Took mom out to dinner tonight. Nothing fancy; just a place that’s a step and a half above McDonald’s. (And 100% healthier.)

I was sort of annoyed that an eight-person family pushed their foreign-speaking way in front of me at the cash register when I was calling Mom over to stand in front of me. (And by “sort of annoyed,” I don’t mean “sort of.”)

About this time an elderly gentleman with bright blue eyes and a wonderful smile came over and asked if we were the end of the line. I was just debating whether to let him in front of me (as I usually do — not for rude-ass families but almost always for the generation I respect) when Mom suggested he jump in front of us.

He did, but not without some protest. And Mom pointed out to me that his arms looked exactly like my grandfather’s. Which, I haven’t seen since he died in 2006, but she was right.

She had big tears in her eyes and I felt like I should do … something. He was dressed exactly like my Grampy would have dressed. Same bright blue eyes and kind smile. Same fantastically thick hair. I wondered if he were a vet like my grandfather, too.

In my head I said a prayer that this guy doesn’t go to the V.A. Hospital like my grandfather did, since his idiot doctors killed him with their ineptitude and neglect. I prayed for this man’s health and well-being.

And out of nowhere, I blurted out to the cashier, “I’m buying his meal.”

He looked surprised and confused. People are not nice down here. I had a guy yesterday thank me for being courteous to him because South Floridians are assholes in general. Meanwhile I’d thanked the guy for being kind to me too.

Anyway, he tried to protest but you don’t win fights like that with me. 🙂 He tried to hand me money but I wasn’t having it.

I explained that something about him reminded me of my Mom’s father, and it would make me happy to do something nice for him. He looked around for him, I guess, and I said oh it’s just us. (I didn’t want to say that he’s been gone six-and-a-half years. I figured I’d let him think he just wasn’t in the room with us. Which, I’d suggest he probably was.)

Of course with my lovely (bad) restaurant karma, the order got lost for a while. Mom got to talking to him. He told her he has cancer. He was given 18 months to live … 20 months ago.

He later told me (as Mom was in hysterics and she went to hide at a table) that he’s 89. I told him he gets around better and has more spunk than my mom. You could tell he liked her — he was saying how pretty she was, like three times. 🙂

His wife was waiting in the car. I can only imagine the stories he had to tell her about us!

Anyway, we got our food eventually and he went on his merry little way. He was cute and had asked me if he could run and get his “pop” from the self-serve machine while I waited. Sounded just like Grampy, down to the “pop” and the sweet-little-boy spirit.

After he left, we pretty much sat there and cried through our meals. I know Mom was missing Grampy hard, and I was a bit too. But I was thinking about our friend — his name is Russell, just like my grandfather’s big brother who just died a couple of months ago, but Uncle Russ was a mean asshole — and just so very sad about his health and just how we would never have gotten to know him if I hadn’t decided to buy his meal because he reminded me so much of Grampy.

I normally don’t talk about the nice things I do for others. And I’m not looking for a pat or anything else like that. I guess I just want to record the “God moment” I had with this wonderful, wonderful man.

At one point he looked at me and said, “Wow, you are so young.” I laughed because I feel so goddamned old — work and mom and life and men are driving me to an early grave, I swear it.

But, he’s right you know. He’s 89 and I’m 38. If I make it to that age, and healthily at that, it’ll be a fucking miracle. And not at the rate I’m going.

We thought about his wife in the car, how she’s probably scared to death of losing him and probably thanking God for every day extra that she gets with him.

That’s living, friends. That’s going to meet your maker and saying, “I had it all; it was a good life.”

I guess I wish I could say that I met him and saw that the good guys win in the long run. But if he has cancer, I guess not.

Maybe it was just as simple as a reminder that our loved ones may be gone but are never far away and that there are people right here and now who would benefit from a simple kindness from us that we would have otherwise shared elsewhere.

I don’t know. But I do know that meeting him (at a restaurant I never go to, and one that has locations much closer to me — why on earth did I drive all the way out there if not for this reason?) was meant to change me in some way.

God bless you, Russell. Thanks for crossing my path today, and my mind for a long, long time to come.

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