The beauty of having a café as an office is that there is a constant influx of interesting people coming in and out. From cute babies to the elderly and an eclectic mix in between, it is this variety of society that keeps me going back every day.
Lately, I’ve noticed an elderly couple that come in most days. They are in their 80’s and seem to be still very much in love and I have sat there day after day, wondering what their story could be.
When they walk in, they hold hands. It’s sweet and touching but he holds her hand more like a parent would hold a childs. As they walk past me, I always smile but it makes her stop in her tracks. She stares at me as if perhaps she knows me. She doesn’t, but she tries hard to recollect me from a memory that may or may not be there. Part of me feels guilty for being part of any confusion caused.
He sits her down on a chair while he gets their lunch. The waitresses known them and they look out for her while he gets their soup, coffee and cake. Every day they eat the same.
There is no recognition on her face of where she is, who anyone is or even how to eat her soup. It’s heartbreaking. I’m only 40 but watching her reminds me not only that my own Mum never made that age, but about my impending old age – it scares the bejesus out of me.
Last week, two ladies came over to the couple who obviously knew them well. The husband hugged them both. His wife stared at them and then looked at her husband as if to ask him if it was OK that these women were talking to her. He patted her on the hand – their code for “it’s ok,” and she let the visitors kiss her on the cheek.
He asked them if they’d mind watching her while he popped to Sainsbury’s for twenty minutes and they couldn’t have been happier to be able to help. He exhaled and tried hard not to look too relieved to get time to himself.
As I watched this scenario play out in front of me, I tried to imagine what their life was like for both of them. Did they have children? Grandchildren? Could they afford hired help? Did the NHS help? Or was it just the two of them?
As I looked at the stains down the front of the old lady’s coat, I started crying. In the middle of the café. Pathetic huh? Who was I to feel sorry for myself when this couple face these struggles day in, day out? But it was just so damned sad. It was like The Notebook was being played live in front of me.
I quickly dried my eyes and left the café before I drew any more attention to myself, but I couldn’t help smiling at the old lady again on my way out.