Dateline September 2010: I stumbled across this while cleaning out my blog folder. An old story, but great reminder of the power of insight and that you never know when you are going to be reminded of what you already know. And lately, I have been getting reminders of what I need to remember with great frequency!
Dateline 2009: A 75 year old woman made a pass at an 50 year old man at the bar last night. Maybe if he and I had not been from the same high school, or the fact that he reminded me of that guy in that sitcom, it would not have been so memorable. But what seared the entire night into my brain, was Doreen, the 75 year old lady with an opinion and attitude just about everything.
I went to the bar for a drink – in my mind it was well-deserved and I was sad-sacked enough to drink alone. Friends were busy and I was truly in the mood to feel sorry for myself. So I found myself close to tears, sitting at the bar, nursing my vodka martini. Yes, I know that vodka and martini don’t actually go together (thanks to the bartender at Fog City Diner)…but that’s another story, so please bear with me.
I noticed her when she sat down one chair down from me. She ordered a Chardonnay and requested a menu. She stared at the menu for some time, but when the bartender asked her if she wanted anything to eat, she laughed and said she had a car full of groceries. Why would she want to eat? I tried to ignore her, I was barely holding onto my own sanity, much less able to make civil conversation. But eventually, the martini kicked in and I started to feel as if the tears were not going to spout out of every pore.
I began to relax into the bar scene. I was people-watching and lost in observation; when she leaned over and started talking to me. Now, I am not the queen of small talk, especially with strangers, I feel clumsy, and as if I have nothing genuine to say. I tried asserting the appropriate responses where I though they ought to go, but I don’t think I was doing a very good job. I started to hope for a graceful way out and then stopped myself.
Instead, I stuck with it and something interesting occurred. The woman, Doreen, and I began to really talk, at least I think we did. She was a bit off-kilt but brilliant and sincere at the same time. She works at Burlington Coat Factory. She is a mother of 5, grandmother of 10. She claims to be a relative to the Kennedys….yes, THOSE Kennedys. Her heart is breaking for “the poor people living in Tent City, outside of Sacramento” and oh, by the way, she’s making goulash this week”. How could I NOT fall in love with her?
And then it happened…
She told me to get the fire inside me going, and that I had too much in me to sit around and wait for life to happen. A perfect stranger? How did she know? As soon as she gave me my life’s instruction, she whirled around and started flirting with the man sitting next to her. He was quite gracious; he helped her with her coat, engaged her in conversation and included me as well.
Doreen was gorgeously shameless in her actions, holding onto his hands, leaning into him, I think she stroked his face, she definitely asked him over for breakfast – imagine that! And she even threw in a bit of innuendo in for good measure. She was amazing!
He moved around her at the bar and placed himself in between the two of us. The conversation continued to flow. It turns out we attended the same high school. He bought me a drink, helped her with her coat (again), she kept attempting to go, but something kept her there as well. He was just as much a flirt as she. If the age gap wasn’t so wide, they would have been a terrific couple.
Finally, even though she had groceries in the car, Doreen ordered crab cakes and prepared to leave. By now, we are all old friends. She hugged the two of us and wished us a grand life. Doreen wanted us to be good to each other and find time to have fun. Obviously, she saw something there that neither of us chose to recognize. She kissed us both on our cheeks, gave us each a great tiny old lady hug and left. And there we are, at the bar, two survivors of Hurricane Doreen…awkward – to say the least. But at the same time, we were encouraged to keep the fire going, stay in the moment and to experience the “what happens” next.
And what happened next? Well…more conversation, more stories, and a bit of laughter. We closed the bar down and then parted ways. No fireworks, but we had a great evening.
As I sat in the car, I reflected upon the Doreen’s advice. I was not to wait for life to offer up what’s next but to actively engage it. I was not to bemoan the choices made, but to appreciate where those choices had taken me. Her life was far from perfect, but she embraced it long and hard, making sure that she was loving each minute. I can’t think of a better way to live.