Last week I went to lunch at an eatery in town with my good friends Rol and Fhfyrd. The place is simple, not overly decorated or crowded, and the food is always tasty there—as long as you stay away from the “glazed eel surprise” on Tuesdays.
We sat down and ordered food, but Rol’s attention was obviously not on our table. He kept looking at an elderly elder a few tables away who had arrived just after we did. Finally, without a word of explanation, Rol got up and walked over to speak with the man. We couldn’t hear the conversation, but smiles and nodding of heads gave us the indication that it was at least a positive discussion, and that was confirmed when Rol came back to our table.
“Whatdyasay we go eat lunch with him?” Rol asked, leaning his head in the direction of the man who was now looking in our direction.
Fhfyrd and I both shrugged and followed the now-beaming Rol. The three of us sat down at the elder’s table while Rol introduced us to his new friend—as of a few moments prior—named Alten.
I have to admit something here. I’m not the best at making new friends. I’m just not. I try, but…let’s just say it’s something I need to work on. Maybe that is a reason Rol led us to the table that day. He’s very good at things like that.
Our food arrived and it gave me an excuse to listen without having to speak, which was fine with me. Rol and Alten did most of the talking—between chewing and chomping—and as they did, my eyes fell upon the elder’s hands, which were wrinkled and cracked and rough, but also seemed strong. As he spoke about his life I could vividly picture the scenes in my head because they seemed to be written on the wrinkles of his hands in a way that I never noticed before with anyone. I looked at his face and the lines there told similar stories. And then I looked into his eyes and they were bright and filled with a lifetime of adventure…and laughter…and maybe just a bit of sadness.
I have to admit something else. I’ve never really paid enough attention to someone to see those things before. I’ve seen the faces of people, but I haven’t truly seen their faces. Not even my own family, or friends, to be honest. This was very different.
As Alten spoke, I saw Fhfyrd and Rol watching the man just as intently, and I learned later that they could visualize the stories in much the same way I could during that lunchtime conversation.
The elder told us amazing tales from his long life and we mentioned a few of our own adventures from our not-so-long lives (so far). Soon, we were all in tears from laughter, and leaning forward to make sure we didn’t miss a single word. Diners in the eatery came and went as we chatted and listened and guffawed the day away. We stayed together through dinner and long after, until the owner had to close for the night.
It was an unbelievable and unforgettable experience. I never realized how much fun elders could be. And I certainly never thought I would learn much from one. I sure was mistaken, and know better now.
I can’t wait until the four of us friends have lunch again tomorrow.