Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Gravy on the Tie Guy

The reason, as always for my return to my hometown is to help my aging parents. In the midst of a busy week of errands, doctor's appointments and heart-wrenching tasks done to ensure their safety and welfare, there were the moments that Dad looks forward to the most...dining out.

My Dad has a colorful history with restaurants. He has always found a true joy with the act of dining out. Dad relishes the social aspect as much as the food. He is not dazzled by much....he always wants to know what the specials are but typically eats pretty much along the meat-and-potatoes line. During my childhood and teen years, every Sunday after church was was the time for dining out. Typically, the choice was the Hi-Way Grille Diner, then run by Charlie Landsettle. Generously, Dad always encouraged me to invite one of my friends to accompany us. He never failed to offer this despite the fact we never had much money. I was well-versed in the selfishness of youth in those days and always managed to bellyache about wanting to hurry the meal up or skip it altogether as I just wanted to catch up with my friends and go to the public pool. My Dad, however always took his time during those restaurant visits. From the moment we stepped into the parking lot, Dad knew everyone. While being lead to our table, he table-hopped and stopped to talk to everybody. Mom and I would sit down, peruse the menu and order drinks in the time it took Dad to arrive at the table. The waitresses Grace, Rachel and Shirley joked with, cajoled and made over Dad as well. We sometimes went to other locations like the dearly departed Cherry Tree Inn(formerly the Silver Moon)in Marietta as well as Bonanza or Shoneys but this wasn't as thrilling for Dad as he didnt know nearly as many people.

Dad is also the quintessential gravy on the tie guy. There was not a single meal we could get through without some part of it landing on himself. Many of these moments seemed witheringly embarrassing during my self-centered youth but looking back, they are increasingly comical. Dad waves at someone and forgets he has a glass of water in his hand and showers us all! Dad hits the corner of his salad bowl and flips it over on his lap! Dad leaps up to greet someone and knocks a tray of drinks on to the waitress!

I first realized in those days and have cemented over the years that the apple has not fallen far from the tree. As far back as the Hi-way Grille Days, I found myself
going home more and more wearing my dinner. The Grille used to put the actual plastic bottles of salad dressing on the tables. Going to shake up a bottle of Zesty Italian, I quickly found the top was not secure and ended up drenched in a pungent blend of herbs and spices. I continue to this day to wear my meals home just like Dad.

I also love dining out although lately the culinary aspect has outweighed the social one for me. These days, Dad knows less and less people when I take him out but he never fails to wave and greet people anyway. He always understood the value of the shared meal and the joy of friendship and togetherness. I'm happy to say I inherited that awareness as well.

I'll continue to dine out with my Dad as long as he is able....and we'll leave the restaurant together, proudly wearing our meals home every time.


Kristy said...

Ah Rex Haught. What can you say about Rex Haught. Well, I for one can so a BUNCH about Rex Haught. (I know you find this shocking LOL)Very often I was one of the recipient's of the invitation to lunch after church. I will never forget the first time I went to the Hi-Way Grille with you and your folks. Grace, Rachel and Shirley were in full battle mode. Typically this meant they were nice to the people they knew and those they didn't...well..they got a hearty "what'll ya have?" After attending these post church meals for many a Sunday I realized that even though St. Marys has more churches per square mile than most small towns and even though EVERYONE went to the Grille after church, perhaps Divine Intervention had stepped in and scheduled said churches to dismiss at varied times so we all could get a seat. Do you remember that we ALWAYS sat at the SAME table every Sunday and everyone else did too? And yes, by the time your dad got to the table we were already ready for refills on our drinks....something that Shirley and Rachel hated to deal with and they let us know that. But my favorite part of the meal was the moment (and it happened EVERY time) that the gravy finally ended up on your dad's tie and your mother would chide him and we all would laugh. I also remember going out of town on occasion to Ponderosa. Your dad told me to order whatever I wanted. I stood in that cafeteria style line and searched for the cheapest thing on the menu...chicken fried steak. I had no idea what chicken fried steak was but I ordered it anyway because it was the cheapest. It was actually quite good once I scraped the gravy off it. (Sorry, I still do not like gravy poured over top of everything on the plate. Especially thick flour and milk based gravy.) And sadly yes my dear friend, you HAVE inherited your father's knack for wearing your dinner. But that's OK. It is an endearing quality and one that I will cherish in your forever. And, God willing, we make it to the age that your parents now are, I will lovingly wipe the gravy off your tie whilst chiding you in the spirit of your mother. And we will laugh. As always, we will laugh.

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