The Sweetest Story and a Hopeful Wish

A while ago I mentioned that when I found a philanthropy I would let you know about it.  This is me, letting you know about it – mission accomplished.  I have a new volunteer activity and we all know it wouldn’t be mine if I didn’t have a story to go with it. 

Those of you that know me know that I have a tender heart, sometimes ridiculously so.  One thing that gets to me (as it does many others, I have learned) is watching people eat alone, particularly senior citizens.  It feels sad to me, to see someone shuffle into a place and sit down for a meal all by themselves.  I do know that some people relish that, and that some of it is just perceived loneliness.  Still, it would be a lie if I told you it doesn’t make me cry on occasion. 

A few months ago I was in my little café and I saw an older man alone, having dinner.  He suffered from a curved spine and thus, he hunched.  Maybe he was thrilled to be away from a nagging wife or rambunctious grandchildren, just able to enjoy a meal in peace, but the picture that I saw was a man crouched over his food, alone and seemingly miserable.  Yes, it was the spin that I put on it, but it just broke my heart.  I cried and whimpered over it for a couple of days, and then I had a conversation with Jane about it. 

You know what?  You should have conversations with friends about these things instead of bottling them up.  You know why?  Because often your friends have answers!  Jane works at a non-profit community center for active seniors and lo and behold, their supper club leader had just retired.  She offered me the position, did my background check (I passed – as if) and brought me in for the driving test (I passed). 

Once every month I will leave work early, drive over to the senior center, load up the 15-passenger van with people and take off to various locations for dinner.  I’m so stoked about it! 

Two months ago was the first dinner.  The location was chosen before I ever signed on.  We had nine people show up for Suzy Wong’s House of Yum.  Nashville natives know that Suzy Wong’s House of Yum serves very tasty food and they also know that it is located directly in between two gay bars.  I should clarify: Nashville natives younger than 65 know this.  My group did not.  I dropped them off at the door, they entered the restaurant, I parked the van and went in to find them looking around in bewilderment at the décor asking questions like, “What’s that next door?”  I am merely the organizer and the chauffeur.  I let them wonder alone. 

This month we went to the Old Spaghetti Factory.  Apparently this was a favorite as the van was packed.  Again, I dropped them off at the door, they entered the restaurant, I parked the van and went in to find them safely ensconced at our table in the back.  Unlike the last visit where they ate like birds, plates were cleaned, wine was ordered and a grand time was had by all.  Our table was pretty long and I only got to converse with people on my end but I noticed that we had added some new people to our little party, a couple of men which is slightly unusual.  And I noticed that one man had a certain aura about him, a little something I call Swagger.   

Swagger. This man had it in spades.  He held out the chair for the lady on his right.  He served her first.  He was Dressed.  He had the solid white hair, the pinky ring, the pressed short sleeved dress shirt, the pants with the tabbed closure, and an air of class.  I was fascinated.  I wondered briefly if there was a romance a-brewing between him and the woman on the right.    I think I flushed a little because the lady next to me patted my arm and asked, “Honey, are you alright?”

After dinner we all packed up in the van, full as ticks, and meandered our way home.  It was about 7:00 – dinner comes early at the retirement center.  The man and his lady thanked me profusely, and then walked off to his car where he held the door open for her, closed her in and then motored off.  I was certain – it was a romance.   

In typical Jimmie fashion, I yapped about that potential romance to all my friends.  I told them all about the Swagger, breathless and with flushed cheeks.  I certainly was hopeful for them.

On Saturday I wandered into my café.  I plopped my stuff down and wandered off to get some tea.  As I was wandering around procrastinating (I love writing but sometimes it will not just come already!), and who do I see?  Swagger and his lady.  I promptly went over to their table and sat down for a good chin wag.  Here they get names: 

Jimmie: Hi guys!  Remember me?  I drive the van for the Supper Club.

Judy:  Well, hi darling.  We remember you.  I’m Judy and this is John. 

John.  Hi.  <swagger>

Judy:  We like to come into this café.  It is where we first met, first starting dating. 

I knew it!  Never doubt me, people.

John:  <swagger> 

Jimmie:  Oh!  I was so hopeful that I was right.  I wondered if you two were dating.  I just love it!

Judy:  We are and we are madly in love. 

John:  <swagger>

Here they make google eyes at each other.   

Jimmie:  <swoon>

John:  I’ve never met anyone like her.  I’m so blessed. 

Jimmie: (once she recovers from her faint on the floor) You guys have made my day.

Y’all, John is 72.  Judy is probably 63.  They are GORGEOUS together.  They are like teenagers in love.  Every look is special.  Every sandwich they eat together is special.  They get dressed up in three-piece suits and heels and lipstick and go to church together.  What a hopeful, beautiful story.  This will go down in history as one of my all time favorites and I’m so happy that I get to be a tiny part of it.   

I so look forward to next month’s dinner.  I look forward to interacting with all of these people:  the woman widowed six years ago who told me that yes, it is very hard to eat alone; the other woman who said that now she is active in the community center but for a while she just wallowed in depression; the twinkly man who talks excitedly about his son and his grandkids and wonders if they would like a plate to go.  I’m excited to see where the romance goes.  I’m excited to see if another one will brew. 

Mostly, I’m excited to be able to invite someone I see eating alone out for our monthly excursions.   I hope I run across the man with the curved spine again.  I would love to take him out and hear his story too, in the company of new friends. 

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jen Noll
    Aug 29, 2011 @ 20:42:51

    Mandy, My mom remarried at 73 to an older man of 79. They’ve been married 7 years. I think he may be the love of her life. Never say never.


  2. Martie
    Aug 29, 2011 @ 22:15:44

    BTW, don’t say always, either. They will both come back to bite you. This is a super sweet story! You should take them to the Cheesecake factory. Does the center buy your meal? If so, can I come? hee hee!


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