Mosquitos, long waits, and the heat had kept us away. We hadn’t eaten there in almost two years. Yet, just walking through the doorway felt like home. It was the place where we had shared lots of dinners and good times.
It’s everything a local spot should be, relaxed, fun, and just a little sideways. Cole and I always order the fish and chips, he gets double waffle fries, and I get mine with a side of coleslaw. Even though it’s served on a plate, the tarter sauce arrives in a tiny take out container with the lid securely fastened. The ceiling fans do a poor job of fighting off the South Florida heat, but we pretend they help. It’s always smoldering. And it’s just about the only place I’d dine ‘al fresco’ next to an interstate. Sounds of Reggae and the Oldies compete with conversation. We slid in one by one on the picnic bench at our table. Within moments the backs of our thighs are suctioned to the wood.
This was were we had our dinners with Dave and Gail. They would say “we love you guys like our own children – and Cole and Caroline are like having grandchildren near by.” And it was true, where distance of many sorts, theirs geographic mine… use your imagination, divided our biological families, we had made family relationships with each other. We all needed more family.
Gail’s birthday was a few days ago. I had made a point to take her to lunch on her birthday the last few years. It’s still unbelievable that she’s not with us anymore. Her passing left a lingering pain that I had never experienced before. It was there at the post office where I used to collect her mail when she was away. And as I drove by the hospital where I had picked her up to drive her home one of the last times I saw her. And unexpectedly, the dinner joint where we had practiced being a family.
Tonight was a mix of the old and the new. Old in that it delivered all the comfort familiar spaces should, new in that where Dave and Gail had made us a party of six at one time, two different people where filling their shoes. Two very little people. There were laughs and giggles from one end of the picnic table to the other. Styrofoam cups with lids and crayons spread about. And where the pain wanted to move in – joy prevailed. And again, we were a family.