It had been at least twenty-five years since we’d been there, maybe more.
I was driving back from a meeting near the heart of the city and knew it was close by. I didn’t have to go that way. I could have taken the shortcut and made my way back to the freeway, avoiding traffic.
But I made a left turn instead.
And there it was … the yellow letters against a green backdrop. Not block letters, but smooth cursive writing.
Every other week.
We’d sit in the third booth on the left.
Sun was always shining. Didn’t seem to be cloudy whenever we were there, always bright, always busy.
An older waitress with dark rimmed glasses and red lipstick would greet my Dad and call him honey before taking our order. She’d call everybody honey. We’d start off with a lemonade for myself, cup of coffee for Dad. Black, two sugars.
We’d browse through the menu, but already knew what we wanted. I’d get the chicken noodle soup and club sandwich. Dad would get the pastrami with cold slaw and the pickle. He liked pickles, it was the highlight of his lunch combination, to enjoy a pickle with pastrami. Pickles were an awesome part of lunch. We’d sit and talk about life. Elementary and early middle school life seemed complicated and dramatic back then. A Days of Our Lives kind of saga.
I thought life was difficult.
Dad would do the Dad thing.
He saw me. He heard me. And what I had to say was important back then, even when it wasn’t.
This was before the teen years of course when ridiculous battles over tone of voice began.
We’d sit in our booth and talk. Sometimes laugh, sometimes people watch, sometimes just enjoy each other’s company in silence or between pickle crunches.
I missed having lunches. Didn’t realize how important they’d be to me.
I sat there at the stop light thinking.
I miss my friend. I miss someone eating pastrami across the way from me and listening.
I miss someone offering their last pickle just to see me smile.
I was tempted to park the car and go inside, just to get a feel for things. Maybe sit in the third booth, on the left. Order a chicken noodle soup and club sandwich. But I knew it wouldn’t be the same. I couldn’t manage to go in, a heavy sadness hit me at the stop light and I wished so much that my Dad was still here so that we could talk.
I made a right turn and headed to the freeway. Perhaps I’d return with my son and daughter and we could have lunch. I’d order the pastrami this time and probably give them my last pickle.