This doesn’t need to be said, but Monday was a pretty crappy day. I buried my stepfather while mourning our neighbors, and I feel like I’m still walking in a fog. But it’s early in the morning and I’m hungry on the way to the office, so I find myself with Patty at Lou’s Diner.
Lou’s on South Decatur is a throwback, a place that’s older than me. It’s a stereotypical diner that never seems to close, although it does. And Patty, the opening-shift waitress, is just as you’d picture a diner waitress in Las Vegas—from her black eyeliner and bright-red blush to her wonderful, motherly charm.
I sidle up to the counter and order eggs over medium, hash browns extra crispy and a side of wheat toast. Patty is insistent that the house-made mixed berry jelly is the best, and Patty knows what she’s talking about. She unsuccessfully tries to talk me into one of her cinnamon rolls. I regret not taking her advice on that one.
As my food arrives, Billy Joel’s “My Life” plays in the background, and snippets speak to me. “I don’t need you to worry for me, ’cause I’m all right.” The song has nothing to do with grief, but at this moment the Bosom Buddies theme comforts me.
Patty and I exchange pleasantries, and inevitably the small talk turns to Sunday’s shooting. Afterwards, as Patty turns away, I cry. In Lou’s Diner, I cry.
I cry for my friend who’s recovering from her gunshot wound. I cry for my wife, the hopelessly wonderful bleeding heart who couldn’t sleep last night. I cry for my friends who felt bullets whiz by as they ducked for cover. I cry for my mother who just lost her soulmate.
Patty returns and, without knowing, offers me a refill of solace into my plain, white mug. We exchange glances and briefly smile at one another. This small act of kind acknowledgment reminds me we’re all in this together. And that we’ll somehow find a way to get through it.
My life revolves around food. So many of my fondest memories are anchored to eating—tracking down the next, great hole-in-the wall and traveling to dining-centric locations. But rather than finding solace in an ethnic haunt or the latest “It” spot, I find myself reflecting upon the wonderment of toast. For a moment, I escape into the superb simplicity of a piece of bread, slathered with butter and house-made mixed berry jelly. It’s cathartic, and I’m thankful for it.
But that’s not all I’m thankful for. I’m thankful for my friends. I’m thankful for the outpouring of support from friends and family. I’m thankful for my incredibly strong wife. And I’m thankful for Patty, who’s helped more than she’ll ever know.