Friday, June 30, 2006

Lunch in the fast lane

I have many interesting and varied experiences here on board the Church Caboose. Each day is different. Just the way I like it. Last week, I got a call from an old friend. You can take that statement to heart. He is a widower who was here when the bricks that make up this church were first fired. His spit is in each blot of mortar. He carries the loving memories of his wife with him every day. He holds the door open for her out of utter habit when he enters the building, and he gives her a chance to contribute to the conversation. It is interesting to hear such an exchange, let me tell you. I’m relieved that her spirit still walks with him. Their love remains comfortably alive.

Aside from his warmth towards his deceased wife, this gentleman is a pretty tough cookie. He is determined in all he does. This said, when he (and she) stopped by one day last week, and invited me to lunch I realized that there was only one good answer. Yes.

He was not surprised when I accepted the offer, and he had already decided where and when we would enjoy the occasion. He informed me that he would pick me up promptly at 11:23 in front of the church in his big black Caddy.

I shared the exciting opportunity with my co-workers. Knowing Hedrick, there was a little bit of concern that the conversation may linger so I asked one working friend if she would call me if I had not returned by the full moon. She thought I was kidding, but my gut said no.

The day arrived and I made darn sure I was in the right place at the right time. Although the sun was shining, I had the distinct feeling that a summer storm was brewing, and when I looked down the street, my senses were confirmed. A big, dark- black dark cloud was inching its way towards me. Funny, the wind hadn’t shifted, the sun was shining overhead, but man, this thing looked like it held the potential for tornados. Woah. As it grew closer, I noticed a windshield, and a bit of chrome caught the sun and sparkled right in my eyes. OH! This was Hedrick’s big black caddy, I guessed.

He pulled up in the hearse and I climbed in. What a luxurious car indeed. And in such good shape for its age. We sped off for lunch. Little did I know that I would be climbing into the twilight zone-slo mo. I felt as if we were sitting at a stop sign, even though we were in motion.
Hedrick broke my concentration.“ We’d better hurry,you don’t have much time, do you? 60 minutes?”
“ Yes, sir, but if we run a little over, it’s okay. Really. Don’t rush."
We continued on. I noticed the speedometer was different than most I’d seen. The dial was missing. The speed showed up with a number on the dash. There was no typical speedometer. Leave it to Cadillac.

When I looked at the speed digit it read 2. Then 7, 5, 11, 8….2. As we approached a traffic light the numbers wound down 6,4,2,2,2,2,2….but the light remained green, despite Hedrick’s efforts to force it to red. So, basically, we spent 20 of my 60 minutes driving to lunch. The restaurant was a mere 6 blocks from the church, but 6 blocks had never seemed so long.

When we arrived at the restaurant, Hedrick greeted the young wait staff with, “ Where is our table? I hope it isn’t that one or that one they look too loud, too small, too too.”
When we were finally seated, I was relieved to sit down and review the menu.

Hedrick spoke without looking up. “ The groundhog platter is good here. I used to get the porcupine hash, but those dang quills stick in my dentures, so now I generally get the groundhog.”
“Oh, that sounds interesting. Groundhog? Well. I’m thinking salad sounds really good to me today.”
The waiter arrived. He looked at me to order-but Hedrick's voice slipped out first.
“She’ll have the groundhog platter, and I’ll have the same, make sure you trim the nails on the paw pudding this time, young man.”

I could see that this lunch would be more meaty than I had anticipated. I decided to try to steer him into a comfort zone, so I asked him, “Hedrick, tell me how you met your wife, Milly”

2 hours later, he and Milly had enjoyed their second date, he had moved 3 times, and the year was 1950. 1950. I wondered what happened to the concern about my lunch hour. I wondered why I had said anything about if we go over….. As much as I love hearing people's stories, this epic was a bit more than I had bargained for. I recalled that Hedrick and Milly had enjoyed a 72 year marriage, and I realized that in his lunch rendition, they had just completed their second date. Their second, UNmarried date. Two. Duo.

By some act of God, my phone rang. Coworker to the rescue.
“Well, are you coming back? Have you left the state?”
I heard myself blurt out, “Oh? Is he there now? Can he wait? We’ll be right there.” I answered.
I placed my napkin over my minced groundhog platter and told Hedrick, “ Oh, look at the time!!! We’ve got to go, hurry hurry, I’ve got to get back.”

We scooted away from the table and quick quick walked to the parking lot and fast fast got in and hurry hurry started the car and then we raced back to church. 4,3,5, 8,4,9,2,11 mph.

He dropped me off at the entrance, I don’t think I gave him a chance to actually bring the car to a complete stop. I opened my door, and said, “Thanks so much for lunch.”

He gripped the steering wheel and looked ahead. “Well, Milly, we’ll just have to pick up with her next time where we left off, won’t we?” I watched his head bob in conversation as he drove away. 2,2,4,3,5. He’s probably home by now.


Leslee said...

Cool story!

Anonymous said...

VA said " interesting but person unknown to me ! Guess he was before my time. Glad you had time to blog again, however.

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