Sometimes you are sitting in a cafe, a place new to you but like home to someone else, finishing your last few swigs of Diner Coffee when the person you didn't know you needed to meet walks up to your table playing a Doris Day song for you to listen to from their phone. This is Bob.
Bob will be 93 in about a week. He's lived in Petaluma for over 60 years and he's been sitting in the same booth at this cafe for forever. He told us about being in the Air Corps during WWII, about his daughter and his friends, the travelling he did with his wife before she got sick and about the 11 women he took out for lunch the day she passed away.
The first story Bob told us, after the Doris Day bit, was how on the day his wife passed away Daniel at the Cafe walked up, put a hand on Bob's shoulder, looked into his eyes and said, "Its OK, Boob. Boob, its going to be ok." I guess Daniel has an accent.
During the short time we all sat in our booth together we were given a glimpse into the life of a single, wonderful human. Though they may seem simple on the surface, every story was centered around another person; how he met Gabby, who's family is now living with him; how his wife worked as a part time dress model on Wednesday and Saturday evenings; how his Dad taught him the work ethic that he still carries; how he and his wife drove to Washington every year to visit their nieces and nephews. After each micro-story, Bob would sit for a moment or two seeming to reflect on that time past. Then, as though that memory was sufficiently reflected upon, another person was brought to mind and another story was told. Often, Bob would let us know that a person was gone, and we started to see that there is a pain in having so many wonderful friends and family that you have loved: when they pass away, no one can fill the void that they have left.
In his ninety-some years, Bob has loved many and lost many. His stopping at our table and sharing the memories of those loved and lost, and those he loves and are with him now, seemed to be a way to keep those cherished ones close in his mind. And now we are keepers with him of the pictures from his phone and the people we met through the telling of his history.
Those 11 women he took out to lunch? All sweet friends that have at one time met him along the road to his house or in the grocery store or were a few booths away at this cafe.
As he left, Bob told us to come back and see him - he's usually sitting in his booth around noontime.