TABLE FOR ONE

3 weeks ago, I posted, “You Just Never Know,” about two, old friends at our local Starbucks.  At the time, Joe was worried that his pal Bob, “had Alzheimer’s.”  I hadn’t been back since then, so dropped by this morning to say, “Hi.”  Bob was sitting alone outside on the bench.  Joe was nowhere in sight. 

“Hey!  Where’s your sidekick?” I teased. “He won’t be coming,” Bob said sadly.  “He has dementia, that Alzheimer’s thing.  His wife won’t let him come.  She said that they have to run tests to see if he can drive, for insurance reasons.”  When Joe’s family noticed that his memory was slipping, they took him to the doctor.  “They put him on some kind of medication  to slow down the memory loss,”  Bob tells me. Then he exhales heavily and stares out at the parking lot.  I have never seen such a big man look so small and bereft.

 “Can’t his wife bring him?” I ask, “The last thing someone with memory loss needs is taking them away from familiar people and places.  And you guys go all the way back to the 4th grade!”  Bob just shook his head.  “Joe called to tell me all this himself,” he said sadly, “and I could hear in his voice that he was just all choked up about it.”  We both were silent again.  “Well, guess I’ll just have to get a replacement,” he said trying to be light-hearted, yet without a trace of enthusiasm in his voice.  “Maybe you can be my replacement?”  But we both knew it wasn’t a real question.  How do you replace a 65-year friendship?

I hope that his wife will bring him.  There’s an empty seat at Bob’s table now and no matter who sits there, they’ll never fill it like Joe did.  Bob didn’t chat up a single customer today and the whole place was sadder for it; even me.

Helen Hudson is the author of, “Kissing Tomatoes,” an Alzheimer’s memoir.

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