Friday, September 23, 2005

The Diner

It sits on Old Historic Route 66. When you pull in you can almost see the waitresses roller-skating to your car to take your order. You can almost hear the Buddy Holly playing from the speakers. The roof seems proud and the patrons park in the spaces perfectly. A sign outside the restaurant says “Thanks for everything”. This little diner has been open quite a while, and many that were there for its beginning still come every day. They get here however they can…hobbling in on canes, or on the arms of their white-haired women.

It’s hard to see when you first walk in because of the thick wall of smoke. But, amazingly, once you break through the wall, you can see pretty well. Even with the outdated color palette, peeling wood paneling & dim yellow light fixtures, you can still feel that this is a special place to many.

When I was a little bit younger I didn’t understand why my dad always went to have coffee in the morning at the same place. Why would a person want to go to some outdated, smoky diner every day? To listen to a bunch of old men grumble & mumble about anything and everything?

This morning, now that I am a bit older and wiser, I decided to track my dad down at the diner to have some coffee with him. As I walked past several tables & booths, I took note of the people sitting in them. It’s funny, they seem like the exact same people I remember as a kid. However, I think my perspective has changed a bit.

At the first table sat four old men of sturdy character. They must have been in their late seventies, maybe mid-eighties. Each one was dressed up as if he were going to some important job after breakfast, but they are all retired. I couldn’t help but hear them talking about the good old days & how things used to be better. It made my heart ache to know the loneliness & regret that must stagnate in this diner.

A few tables down an elderly woman sat by herself. She was dressed very fancy, as if she were on her way to church. As I walked past, she lifted up a metallic napkin dispenser, smudged with fingerprints. While she examined her wrinkled face in the reflection, she applied almost obscenely red lipstick with her other hand, ever so carefully as it shook.

Then I saw him. He was sitting in the far corner, all alone. He has come here every day for probably forty years. He sipped luke-warm coffee from a stained white cup. His face told the story of his life; hard work, dedication, pride, and honesty. His hands were blistered and leathery. In his left breast pocket was a notepad and pen. With a neatly combed white head of hair, he looked up in my direction. “Look who it is!” he gasped with joy. Standing to his reliably sturdy feet, he extended his arms to me. His embrace always made me melt inside and his kisses to my forehead made me feel everything was going to be ok.

I sat down at the table with him & ordered a coffee. A tired & ragged waitress, wearing a stained & ill-fitting uniform took my order & left us alone. I sat there in utter respect & humility as I listened to my father tell of the good old days. The days of drag racing his ‘57 Ford up and down the once-busy streets of downtown. Today, they are desolate with despair & economic hardship. I listened to him tell of chasing girls in poodle skirts & trying to get up enough courage to ask one of them out on a date to have a milkshake.

As I sat there, I couldn’t help but realize that yes, my perspective had changed & yes, there really is something to this little diner. I never understood it before, but now that I have grown up, it is all too clear.

It is a living, breathing metaphor, a symbol of the past & the good old days gone by. Those are days you can never get back, no matter how hard you try. The fresh, stinging urgency of youth, the excitement of every new activity. After time, we experience so much. If we are lucky, we experience many good things but most of us also endure heartache, pain, and suffering. As we age, everything loses that zeal, that luster it once had. I guess that is just part of aging.

But at least I know that in this little diner, some find solace and contentment when they cannot find it in the outside world. A world full of terrorism, cancer, hurricanes, tsunamis, war, and debt.

So, thank you to that little diner & it’s good, honest people for keeping memories alive.

And, most of all, thanks for keeping my dad happy.


Blogger telemak said...

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I have a Consolidation debt site/blog. It pretty much covers Consolidation debt related stuff.

Come and check it out if you get time :-)

Blogger Stormy555 said...

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Blogger BlueMoon said...

Love your blog! I added you to my blogroll so the two people who pop into my blog will check out yours too (lol).

Sorry I keep missing you on IM...Rats, big fat friggin rats.


Blogger BlueMoon said...

This post was very sweet and I got a little misty-eyed while reading it. I am sure your dad had a lovely time with you and always does. And thank goodness for that diner - the more mature generation can gather, find company and comfort, and chat about old times.


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