“I’ll have a Belgian waffle, please.”
June 16, 2013
In the same room as us and the biker club sat an older couple. They were just behind Sam, so I could see them pretty clearly. They hobbled in with their canes and crooked backs and sat down across from each other like they had done many times before I’m sure. The man was thin enough to need suspenders to hold up his pants and I noticed that his hair hadn’t been brushed yet today. He had about five cowlicks in various places, but he didn’t seem to care, so why should I? He had more trouble getting into his chair than his wife did so I assumed he was a bit older, or at least more tired.
I looked at her and immediately noticed her severely rounded back through her pink blouse. She had obviously dressed up for this excursion. The roundedness of her upper back reminded me of a basketball. But, like her husband and his cowlicks, she didn’t seem to care. It was part of her life and she had adjusted, for better or worse. I thought about her chest and how crowded it must be having to stay sunken in all the time. I remembered one of my mantras as a yoga teacher, “Open your chest and you will open your heart.” I wondered if she had a closed heart. Then I looked at her face. It was bright and alive with curiosity and personality. She watched her husband with eagle eyes as if waiting for him to fall face first onto the table. When it was apparent that he was going to follow through with this breakfast adventure, she started to study her menu.
“Belgian waffles? Wow! I haven’t had BELGIAN WAFFLES, for a really long time,” she yelled across the table. The room was noisy so she said it again. Her husband kept fumbling with his menu and didn’t respond.
“I’M GONNA HAVE BELGIAN WAFFLES, OK?” This time she yelled loud enough for him to hear.
“Ok. Hon…Where are the Belgian waffles anyway?”
“Right under your thumb,” she said, looking at him with those glaring eyes. “Right under your thumb.”
He moved his thumb, looked, and couldn’t find it. “Where?”
“Under your thumb!”
“I don’t see it.”
“IT’S UNDER YOUR THUMB!!” She yelled, climbing across the table and yanking the menu out of his hands. Then she put her thumb on top of the Belgian waffles and put his thumb under her thumb and gave the menu back to him. “RIGHT THERE! UNDER YOUR THUMB!!”
By that time the waitress had come to their table. “I want the BELGIAN WAFFLES,” she told the waitress. Her husband agreed and said that’s what he wanted too. But he said it much more quietly.
“Any fruit or whipped cream?” asked the waitress.
“No, just the BELGIAN WAFFLES,” said the woman. Her husband agreed.
When the waitress left they talked excitedly about how long it had been since they had BELGIAN WAFFLES and that story led them into another story and then another until I lost track of what they were talking about. But they stayed focused on each other and never stopped talking. I noticed that she stared at him quite intensely, as if still waiting for him to keel over. But he didn’t. It was all very matter of fact, like she was just waiting…nothing else.
As my inner story teller kicked in, I decided that they had been together since they were in their early twenties, had children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, lived on a farm, tended all kinds of crops and animals and spent their evenings watching tv and reading the newspapers. I decided that she was the dominant one now, but he used to be the real boss. Then his body started falling apart and he lost his mind somewhere and let her take control. Now they fought and made up like ten year old boys on a daily basis. I decided that they would be together till one of them died, then the other one would die soon afterwards. I decided that they did love each other, but that they were really just comfortable with each other and that was more important than anything else when you’re pushing 90. I decided that she did have a good heart; it was just getting old and compressed like the rest of her. I took their picture to remind me that love means more than being in love. It means watching each other grow old and grumpy and blind and forgetful. And it means never giving up until you take your last breath.
While we were talking to the baby boomer bikers at the next table, the waitress brought their waffles out. They smeared the waffles with butter, slathered syrup all over them, and ate like children having BELGIAN WAFFLES for the first time in their lives. I hope I live long enough to care about Belgian waffles as much as they did.
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