What a day I've had. I'm trying to add a digital photography class right now, but I had to leave that early to go to a funeral. Then I had to leave the funeral early to serve lunch for the memorial, and then after that was done I had some dinner and went back to work to close.
I can't say I was extremely close to the man who died. But I loved him very much. Let me explain. I've been working at this one restaurant for 6 years now, and we have tons of old regulars. Mr. and Mrs. Sparks are two of them. Although I was at first very shy and slightly intimidated by Mr. Sparks because of his sharp wit and sarcastic humor, I have grown to enjoy our witty banter over the years. When I first started working there I was barely 16 and I wasn't used to using my sarcasm around people other than my close family and friends. But he brought it out in me.
There was just something about him. I know this sounds cliche or whatever, but he always had a twinkle in his eye. I've never known anyone quite like that. It was just like you knew he was cooking up something mischievous to say. And he made you feel so special, would always greet you with a hug and warm smile, asked if you'd gotten into trouble since the last time he'd seen you. And always, always when leaving would say "you behave." It was really something special to hear his grandson talking during the funeral, mentioning how his grandpa had always said "you behave" to him, seeing as how for the past few years I had secretly wanted Mr. Sparks to be my granddad.
The Sparks used to come in a few times a month. But I hadn't seen them in the restaurant since last November. So I started asking around, trying to find out where they'd been, if everything was okay. I came to know that he had cancer, and had most of his stomach removed right after his last visit to the restaurant. After I found that out this spring, I found out their address and made them a card. I don't think I've ever deliberated over making a card quite as much as I did this one. I used my favorite papers, in soothing colors with varying textures. And I even wrote a rough draft before I put my message inside the card. I wanted it to be special. And thoughtful. I wrote that I missed them, admitted they were my all time favorite customers (but that they probably shouldn't spread that around), put in a few of our personal jokes, and then asked if it would be okay to visit sometime.
When I visited them in May, I hadn't known what to expect. I was nervous. I found myself regretting asking if I could come visit. It was hard to walk in to their home and see him looking so different from the man I had grown to admire so much. He was frail, his usually jolly round cheeks sunken in a bit, his hair thinning out. The smile was there, but the twinkle was a little faint. He looked so tired. But not defeated.
I think I'll always cherish that hour and a half I got to spend with them in their home. I'm so glad I went. I think they were to. We didn't talk much about the cancer. Didn't spend time discussing his limitations or how he couldn't be the adventurous man he'd been in the past. We just talked about everything else. About friendship.
I wish I had taken the opportunity to go back and visit again before he passed last Friday. I guess I just didn't want to get in the way or be an annoyance. But I think he knew how much I adored him. How much I've missed his presence at the restaurant.
Today was a difficult day. I lost the grandpa I always wanted. I hope he knew how much I cared about him. To everyone else I'm just the waitress who kindly paid her respects at his funeral. And that's fine.
I don't know if there will ever be another Walt like this one though. He sure was something special.