Tom is a "regular" who comes into the restaurant usually on Mondays and Fridays. He is probably in his eighties, although I have never asked. As a matter of fact, I ask very few questions of him. Usually, I listen.
He has his regular server, Angie, who waits on him. She was the first waitress he had at our restaurant after he and his wife moved here from California two or three years ago. They "got such a kick out of her" they requested her every time since. Tom even says Angie is his "adopted daughter". Whatever she needs, he will be there for her. And he has.
Nowdays it is just Tom. Tom's wife had a fall shortly after their move, and has never been back to her old self. During her rehabilitation, they also discovered she had dementia. She apparently had turned violent, and has been in a "dementia lodge" (as Sue would put it) ever since.
I know it is hard on Tom, not having his wife home and knowing he can't take care of her needs himself. But by the same token, he has peace knowing that she is in a lovely facility where they take excellent care of her. He goes to visit her often, and says it's gets harder each time; she wants to know when he will let her come home.
He also spends alot of time with his grandchildren. His grandson, about 12 I think, is taking karate. Tom takes him to karate twice a week and is his sponsor. His grandaughter is 15 and wants him to teach her to drive. He declined saying he would make her nervous and she would scare the hell out of him. Instead he is looking forward to when vollyball starts up again in September. He says he has a ball watching her play.
When Tom comes in, I usually try to sit down with him towards the end of his meal. I have to wait a bit because we could sit there all day, and in reality, I need to be there for ALLl the guests and crew. So I wait until he is closer to leaving to sit down.
He always has a story to tell. But unlike some "story-tellers", there is a sense of solemness and wisdom in his stories. He doesn't tell them to be entertaining or to get a laugh; he tells them so you understand his perspective of why he believes what he believes. He is a philosipher. And yet he never takes life too seriously. He rolls with what life has handed him and believes that it is the way it is suppose to be.
He has told me about his childhood and how he and his two sisters and brother had to choose which parent to live with after his parents divorced. Two kids went with his mom, he and another with his dad. He says he had wondered at times on what had missed out on, not living with his mom and the other two kids. But then he decided he had missed nothing; he couldn't miss something he never knew about. In fact, he said for all he knew, there were things he may have been "damn lucky to miss". No sense wondering about the "what if's".
The life lessons continue every time he comes in. Sometimes, I disagree as they are merely a reflection of the culture/era he grew up in. But most times, he gives me comfort. He reminds me life is just life, no need for self-pity. He shows me I can handle whatever comes my way, even when I think I can take no more. I will get through it, and this time will be a memory before I know it- for better or worse. He tells me you can never go back- and he couldn't be more right. The past is the past. Enjoy today instead.