I don't know the man in the picture, but he reminded me of my Dad the other day and it was nice. My Dad loved dining out, from white table cloths to Waffle House, he liked restaurants. And, in his 58 years, he managed to frequent a lot of the same establishments-often at the same time and day. He was a creature of habit and routine and sometimes, though I doubt he'd have ever admitted it, maybe a little OCD.
So, my Dad had to retire early due to his congestive heart failure and COPD, but he managed plenty of outings. He was the go-to man in our family for mid day errand-running. Dentist appointments. He even sold a car or two for friends because we lived on a pretty well-trafficked street and he was home for test drives. He also managed his Waffle House breakfasts at least once a week and O'Charley's champagne brunch on Sunday's.
Before hurricane Katrina took the O'Charley's on HWY 90, my dad had his name on a gold plate at their bar. He's one of those patrons. Everyone knew him. Everyone loved him. After the storm, my Dad moved to the one built north of our house, as with his Waffle House spot.
The last four years of his life, Dad rarely missed a Sunday. He went early to help the bartender take the stools down or carry napkins or glasses. He sat in the same spot (no nameplate there, but that didn not matter) and ordered the same thing. Always. Having given up alcohol when he was asked to quit both smoking and drinking by his doctors, he said I'll quit one: he picked drinking. But, on Sunday's, he had champagne. Not much, it was not his old bourbon style, so it was clearly for the fun of it. The routine and the celebration of a weeks' end even though his weeks had not been work weeks for many years.
Sometimes I get a little sad that my Dad only had 58 years on this earth, but then I see a man enjoying a beer at an O'Charley's bar on a Wednesday afternoon and I'm reminded that my Dad lived! He knew how to have fun. He knew when it was time to work hard. And, he made a lasting impression on people.
Not only did waitresses and bar tenders and restaurant managers attend my Dad's memorial service, most brought food to our home and shared stories with us about him and now greet us with a warmer-than-normal sense of southern hospitality. My Dad lived. And people liked him. And, I like this man who is living. I like him a lot.