merry winter's morn

The restaurant was packed. We waited single file in the foyer, frigid air channeling in through an open door. Michael held Calvin captive as he fidgeted and fought while some diners cast their warm smiles upon us, others averting their gaze in a manner that appeared very deliberate and which, sadly, I’ve become accustomed to.

After ten minutes or so we were seated at the end of a large table near the windows. I helped Michael slip Calvin’s long body into an infant high chair, carefully navigating his feet through the small spaces so as not to bump and bruise his shins on the way through. Immediately, Calvin began banging his palms on the table, accosting the paper place mats and snatching the utensils and laminated menus. I rummaged through my bag searching for a distraction, perhaps his sippy cup or a crunchy snack. I unearthed his rubber giraffe first, which he mouthed and slimed then ripped from his teeth launching globules of drool into the air.

Despite all of Calvin’s racket we somehow managed to scan the menu. Michael ordered the hungry man skillet with coffee and I settled on an egg 'n' cheese sandwich, crispy hash browns and grapefruit juice. Just before our meals arrived, the server seated a group of three elderly men at the opposite end of our table. Two were white-haired, one bald, and all were missing most of their teeth. It took no time to discern that the three of them were deaf. The man seated nearest us, the bald one with big ears, took particular interest in Calvin, smiling broadly with a certain twinkle in his eye. I envisioned his cheerful, expressive face painted up like a clown, all white and black with a big red rubber nose and laugh lines at his eyes making merry for children.

I looked at the man and pointed to Calvin, then spelled out Calvin’s name using sign language, something I’d learned as a child because of my deaf uncle. The man began signing quickly, so I grabbed a pen and wrote on the back of my place mat: “I don’t know much sign language,” and I went on to write that, along with his neurological deficits, Calvin also has epilepsy. As the man read, Calvin squirmed in his chair, pitched sideways to stare at the sun, banged on the table some more and shrieked. I rolled my eyes with a half-smile and spelled out, “T-R-O-U-B-L-E.” The three of us giggled as the man’s companions looked on with kind smiles.

There was something about being at a table with our wordless, disabled eight-year-old child sitting next to a bunch of old deaf men; something akin to solidarity, a particular knowingness. Our exchange was so delightful, the man’s kindness and sense of humor so touching, that it made both Michael and I tear up. I gestured to the man that Michael was crying. In return he thumbed at Michael and pantomimed spanking a child over his knee and suckling an imaginary bottle like an infant. Smiling, I told Michael that the man thought he was a big baby. Our hearts swelled with laughter.

Having employed some spatial tactics—sliding our plates just out of reach of Calvin's flailing hands—we were able to finish our meals together, when in the past we’ve had to tag team; one of us eating while the other walks around with Calvin. We waved and signed goodbye to our new friends and snuck out the side door just in time to avoid filling the restaurant with the stench of Calvin’s poopy diaper. We walked Calvin hand in hand to the car, opened the back and proceeded to change his diaper. It must have been below freezing, steam rising off of Calvin’s wet-wiped butt to prove it. Instead of being perturbed at the task, Michael and I chuckled, a sure sign that it had been a very merry winter's morn.

Rolly's Diner, Amber Waterman/Sun Journal

1 comment:

  1. What a perfectly serendipitous synchronistic seasonal setting!

    Stereophonic Calvin dines with a table of auditorially challenged three "Wise men".

    Subtle, Pipes, subtle. You worked a little Christmas into the story after all.

    Go Calvin! And, Merry Christmas to all.