Maybe it was the loss of Biff, maybe it was the conversation I had with Andre today, maybe it’s the end of summer, maybe it’s a whole lot of things that are preying on my mind, but today was a very down day. I’ve cried at the drop of a hat – here I go again – and am so very depressed.
I decided I didn’t have the energy to cook tonight, so I took Sean off to Swiss Chalet. (Brianna’s at a party till 10)
It took a while for us to be seated, but eventually we were shown to a table. As we perused the menu – like we really NEEDED to do that – I noticed an elderly lady seated alone at a table across from us. At first I thought she was waiting for someone to return, but as time went on I realized she was dining alone. She was nicely dressed, in a plaid cotton shirt and dress pants, her white hair neatly coiffed, and she sat quietly, slightly hunched over in a manner suggestive of a dowager’s hump. She was watching the people around her, observing them silently, enjoying, or so it seemed to me, their pleasure at being out for dinner.
The waitress brought her a glass of red wine, and was gently corrected with a smile, “I ordered sherry, dear.”
The wine was whisked away, quickly replaced with a glass of sherry, and the old lady took a sip, setting the glass down with a satisfied smile, and resumed her observations of those around her. Our eyes met and we smiled at one another, then she turned her attention to Sean for a few moments.
Our waitress came, and we placed our order, then sat back to wait for our drinks. Meanwhile food had been delivered to the table opposite. Now, many elderly folk have slight appetites, and you often hear that they “eat like a bird”. Not this lady. She had ordered a special, consisting of both ribs and chicken, fries and a dinner roll. She spread her napkin on her lap and tucked in, eating delicately but heartily, all alone at her table for two, as all around her families and couples laughed and enjoyed their evening.
Just across from us a little boy was celebrating his birthday and the waitresses all came out to sing to him and bring him a special dessert. My lady watched them, smiling delightedly at the little boy’s pleasure, then popped another french fry into her mouth.
Eventually she’d eaten her fill and the waitress brought her a container, into which she carefully transferred the remainder of her dinner to take home. She counted out the money to pay the bill, added a tip, and took her car keys out of her purse. Slowly she got to her feet and stood for a moment beside her table, trying to catch the attention of the waitress to let her know the money was on the table. Picking up her leftovers, she turned and, with a last smile at the birthday boy, made her way to the door and left.
Why did this lady make such an impression on me? Why was I so aware of her throughout our meal? Perhaps it was the unusual circumstance of seeing someone dining alone. I’m not sure I could do it. It must be hard to go to a restaurant alone when all around you are couples, families, and friends. But she seemed so content, happy to watch the enjoyment of others, pleased to be allowed to share, if only from a distance, in the little boy’s birthday, and above all, comfortable in her own company.
I think maybe that was what struck me so much about her – her obvious comfort in her own company. She was content to be alone, didn’t seem to need or crave that companionship that we all feel we must surround ourselves with. She was perfectly able to go out for dinner alone and not feel adrift. How many of us can say that at any age? I don’t think I can. But it gives me something to work toward.