Today was a particularly long day. Nothing unusual, just a lot going on. It was an active day with students. We had a lengthy meeting with teachers, among my best friends, along with Heidi – my best friend. After school it was a solid 3 hours talking to my student teacher about a lesson she had done with our class and working on progress reports. When I had gone into the building it was black-dark outside. Cool and breezy. When I left the building it was almost dark. Warm and balmy. There was a waxing crescent moon on the rise through swiftly moving clouds. It was a beautiful day weather-wise, but I spent the daylight hours inside.
When I got into the car, I called Heidi. It’s our ritual to exchange days on the cell phone on the way home. Our son Devin works at O’Charley’s and we agreed to meet there for dinner. It sounded great to me.
After we were all seated at our booth, in Dev’s favorite waitress’ section, a couple came in with a new baby. I mean NEW baby. This had to have been one of their first outings together. The baby was beautiful in the way that brand new little ones are. Perfect. The parents were young – I’d guess late teens, maybe very early twenties. The young man walked with his shoulders down. He had about a 3 or 4 day growth of beard. Big guy. Mom was very pretty. She still had a tummy from her recent delivery, but she was also glowing the way that new moms do. Her cheeks were wet and her eyes were red-rimmed. Sad tears. The beautiful new baby slept.
We carried on with our usual family banter, making each other laugh, discussing our respective days, enjoying the food, talking shop, music (Colin’s passion), car stuff (Devin’s passion). It felt so good to be together in this way. The older our guys get, the harder it is to find this time. The folks who work at O’Charley’s (hmmm not too many words with double apostrophes) like Dev, so there was good-natured teasing and chatter there. It was friendly, fun, a good family time.
I wasn’t obsessing about the couple with the new baby, but they were seated in a booth quite near ours and directly opposite me. We probably could have heard their conversation – if they had talked. I don’t think they ever did. When they ordered it was in whispers. Mom kept crying. Not boo-hooing, but quiet, desperate tears. Dad had his head down, hair dangling, his big shoulders hunched as he ate.
Heidi was sitting opposite me so she could not see the young couple much. But she saw me seeing them. We kept up our family business and chatter. Colin was going to visit his girlfriend in Greenwood this weekend. Devin was taking the ACT early Saturday morning. A little of this, a little of that. Nothing major but light.
The young mom ate very slowly. She didn’t seem hungry. Big guy ate everything on his plate. No to-go box for him. Still she cried those quiet tears. I know it’s weird but I could hardly not feel their pain. And there was pain. It was unmistakable.
We got an employee discount because Devin works at O’C’s. So we left a big tip. As we scooted out of the booth and headed to our cars, we came closer to the couple in the booth on our way out. Sadness. Heidi linked her arm into mine and gave it a squeeze. She knew what I was thinking. She always knows.
“All you can do is pray for them,” she said quietly. She always knows.
I hugged her and we held each other a little more tightly as we left the restaurant. We kissed our goodbye as we had multiple cars there (I was coming from work, Devin had just finished his Thursday night shift at O’Charley’s and Heidi and Colin had come from home).
The sad couple with their beautiful tiny one will slip from my memory, although not as quickly now that I’ve written about it. But that little scene made me think. There is a lot of pain around us. I mean there is big pain as in wars, refugee camps, hunger, disease… the list does not end. But that young couple was in pain too. It wasn’t global but pain is pain.
It was just one more reason for me to count my blessings, one more sign of how good my life is. On the way home I thought of what really matters to me – much too much to write out now but for just that evening: Devin’s place in life, his job at O’C’s, his friendships, his smile and confidence. Colin’s music, which he shares so enthusiastically, his wit, his politics, his smile. Heidi’s brilliance, her beauty, her wisdom and how she knows the right thing to say and when to say it. She always knows.