Sunday, May 6, 2012

Table for One

Once upon a time there were two of them.

Husband and wife. Louis and Phylis.

They shared a home and a life in Augusta, Maine where they raised a family and created a lifetime of memories.

And quite often, in their older years, they would leave their home to dine at a somewhat unique eatery - the cafeteria at the local hospital.

The food was reasonably priced and quite tasty, Louis said, and the cafeteria staff was friendly and welcoming.

Together they'd sit, enjoying a meal and each other's company.

I imagined their conversations varied - from mundane topics like the weather or the quality of the "special of the day" to more substantial fare from a love affair spanning more than five decades.

Phylis was his "bride," Louis said...his "sweetie"..."one in a zillion."

"Do you realize how much a zillion is?" he asked me. "It's more than a's the biggest number you can get to. And that's what she in a zillion."

They were married for 53 years - a feat seemingly unattainable for couples by today's standards.

And, listening to Louis gush about his sweetie, I'm confident their 53-year mark would have been surpassed had life not intervened.

But Phylis became seriously ill. So ill, in fact, that eventually she was admitted to the same hospital where she and Louis shared many lunches.

And in between visits to her room, Louis would take the elevator to the lobby level - where the cafeteria is located - and eat a quick lunch by himself.

Time passed and Phylis' illness worsened. And then, one day, she was gone...leaving behind a loving husband trying adjust to the loss of his life partner.

Louis found it hard to eat at home alone, cooking for one and then sharing a meal with a room full of memories and the overwhelming silence and loneliness that enveloped them.

In time, he returned to his favorite eatery, where he was welcomed by his adopted "family," the kind ladies in royal blue smocks and hairnets who cooked and served his food - with heaping side dishes of love and compassion.

The family who ensures that Louis' "table for one" never feels like it.

They converse with him about the television shows he likes (Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy among them) or other topics of interest to him.

They informally keep track of his health and well being and offer him friendship and companionship.

Just like Phylis did.

Nobody asked them to...and this effort will never be found on their job description.

Rather, the ladies in blue saw a fellow human being in need...and responded.

They recognized that, in spite of our varied backgrounds, occupations or lifestyles, essentially we are all the same.

Like Louis, we will someday arrive at a place of tremendous loss. We will know heartache and loneliness.

If we're lucky, we will have someone who will help cushion the blow through a simple act - or acts - of kindness.

And our own "table for one" will not feel so empty.


  1. That is just beautiful John! It's so nice to know that there are random acts of kindness going on all around us.

  2. What a heart warming story, John! A reminder to be present to those around us. Thanks! Esther