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.
Sandra Marrar - February 21, 2017 2:11 pm
Oh, yes…if only I could meet my Daddy for lunch.
Debbie Beach - February 21, 2017 2:12 pm
My dad died Dec 6 14 days shy of 95. He always had time for a story and me. He told the same story over and over again and it really got old.
I miss those stories now.
Rhea Wynn - February 21, 2017 2:12 pm
I think maybe you are a mind reader in addition to being an amazing writer. My daddy passed two years ago this week. I would give anything to be able to meet him for lunch again. Thanks for your poignant reminder that we should value every moment together.
Donna - February 21, 2017 2:26 pm
Wish I could have lunch with my dad too….
Jo - February 21, 2017 2:41 pm
Wish I could have one more visit with my daddy also. What a fine man he was!
Cindy - February 21, 2017 2:43 pm
You know…I knew how this story was going to end. I didn’t want it to, but I knew. Busy gets in the way of life and goodness. Busy is all consuming. Like you…I’d give anything if I had my Daddy to have lunch with just one more time.
Lee - February 21, 2017 2:52 pm
Thank you, Sean.
Dartinia - February 21, 2017 2:54 pm
You’re a lucky man. You HAD a daddy to have lunch with.
I watch my kids with their daddy, watched my husband with HIS daddy, and being somebody’s daddy – not dad, not father, because daddies are different breeds here in the south – being a daddy has got to be the best feeling in the world. I say that knowing how damn good I feel as a mommy. They all worship their daddies, even when they argue. My husband gave me his daddy’s Air Force jacket when he died, and lemme tell you, it was a bigger honor than getting the engagement ring.
I didn’t have that. I envy you, my children, my husband.
I’m sorry your daddy’s gone now, but dude, I’m so glad he had you, and that you had him.
Carol DeLater - February 21, 2017 3:02 pm
What I wonder is how much time he made for his kids when they were growing up. I hope he didn’t devote all his time to his kids only to have them not have the time for him now. You never know how things will work out, and yes. Life IS too short.
Judy - February 21, 2017 4:10 pm
…and our grown kids not having any time for us is what makes us grumpy and cranky old people. Oh, and lonely. Did I mention lonley?
Linda - February 21, 2017 4:41 pm
We were so blessed to have had my dad living with us for the last 10 years of his life, so that stories like this one didn’t happen to us. But I can see how it might easily happen to others. Life has a way of getting in the way of truly important things sometimes, and what ensues are deep regrets. I hope his daughter is able to spend some time with him soon, before it’s too late.
Susie Munz - February 21, 2017 5:56 pm
Very good point, Sean. We have moved back to be with the kids, but they are busy a lot, so we drive to see them. Life IS too short and getting shorter all of the time! This Saturday, I’m flying to Costa Rica, to see my youngest daughter. It has been a year and a half since I’ve seen her.
Michael Bishop - February 21, 2017 6:03 pm
Fortunately, I have a daughter who makes time, but still lives too far away. We’ll drive up to see them in a week or so . . . and to catch our 15-year-old grandson playing JV baseball. Seems like last week he was clinging to his kindly coach’s hairy knees at one of his first-ever soccer games.
Susan - February 21, 2017 6:07 pm
Mary Ellen Hall - February 21, 2017 6:32 pm
I TOO, wish I had my Daddy to meet for lunch!!!
Sheri Guin - February 21, 2017 6:47 pm
Catherine - February 21, 2017 8:31 pm
I would drop everything to have lunch with my mother who’s been gone for longer of my life than with, and with my dad and stepmom who have been gone 9 years now. I’m afraid that one day, I’ll start losing my memories of them and they’ll be forever gone.
Karen Erwin-Brown - February 21, 2017 10:20 pm
Amen and pass the kleenex.
Angie - February 21, 2017 11:30 pm
Yes, Sean, yes. Thank you.
Debbie Galladora - February 22, 2017 1:28 am
Very touching and happy to say I made time…
Marion Pitts - February 22, 2017 1:41 am
Amen. Our parents can be gone when we least expect it. Life is too short!
Olin Batchelor - February 22, 2017 2:32 am
Me, too. I wish I had a Dad to eat lunch or dinner or breakfast with or just to talk too. I could sure use him right now.
I lost my wife of 39 years four months ago and there is an emptiness that I can’t fill and I know my Dad would have the right words to help me thru this grief.
Lynne Bates - February 22, 2017 3:42 am
My dad passed April 23, 1996. There hasn’t been a single day go by that I don’t miss him.
Thank you for this story.
Pat Davis - February 22, 2017 4:06 am
I turn seventy this week. I am one of the lucky ones. Have spent the last two weekends celebrating my birthday….one weekend in Atlanta and one in Biloxi. One weekend with my very busy daughter. The next with my hard working son. I love my life. My family understands unconditional love. Your words touched me. Thanks!
Pat Davis - February 22, 2017 2:37 pm
So touching. No button available to rewind life. Grab the joy now. We only have today! New to your stories. You have the Southern storytelling talent.
Amelia - February 23, 2017 9:50 pm
This makes me sad. In my case, it’s my dad who doesn’t have time for me. The last time I asked him to meet me for coffee, he told me he’s a “package deal,” and the only way I can see him is by going to his house and visiting with him, his wife, and their two sons. He’s not willing to spend any one-on-one time with me, and if I do stop by their house, he just expects me to play with the boys. He’s really fond of those little boys, but he wants nothing to do with me and my brother, the two kids he had with my mom.
