I’ve lived in my old lady neighborhood for 16 years. I was too young for the neighborhood back then, but I’ve aged into it. Many of us are now old, nearly deaf, or blind, or unsteady but too vain for canes. Last week, I was walking my dog when Becky stopped her car to tell me it was her birthday. No one had done anything for her, so she went to Meijer to buy a piece of cheesecake. Immediate guilt.
“No one did anything?”
“No, my kids celebrated my birthday on Labor Day.”
“I’m sorry. Let’s knock on Marsha’s door right now. We can celebrate your birthday and play Skipbo.”
Becky needed to walk her dog and it was late, so I we decided to do a birthday lunch the following week.
I go home and call Marsha. She feels horrible and immediately agrees to take Becky to lunch. Becky chooses to go to O’Charley’s on Monday. I call Lou and tell her the plan.
“When is Becky’s birthday?” Lou asks.
“It was a few days ago.”
“Why are we late?” Lou wants to know.
“Because none of us knew it was her birthday.”
“I’m dropping off a card tomorrow,” she says, and then tells me she’s going to the birthday lunch, but she doesn’t like O’Charley’s.
We’ve been a foursome for over 10 years; before Becky lost most of her hearing, and 94-year-old Lou lost most of her patience; before Covid nearly killed Marsha and I was told an upcoming surgery might kill me. We are a group of survivors!
On Sunday, I call Lou to remind her of the lunch and text Marsha and Becky saying I’ll pick them up at 11:30. Marsha wants to know what we are doing.
The following day, I get Marsha who struggles with a knee brace to get in the back seat so Lou can have front seat. Next, I help Lou walk to my car.
“Debi, can you feel my butt. It might be wet.” I ask Lou why I need to feel her butt. She says she sat in a wet chair. Her butt’s wet, but my car seats are leather. We get Becky and head to O’Charley’s.
After Lou tells the hostess we need a different table, we settle in. We chat a long time before a server takes our drink order.
“Becky, how much do you weigh?” Lou asks.
“Lou, that’s not a good question,” Marsha tells her.
“Why not? I want to know what Becky weighs. I’m about 120 or 124.”
Becky ignores her.
Lou is relentless, “Becky, what do you weigh? You’re too skinny.”
“I weigh about 140. Did you have a BM this morning?”
“Why do you need to know?” Lou asks.
I’m shutting them down! “Let’s figure out what we want to eat since it’s taking so long to get our drinks.”
Lou is not hungry. She wants to share a meal with me. She explains that she never eats more than a few bites.
I notice there are very few pictures on the menu. Lots of confusing combos – “choose two” or “choose three.” The “choose three” includes a column for beverages. Lou wants to skip that column and instead order two from the appetizer or entrée column. I wish there were menu pictures.
Marsha wants to help. “Lou, what about a quesadilla?”
“What’s that?” asks Lou.
“It’s Mexican,” I tell her. Lou won’t eat Mexican.
Turns out a 30-minute wait for the drinks was a good thing. I order for Lou a cup of potato soup and tell her we will split a hamburger. Our waiter is very nice, he is a new server, and his name is Channing. Throughout the meal, he apologizes and reminds us that he is new. Several times we flag down another waitress because Channing has either forgotten us or he’s terribly slow.
“Do you think Channing could be a girl.” Lou asks.
“He’s a boy.” I reply.
“Channing can be a girl name.” Marsha says.
“He has beautiful hair. His ponytail is long.” Becky adds.
This is not political or gender-identity talk. It’s confused old-lady talk. I tell the group we need to be careful because things are different now.
“What’s different?” Lou asks. “He is pretty enough to be a girl.”
Food arrives and we tell Channing that everything looks good, but we need a soup spoon. After he leaves to get the spoon, Lou says she wants crackers. My soup is getting cold, so I ask another server for a spoon and crackers. Channing returns with both, again reminding us that he’s new. We tell him to relax, we are a patient group. (We are also liars.)
Lou eats her 1/2 hamburger and wants more potato soup. By mistake, Channing brings chicken soup. His mistake, he’s new. Next, he brings potato soup. Lou has eaten half of the chicken soup, so she gets a to-go container for the potato soup. She has eaten more than anyone at the table. She asks for a water “to go.” Channing returns with an extra-large Styrofoam cup. Without asking, I grab Lou’s heavy cup and dump ½ the water. Damage control.
It’s time to pay the bill. Channing shows us a table payment machine. He explains that he’s divided our orders, but accidentally added a queso hamburger meal from another table on our machine. We are to ignore that order and only pay for our food. Simple enough? NO! Becky is last to pay. She won’t take out her credit card because she thinks she paid for the queso meal. I’m the youngest so I grab the machine. I hit the “back” button. I look for our bills. All are gone except for the queso burger. I show Becky. I repeat hitting the “back” button and show her several times that the queso meal has not been paid. Finally, she pulls her card from the machine and says she will check with her bank to see if they charge her for the meal. Lou slides me a few dollars to pay for her portion of the meal. I don’t accept. She tells me not to forget to tip. It becomes a dollar shuffle. I take $3 and we finish up.
I leave Marsha and Becky the task of getting Lou to the parking lot, while I go get the car. As I’m pulling up, I see Lou hanging on Marsha and Becky carrying drinks and soup. Marsha is in a knee brace and struggles to walk. But Lou insisted Marsha help her; Becky is too skinny.
We get Lou home. I help her out of the car and walk her inside. Becky walks home. I get back to the car; only Marsha sits inside.
“I need a drink. I’m exhausted.”
“You won’t drink with me!”
“Yes, I will,” she quickly responds.
The two of us head out to decompress.