An Exchange

I met my friend Tina for our annual exchange of Christmas gifts; we meet at Frisch’s, not for the food, but for the convenience and tradition. Instead of mailing packages back and forth, we wait until I travel back home, meet over a meal and exchange our gifts.  

We use these meals to work out the issues in our lives, and as we’ve gotten older, the topics are different from when we were in our twenties and thirties. I ask about her daughter, if the insurance company has finally approved the motorized wheelchair she needs to get around. I share my friend’s frustration, irritated with an insurance system that makes arbitrary decisions based on formulas rather than common sense or concern for the patient’s needs. 

Next, we talk about our parents, their medical conditions and how in our eyes, they are moving more slowly than in previous years. Just when this could make us feel too somber, we laugh, knowing that for the most part, they are living as they choose, as we will do when we are old. I remind her that our children will probably talk about us the same way, if they have not already begun doing so. We decide to enjoy them as they are, grateful for both the days behind and the days left ahead with them.

Our waitress’ name is Nashara and I ask her to repeat it so I can pronounce it correctly, getting it right on my first try. She is pleased, and from that point on, over the next three hours, we make sure we say her name when we ask for more water, tartar sauce or the dessert menu.

My friend tells me a story about a person who has behaved badly, again, and we agree that nothing good will come to someone who treats other people so poorly.

“You know,” I say, “God doesn’t like ugly.”

She responds, “And he’s not too fond of cute.”

We fall out laughing, the concerns of health, family and finances momentarily falling away. We laugh like this every time we are together, and have had other patrons ask if they could join our table because we appear to be having so much fun.

It is time to leave. We head for the front register, paying our bill to the short, brown-skinned manager who is here every time we come. She seems to resent our laughter, squinting at us through her glasses, and we swear that by now, she remembers us.  We sit down on the waiting area bench to finish a conversation before leaving and I notice five white women, probably at least 70 years of age, coming in to have dinner. Each one has some version of the same short, curled, gray hairstyle. Tina and I are still sitting there 45 minutes later, when they come out after eating. That will be us in 20 years.

We say our goodbyes and walk to our cars, adding, “Be safe girl” and “Talk to you later.”

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