By Sean Dietrich
Cracker Barrel—I’m eating bacon and eggs. In the background: Ernest Tubb is singing about waltzing across Texas. I’ve been on an interstate all morning.
There is an old woman at a table near ours. She was here before my wife and I arrived. Her white hair is fixed up. She is wiry, wearing a nice zebra-striped Sunday blouse.
She smiles at me.
She is alone, sipping coffee. It doesn’t take long to strike up chit-chat.
She has lines on her face, and a husky voice. She is from the old world. She calls me “sweetheart” twice in the same sentence.
And even though I don’t know her, I know her type. I’ll bet she prepares chicken and dumplings that would make clergymen use the Lord’s name in vain.
She tells me that for most of her life, she’s been a mother and a wife.
Her husband died many years ago. She has two kids. A son, a daughter. She hardly sees either.
“My daughter and I are supposed to be having lunch today,” she tells me, looking at her watch. “My grandbabies should be here any second. I can’t WAIT to kiss them all.”
Those lucky grandbabies.
From what I learn, the aforementioned daughter and grandchildren lead busy lives. The grandkids stay occupied with soccer, baseball, ballet, mission trips, and various special activities that require special T-shirts.
The old girl tries to get together with them as often as she can. But schedules get in the way.
Last week, she decided to drive a few hours to attend her grandson’s soccer game. She packed her folding chair, her snacks, and arrived early.
She waited for one hour on the sidelines of an empty field. A maintenance man told her the game had been cancelled.
Nobody had told Granny.
The old woman’s purse starts ringing. She digs through it. Soon, she is talking on a flip phone. She’s using a voice that’s sweet enough to spread on toast.
“I’m already here, sweetheart,” she says into the phone. I’ve got us a table. Are you close by?”
She nods. She listens. Her smile fades. More head nodding.
“No, no, no,” she says. “Don’t apologize. We can reschedule, darling…”
She flips her phone closed, places it in her purse, and tells waitress she’s ready for her check.
“No food?” the waitress asks.
She gathers her purse and stands. “No, I’d better get moving today. I have errands.”
There is disappointment all over her. And even though I can tell she is strong enough to handle her share of disappointment, I wish she didn’t have to.
Before she leaves, she tells my wife and I to be safe on the road. She calls me sweetheart again.
I see her through the window, crawling into an old model car. The paint on her hood is chipping.
Her tail lights disappear.
It’s none of my business what sons and daughters do with their parents or grandparents. And so help me, I know what it means to be too busy.
But sometimes I wish I were fortunate enough to have my own granny alive.
I’d give anything to hear her call me sweetheart.