I’m well into my thirties at this point, and I’m ready to give up on trying to have a relationship. Sometimes it’s healthiest to let go. I love my dad and wanted to be close to him, but he has told me so many times in so many ways that he doesn’t have any desire to spend time with me. I don’t know why. He once told me that the only reason he had married my mom and gotten into an unhappy relationship with her for so long was because of me. She’d gotten pregnant with me when he was 19, and he was stuck with me and with her for 15 years or so afterwards.
I have searched my soul about this, and the bottom line is that I don’t think my dad actually loves me – or even likes me. That’s the truth. I always tried to do everything right – got educated, stayed out of trouble, etc. – but it was never enough. He even looks down on me for being a teacher because he thinks I’ve been “brainwashed” by “the system.” Anytime he has been annoyed at me in the past, he’s immediately said things like, “Why do you even come here? Why are you calling me?!”
Well, I finally stopped after he sent me an abusive, vulgar email message rant about politics when all I had done was reached out to see how he was. It was the last straw. I haven’t contacted him in a year, and he hasn’t contacted me either. I sent him a Christmas gift and card, but didn’t hear anything.
So, yes, I get being busy too, but if you have a dad who loves you and thinks you’re special and precious, and he actually wants to meet you for lunch, for goodness sake, show up! You’re one of the lucky ones.
Diane Madison - January 13, 2018 6:14 pm
Amelia, your post makes me cry! I am so sorry for your painful neglect from your father. He is still a bitter man over something that you had no control over. He blames you but he should blame himself if anyone, for his own lack of self control when he got your mother pregnant. You are a gift to all those around you and here because God loves you and he is Abba Father. Let him be your daddy God……he does it better than anyone! He won’t disappoint you! Hugs to you dear lady!
Ed Sbardella - March 13, 2017 3:29 pm
I too wish I could have lunch with my dad. 23 years he’s been gone and I too miss him every single day. Today in cardiac rehab we heard about how high blood pressure damages the heart and I remembered how he told me that my car had an electric fuel pump so I shouldn’t let the gas tank get below half empty coz it strained the pump to pull fuel out against a high vacuum. I sit here with tears in my eyes and my nose running. Just one more time. I miss you dad.
Beverly - March 14, 2017 1:22 pm
I love this one, too, Sean. I quit my job in Montgomery almost three years ago working for high powered lawyers. My dad had dementia and my mom needed help. I live in a little trailer in their back yard. Dad died last year on 9/11. He was 86. But life is still too short. Wish my kids knew that.
Nancy Gilbert - March 14, 2017 1:36 pm
How I wish I could meet my Daddy for lunch. He was the only man in the world who ever told me that I was pretty. I miss him and my Mom dreadfully.
LARRY WALL - October 7, 2017 5:20 pm
Nancy, you aren’t pretty, you are beautiful. And especially were to your dad.
Lisa - April 10, 2017 4:44 pm
I am glad that I was able to make the time for my parents in their “golden years.” I was then a single, working mother that had gone back in college. My mother and father lived five hours away but that was closer than any of my five siblings. So when we were together, it was like I was an only child. I believe it is good to get to know your parents as an adult instead of feeling like your 12 years old every time you visit simply because you did not really “know” them.
I was there when my father was dying and did not want to be hospitalized. With the help of another sister and her grown son, we gave my father the care and dignity that he requested. I feel like letting go is easier now for me.
Dora Huelsbeck - May 29, 2017 10:36 am
Life is indeed short. I missed my daddy nod wish that I could go back in time and be with him again. I would tell him I love him and I know his drinking was a sickness. He was a very good father when he wasn’t drinking. I try to r member all the good growing up and forget the bad. I succeed most of the time but sometimes when I’m around my brothers they choose to remember the bad. He died 40 years ago. I think about him everyday. I would love to meet him for lunch. That is not a memory for me. It would be special. We could talk. I could listen to the stories and I could tell him about my amazing children and grandchildren. Thanks for sharing.
Ben smith - June 28, 2017 11:12 am
My Pops turned 80 the 25 of March this year and my Mother
I am still very Blessed with both. HE IS A MECHANIC GENIUS and can make a motor turn 85 hindered lap after lap he might be old school in ways but I so Blessed to him .He still works every day but Sunday.And with me ever day.God has Blessed me for the things he has thought me and
others. God Bless Pops and
Mom and his son’s. Thanks Y,all and God.
Nancy Vining - January 13, 2018 11:11 am
The edges and the roots of my lashes are wet.
They cannot help it. Tears often come when I read something you’ve written.
Because, I KNOW these people so well. And my Dad has been gone since 1957. He is still with me today.
William A Nichols - January 14, 2018 1:09 am
I have lunch with my sweet daughter regularly. Sometimes it’s my idea, sometimes her’s. But it is always special. I am blessed.
Martha Lee - January 14, 2018 3:40 am
I sure would love to have another breakfast date with my daddy. He died in 1969 of a massive heart attack at the ripe old age of forty-two. I was thirteen and my two brothers were eleven and eight. I still miss him every day.
Diane Rinaldi - January 14, 2018 4:26 pm
“I will answer phones by shouting” LOL! I love that ^_^
Charaleen Wright - April 3, 2019 4:31 am