A Love Story ***
Many years ago I was having dinner alone at a restaurant somewhere in CT. I was sitting in a booth with a large partition which separated me from the next booth over.
After I ordered my meal, I could not help but overhear a conversation coming from the booth behind the partition. I heard an old man’s voice, speaking in a thick Yiddish accent, in a tone that one would use when addressing a young child. I don’t remember his exact words, but I recall that he was helping the child order her dinner. “Now what would you like dear”, he said very sweetly (or something to that effect). How about the tuna salad? You always liked tuna salad. Do you think you want that? And what should we get you to drink, honey. Would you like some skim milk, or maybe a diet cola”?
The old man continued to speak ever so gently. I assumed that the child was too young to talk, because she remained silent. Then I heard the footsteps of the waitress behind me, and I heard the old man state his order. I don’t recall what he said, but I noticed that his voice became dignified, almost formal. I remarked to myself that this seemed a little odd, and then forgot about it.
After I finished my dinner and paid the waitress, I stood up, and walked by the table where the old man had, I assumed, been taking his grandchild out to dinner. Suddenly he lifted his head, his eyes caught mine, and he looked directly into my soul. He appeared to be in his eighties, slightly hunched with only a shock of white hair, and deep piercing eyes. He was in the act of feeding soup across the table to a frail elderly woman, about his age, who had a vacant look, and was clearly suffering from dementia. All he said was, “Fifty years. Fifty wonderful years. And now this. What can I do?”
I looked at the old man and tried to respond but my eyes filled with tears and I could not think of any words. These were not the “beautiful people” whose images we are constantly being bombarded with from the media. They were old and frail and life had clearly taken its toll on them. But as I headed for the parking lot, I silently thanked them for teaching me the meaning of love.