I heard a musician interviewed who confessed that most of his lyrics were derived from conversations he overheard; on the street, in coffee shops, bars, airplanes…. makes sense, right? I imagine if pressed he could have created a personal connection to weave into each song. Being a rock-n-roller, most of his songs were about sex, break ups and relationships. Wait a minute, is that really what everybody is talking about?
I had a dear friend at work who used to coin absolute gems over the cubicle wall from her cat-loving neighbor. Mindless conversation which literally droned on between the associate and her feline on the other end of the line. I can only imagine her husband being asked to hold the receiver closer to the tiny silky pink ear. I bet the cat was much more enamored with the twisted cord that dangled between her legs, than what her owner had to say about missing her. Must have been torture for that cat while she endured the call waiting her owner insisted on taking during their most intimate conversations. “Mommy will be right back!” My owner have some nerve~!
I overheard a conversation today at The Little French Market (LFM) in Ellicott City. The pastries chicken salad and breads (from Tersiguel’s Chef) are amazing. The music is always familiar…today must have been Harry James & His Orchestra if I was a betting gal. This is sort of my “go to” spot with my daughter on Sundays or days off from school. We get the same thing each time; two decadent chocolate croissants, one latte and one orange Pellegrino Soda with a straw. NOTE: The seating at LFM is minimal. There are a total of three tables. This sort of space does not welcome you to linger, bring your laptop or layout your school project on their iron café tables. In fact, everything about the space says, “our treats come in to-go packaging for a reason and so does our coffee!” Surprisingly, I don’t think we have ever entered and not had a magical two top waiting for us. We just seem to be fortunate that way I guess. We politely fade to black after our final bites.
No matter if you are lucky enough to claim table #1, #2 or #3… you are bound to overhear conversation and plenty of it. I actually don’t know why they don’t just set up one large round and let folks wear nametags? Anyone up for a morning icebreaker? Could knock out the uncomfortable shoulder rubbing, forced casual chitchat over which last croissant you got over your neighbor and the uncomfortable goodbyes because you might as well have shared napkins with the table behind you. I feel the need to formally wish the folks behind me good health before I put my coat on as I walk out the door. It is humanly impossible to not make eye contact.
This particular morning we sat next to a couple who were clearly old friends. Both people had snow-white hair, glasses and I just so happen to distinctly overhear the gentleman say he had just turned, 75. The woman sitting across from him was 10 years his younger. They were catching up and filling each other in on their lives … over coffee and sweets.
“How is Phyllis?” he asked. “Oh, doing much better. She responded way better to the radiation than anybody thought she would. She is home and resting…really doing well now.” “Oh, I’m so happy to hear that,” the gentleman responded. They sort of went back and forth on various names from what seemed to be a church they both used to attend. It was clear that he had moved away and she had stayed. It was also clear that even though he was retired, he was very active… she was sort of asking if he could do a little consulting work, maybe some counseling work on the side for her business. She mentioned something to do with “group therapy.” However, after they talked that over, which she disclosed had just come to mind that moment over her last sip of coffee… it didn’t seem like a good fit after all… he didn’t really have the background she had remembered.
They jumped to what his days were like now… he sort of moved the conversation to this place of just being sort of in awe of his life at 75 and what he was grateful for lately. He went on to say “you know, the same 15 of us still get together for coffee every other week – nobody ever misses. I can’t believe it…everyone still comes!” He couldn’t believe that he was here to see not only Grandchildren, but, Great Grand-children. He was grateful for the pleasure of babysitting them on occasion (albeit he made a funny reference to getting the license plate of the truck that hit him after the kids left his house.) Regardless, he wouldn’t trade it for anything. He said he felt good and nothing really hurt. In fact, he couldn’t complain about anything except a cataract and that wasn’t even causing him an immediate issue worth exploring.
He said his kids were coming over to prepare Thanksgiving dinner at his house – they were doing everything – he just got to sit back and relax. Could he ask for anything more?
The gentleman then said he had recently been to a 70th birthday party with his oldest daughter for his “former wife”. He said he struggled to know how to explain himself at the party as to who he was exactly. He had been remarried to his second wife for 30 years. He found himself mostly saying, “Oh, I’m Susan’s Dad, or, I’m their Grandfather….” Offering this response seemed to work well and squash further questioning by the other guests. However, unexpectedly, he overheard his former wife introduce him as, “that’s my best friend”. He paused for a moment and took a sip of his coffee. He said to his coffee partner, “I thought to myself, wow, she and I have come along way from 30 years ago…..” His friend replied, “that’s a lot of healing.”
I don’t know what struck me more this morning – old friends still making time for each other? An older gentleman waxing on with a positive spirit about gratitude? How overhearing the words, "best friend" can mend a 30 year-old broken relationship in an instant? Or, explaining to my daughter the words I lifted from a conversation overheard that will stick with me for the rest of my days.