I thought I’d died and woke up in a nursing home; I’ve never seen so many senior citizens waiting in line to eat…
By the time we were seated on the far side of the restaurant, I counted four children and two pushing fifty. The rest of the restaurant was filled with the sound of cackles and squeaks.
But I didn’t have time to rest my bones long before a man in his late 50s began broadcasting to the entire restaurant, while focused on the poor little man sitting across from him.
I GOT THOSE PAPERS. THE PAPERS YOU NEED TO SIGN.
The older man, wearing a nostril tube insert device, breathing hard and smiling vacuously at the air, said nothing. The younger man, beyond his middle years, fidgeted uncomfortably.
A waitress the size of a large stuffed Pooh Bear waddled over to the edge of the table and deposited several dishes.
HERE YOU ARE. YOU ENJOY.
Does everyone have to yell? What is it with the waitress? She’s not even old…
I took another bite of my Farmhouse Chicken sandwich, trying to chew the crusty bread.
Ahead of me near the far wall, a mountain mamma sat with her three children and what appeared to be “grandpa.” She looked vaguely familiar, possibly an old colleague, but decidedly larger, if she was. As I was trying to determine this familiarity, she lost a cascade of bread crumbs down her blouse, so I quickly turned away…just in time to see Miss Rotunda, the neighboring waitress, return to the old man and his son.
ARE YOU HAVING DESSERT?
LADY, WE HAVEN’T FINISHED.
People four rows away could hear.
I dumped a large pile of unwanted bread waste on to my plate. The Ciabatta bun was as dry as a glued sawdust ball.
Miss Rotunda stood within inches of my shirt collar. She had all the warmth of a Gulag night. I could smell the bouquet of grease and dog odor eminating from her clothing.
The fidgetty man demanded something, drawing her away. I looked around. I heard bits and pieces of conversation- an atonal dissonance of slow voices.
I decided then and there- I refuse to become old. Old like the women who cackled about banal gossip. Old like the man who took a long trip down memory lane and forgot to finish his lunch. Not like the man who called the waitress “gal,” and mentioned the word “colored.” (and what century did you revert back to?). Not like the throng of old timers who do the same thing at the same time every day, with nothing new to talk about…their minds so out of touch with reality in the present here and now that they fumble for words for nearly everything.
No one should have to funble for words. One man who rarely did, Dylan Thomas, wrote a poem called “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.” Many know this famous poem and the timely theme. But while Thomas argues to “not go gentle into that good night” as you approach the end of life, I would argue to “not go zombie-like into old age.”
Instead of meeting every Sunday after church at Bob Evans, get out and do something. Walk. Talk. Tell stories. Learn something new everyday- not just a new word or something, but something substantial, something worth remembering. Wake up! Wake up to the world around you! You are alive, breathing, and needed. Life is not for passing the moments away like a series of endless seasons of a ubiquitous soap opera on hulu, prime, or the tube, it is for living abundantly.