. “Thanks partner, but I’d better take a rain-check.”
I can’t blame anyone for being busy, God knows. People have lives, families, and famous interiors to decorate.
But I wish I had a daddy to meet for lunch. And if I did, I sure hope I’d make time for it.
Because life’s too short.