There is Always Hope
I’ve long had a habit of eavesdropping on other people’s conversations. When Jonah was a teenager and we’d go out to dinner, he used to tap me on the shoulder and, with a huge smile, remind me, “Mom, I’m the person you’re having dinner with.”
“What do you mean?” I’d ask. “Do you think I’m not listening?”
“I can tell that only part of you is here with me. The other part is listening to the conversation at the next table.”
All I could do was shrug and apologize. It wasn’t that I didn’t love the conversations I had with my teenage son. Our relationship was intimate, fun and deep, and very few subjects were out of bounds. But I found certain other conversations irresistible as well. And no matter how hard I tried to control my listening impulse, I couldn’t seem to resist. Later, I came to explain my habit by the fact that I’m a writer interested in what makes people tick, but I’m not all that certain that’s a full explanation.
I haven’t been as aware of my tendency to drift off since Jonah married and began his own family. We’re just not as likely to find ourselves at a table for two in a busy restaurant. And perhaps, as well, I thought that I’d managed to modify my habit—until a few weeks ago.
Stephen and I had taken Poppy, our younger granddaughter, to Mendocino for the afternoon, and were sitting in the garden of Café Beaujolais finishing our lunch. We’d been there for a while, since Poppy had insisted on ordering an entire pizza, which she was certain she would finish on her own.
We’d covered a number of topics relevant to Poppy: Lulu, her new best friend, the last two games in her soccer team’s series finals, and the family’s adored puppy, Leo. Around the time only three pieces of pizza remained on plate, I caught the drift of a conversation the people at the next table were conducting. They had run into some friends, who had stopped to talk, and I heard someone say, “Yes, believe it or not, we went to my brother’s wedding!” The next snippet I caught was, “He just turned 76.”
Because the age falls into that of my cohort, and I have several single women friends who would much rather not remain single, I couldn’t help but jump in. “That’s lovely to hear,” I turned and chirped. “It gives me hope for some of my single friends.”
Yes,” the new groom’s sister answered, “and it was his first marriage.”
“His first marriage?” I half asked, half exclaimed.
“Yes, his first. A high school friend he hadn’t seen in over 50 years. She was here visiting, got in touch with him, and they were engaged three months later.”
“Oh, that’s a lovely story. Thanks so much for telling me.”
“It was a very happy occasion,” the woman added, shaking her head for emphasis.
“Gram, look, I really did finish the whole pizza,” Poppy piped up at that moment, and diverted my attention from the story to her plate.
“Wow, you really did,” I beamed at her, full of the joy of the story and the pleasure of someone taking the time to tell it to me.
It’s now a few weeks since that Saturday afternoon in the garden of Café Beaujolais, and the story of the man marrying for the first time at 76 continues to pop into my mind every now and then. And each time it does, I experience the same spurt of joy I did that first time. And each time, that one s tory reminds me that there is always hope.