July 29, 2013

The Coffee Shop Encounter That I Can't Forget

Today I'm delighted to share the second Telling Stories post of this guest series- from JD at Honest Mom. She blogs about depression, parenthood, and life in general. I love JD and I'm always inspired by, well, her honesty. But more than that by her compassion. This is a story that beautifully illustrates both, and reminds me vividly of a recent encounter of my own. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.


A couple weeks ago I was at a coffee shop, doing some writing while waiting to pick up Annie.

An elderly couple came in and sat the table right next to me. The place was empty and I was wondering why they picked a table a foot away from me. But whatever. I refocused on my work.

Then a quiet, gravely voice said, “So what are you writing about?”

I looked up at the man next to me, whose earnest eyes were looking at me with genuine interest.

I told him I was doing some work. Answering emails, that sort of thing.

I saw the man’s wife, who was getting coffee and food, watching us with a slightly worried look on her face, as the man pressed me for more information.

“But what do you write about?”

I hesitated. “Well, I write about software for technology companies. And I also write about parenting and my kids.”

“Ah,” said the man. “That’s very interesting. Very different topics. Very interesting you can do both,” he said thoughtfully.

“I’m a veterinarian, you know,” he continued. “You might have heard of my practice up on Route 54?”

I shook my head no, saying I had no pets. The man went into some detail about his practice, the farm animals he cared for, and how he and a young partner were opening up a bigger practice in the next town over.

I nodded politely as the man’s wife sat down with their cupcakes and drinks, and he turned his attention back to her.

With that, I went back to my writing. But out of the corner of my eye, I saw the woman suddenly get up and tuck her husband’s scarf into his coat. She let her hand linger on his face as she whispered in his ear, and then held his gaze for a while.

It was a subtle exchange, filled with tenderness and meaning. As she searched his eyes, I felt like I was intruding on a private moment, and quickly averted my own eyes back to my computer.

A few minutes later, the wife got up to go to the ladies’ room. And then I heard the gravely voice again:

“So what are you writing about?”

The man was staring at me again, expectantly. Confused, I said, “Right now?”

“Yes,” he nodded. “What do you write about?”

I opened my mouth to answer and then realized the man had no idea he had already asked me these questions.

He stared at me with eyes that said he’d never seen me before.

I answered softly, “I write about software. And also about parenting and my kids.”

“Ah,” said the man, processing this. “That’s very interesting you can do both. Such different topics,” he nodded. And then he brightened. “Did you know I’m a veterinarian? I have a practice up on Route 54.”

I looked at him, my heart aching. My eyes got watery as I smiled and said, “No. That’s great. What kind of veterinary medicine do you practice?”

As he began to tell me again, his wife came back and smiled apologetically at me. I smiled back, trying to convey that I wasn’t annoyed and that it was perfectly fine.

The woman got her husband to refocus on her, and soon they finished up and gathered their things to leave. The man smiled at me and encouraged me to come visit his practice. I nodded and said I’d certainly try. With a kind smile at me, the wife took her husband’s arm and guided him out of the coffee shop, slowly and carefully. The coffee shop door clanged, and they were gone.

I’ve been thinking about that couple a lot since then. The way the wife searched her husband’s eyes, perhaps wondering when he would no longer recognize her face. The ache she must feel, knowing their time together is limited.

But what’s really stuck with me was that the man and his wife were still together. For better or for worse. In sickness and health. Till death do us part.

And not only were they together. They seemed truly happy, in what could be considered very bleak circumstances.

That is what makes me reflect on that day in the coffee shop with a smile instead of sadness. A couple with not much time left together was quietly enjoying every moment they had, not knowing if that moment would be their last.

But savoring each one as if it could be.

This post is re-published with permission from the author, the original can be viewed here.


  1. Hi supermommy, it was fun meeting you at BlogHer. I love love love your blog-- the header is killer and of course the writing is stellar. I will be following along. Good luck with your book writing!

  2. I wouldn't be able to forget that encounter either.

    1. It really was amazing to witness. I felt like I was in a novel.

  3. Thank you so much for having me on your blog today - and for your kind words. :-)

    1. Damn you for making me cry. ;)

    2. Aw, Shell. Well, you make ME cry on your blog, so we're even. :-)

  4. Thats very touching. It just goes to show us that things are not always what they seem. It was so sweet of you to engage him in conversation not only once but twice.

    1. I wasn't sure I was doing the right thing at first, but then it seemed like what I should do. I'm glad I did. :-)

  5. My father has dementia, and this just about did me in. Thank you for sharing, and thank you JD for being so kind and understanding with that gentleman.

    1. I'm so sorry your father is dealing with this. My grandmother had Alzheimer's and it was heartbreaking to watch my mom go through that. All my best to you...

  6. there's something about that kind of love. It's elusive and so powerful. It always wins.

    1. Isn't it amazing? I picture my husband and I being like that - but hopefully very healthy for a looooooong time. :-)

  7. What a beautiful story! I was touched on so many levels, thank you so much for sharing this. And, Lea thanks for having the always wonderful JD on your great site!!

    1. Thanks Kathy! You are so wonderful. Thanks for your always thoughtful comments! xo

  8. JD Bailey you have a knack for making me cry! I hate you and love you all at the same time. Thank you for such a heart-warming story. I will hug my husband a lot longer tonight.

    1. Yes, give your husband some big hugs! Sorry to make you cry (again)!!! :-)

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  10. Thanks a lot for blogging this, it was unbelieveably informative and helped me tons.



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