I’m taking a day or two off to celebrate my anniversary, my retirement, and New Years. I thought instead of writing a year-end post, I’d publish a short memoir from New Year’s Eve five years ago.
New Year’s Eve 2012
New Year’s Eve, my husband and I dressed in our best attire and headed to our favorite restaurant to celebrate our anniversary, the end of the current year, and the possibilities of the year to come. The rustic eatery is nestled among trees and shrubs on a hillside overlooking a slow-moving river. Lush gardens border the winding terraced stairway leading to the entrance. A small waterfall and pond are tucked away at the landing for diners to rest and enjoy the view on their way to or from the restaurant. For those who are unable or unwilling to take the stairs, a gondola suspended above the landscape is available to transport diners down the slope to the entryway.
We arrived early, checked our reservation, found a spot in the bar, and ordered drinks. Reminiscing about the past year, I realized it had been an exceptionally difficult time full of worry, happiness, love, family, togetherness, joy, sorrow, loss, and grief. Within a few short months of each other, both my step-father and my mother passed away and my son was deployed to Afghanistan. Later that year a dear friend passed away.
Wrapped deep in my thoughts, I was startled back to the present when the red and green lights flickered, and the buzzer went off on the paging device the restaurant hostess had given us. My husband and I were escorted down a flight of stairs to a lower level of the restaurant. Weaving between tables of New Year’s revelers, we crossed the room to a table near a pine tree that was growing straight through the roof of the restaurant. Tiny white lights illuminated the tree and the lush indoor plants that trailed along wood-paneled room partitions and up along the dark beams leading to the rafters above.
In need of the ladies room, I excused myself from the table after placing my dinner order. Entering the restroom, I heard someone say, “it’s okay, Grandpa, we can fix your belt after we move out of here.” Looking to my right, I saw a young woman, a very old man with a walker, and another young woman crammed into an unusually small bathroom stall. I entered the adjoining stall and listened to the conversation next to me.
“Okay, Grandpa, try to take a step toward me,” one young woman said.
“Ow, I’m stuck.” The muffled words came from the cramped corner in the back of their cubicle.
The metallic sound of an aluminum walker being planted on the tile floor came from the other side of the partition.
“I’m still stuck,” the muffled voice said.
“It’s okay, just try to take a step forward Grandpa. We can fix your belt later,” the girl in the doorway said patiently.
Again, I heard the walker being firmly planted on the restroom floor; this time followed by short shuffling sounds. Freed from her confinement, the young woman let out a relieved “Ahh,” and said, “Don’t worry, Grandpa; it flushes by itself,” then to her sister, “we’re just like nurses.”
Unable to contain myself any longer, I started to laugh until I cried, or perhaps I cried until I laughed; I’m not sure which.
Emerging from my cubicle, I found the two young women adjusting Grandpa’s pants, which were twisted around his waist and hiked up so high that one silvery-white leg revealed itself from under its pant leg. “Where to now?” Grandpa asked. Looking thoroughly satisfied with themselves, the trio left.
Uplifted by my encounter and with tears streaming down my smiling face, I washed and headed back to my table. I ran into the delightful threesome again as they prepared to board the open-air elevator that would bring them to the upper level. Fighting back the urge to reach out and hug them, I smiled and settled for a cheerful “Happy New Year!”
When I sat down at our table, tears of joy continued to run down my cheeks. My husband gave me a “What’s the matter now?” look.
“Oh my God, the most amazing thing happened!” I proceeded to tell him the story.
“But we’re past all that now,” he said.
Not sure if it was a statement or a question, I responded with what I hoped was a convincing, “Yes, we’re past all of that.”
Happy New Year Everyone!
Smiles are contagious; let’s start an epidemic