Monday, October 20, 2014

Parenthood: Week 73 – The Lonesome Man

I barely noticed him when I walked into the dining room.

The entry to the restaurant led into a small foyer. To the right was the bar and up ahead was the dining room. We were late to a birthday dinner for Diana’s grandfather.  We spotted Diana's family in the back corner of the dining room and walked over quickly so that we could get Ollie settled down and get him something to eat. That’s probably why I didn’t notice The Lonesome Man at the small table sitting alone to the left of the entrance to the dining room.

Ollie was delighted to see his great-grandparents, his grandmother and all of his great aunts and uncles. However, it was pass his usual dinnertime and was Ollie starting to get fussy. We started getting him fed and ordered something off of the children’s menu quickly.

As I settled down I first noticed The Lonesome Man. He was a large man, in his 60’s or 70’s. He sat leaning far back in his chair glaring around the room with a look of disgust and disappointment chiseled into his face. I though it was a bit odd the way he seemed to be looking so angry but I didn’t pay it much mind.

After Ollie ate a couple pieces of bread, he started whining a little bit. He needed a change of diaper so I carried him out of the dining room.  I caught in the corner of my eye, The Lonesome Man glaring at me.  My focus was on Ollie so I brushed it off  and took care of his diaper.  This put Ollie in a much better mood and I helped him walk back into the dining room.

As we entered the dining room Diana’s mom came up and asked if she could play with Ollie so I could get something to eat. I thanked her for the offer and left Ollie toddling around with his grandmother.  I sat back down at the table and watched Ollie fall on his butt, like all toddlers do. His grandmother crouched down to help him and at this point I saw The Lonesome Man, lean over and say something nasty to her. She quickly lifted Ollie up and carried him into the foyer away from his anger.

Now I was getting mad.

Then The Lonesome Man started complaining, first to a waitress that came by, then to two other waitresses and finally to the manager. I was out of earshot but I could see him making gestures like a crawling baby, motioning over to our table, the floor and over to the foyer. He spit as he talked angrily fuming over the Ollie.

As I watched him complain I became furious.  I wanted to get up in his face and yell at him.

No, Ollie wasn't being a perfectly quiet toddler, but this wasn’t a super-fancy restaurant. It was at the level of Olive Garden. There bar was making plenty of noise that was leaking into the dining room and the dining room itself was pretty lively. I get that not everyone loves babies but to spray such venom and animosity towards my mother-in-law and my son was repugnant.

The waitstaff and the manager understood this because no matter how much the Lonesome Man complained they never once came up to tell us to quiet down or to control Ollie.

I told Diana about what was going on and she mentioned it to everyone at the table. After a couple sarcastic jokes about how we were such horrible parents, one of her uncles told us, “if you need to leave because Ollie is tired that’s fine, but don’t leave because of that man.”

This comment helped center me and Diana’s calmness helped me to start thinking more logically. She told me that she was sympathetic for The Lonesome Man sitting by himself all alone in a restaurant full of families. Diana was right, there was something depressing about the Lonesome Man, but that wasn’t an excuse for him to be so hateful toward my son. I was not going to start a fight with this guy, but there was no way I was going to take Diana’s aunt's advice to simply ignore him.

It was time for us to go.  Ollie was fading fast. We packed up all of his stuff. I carried him around so he could say goodbye to all of his family and giggle as he received goodbye kisses and hugs. As Ollie said goodbye, I glanced over my shoulder and I could see The Lonesome Man staring angrily at me.

There was no way to avoid this man as we walked out.  I wasn’t going to ignore him. The Lonesome Man didn’t deserve the courtesy of my tolerance.

Something had to be said.

I held Ollie in my arms and started toward the exit with Diana next to me. As we approached the Lonesome Man, sitting at his little table, I met his spiteful eyes with a gracious smile.  Then with a voice dripping with sarcasm like an annoyed waiter inviting someone to eat a tainted dish, I told The Lonesome Man, “I hope you enjoy your dinner.”

Diana and I giggled to ourselves as we walked into the parking lot.  We were proud that we made it to the dinner and got to celebrate Ollie's great-grandfather's birthday.  As I drove away with my wonderful wife and my beautiful boy, we left behind The Lonesome Man, sitting alone at his little table with only his bitterness to keep him company.

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