*Arguments could be made about state fairs and how much they center around fried foods. I've never been to a state fair, though, so I didn't know if it was really fair to include those or not.
The KFC was almost deserted. Apparently there isn't much demand for KFC buffet after 12:30 on a Monday. I came in to one slightly older couple in a booth, and what appeared to be a more senior gentleman at the counter asking for a fork. He was also by himself and looked frail to me. He was short, maybe five feet tall. Although I'm sure never a giant by any means, I would imagine he had shrunk with age. His voice seemed weathered, as did his longish (but thin) white hair coming out the back of his flat cap. He had shaky hands.
Shaky hands are the quintessential sign of age to me. My great-grandpa Summers had shaky hands about as long as I can remember. He always seemed old to me since I was born. He died three years ago at 97* A fighter until the end, he lived all of his adult life in his own house until just the last few months of his life. I respect the hell out of that. But I do remember those hands and the paper plates flapping away at family get-togethers.
*I was going to type he just died, but then the obituary informed me it was in 2008. It does not seem like that should be anywhere nearly that long, just like it seems there's no way it was almost a year since Kristine's grandma died.
This man was eating alone as well. I've had this crazy idea in my head to start going to restaurants and see who I can find eating alone and start joining them for dinner. I'm (to this point) far too embarrassed and not nearly forward enough to actually start doing this. But it's a nice thought in my head. We both get company at lunch or dinner and maybe come away with new friends. Or at least learning about somebody new. That thought went through my head with this man, too, but I of course did not act on it. I just stayed in my own booth, letting my mind wander. For a little while, they were quite nice thoughts. Thoughts I've had before, but I like them. How crazy it is to think that every person you see has an entire lifetime's worth of stories and experiences, just like every book in the library is a new and different story. Some good, some not. But a whole different plot with different twists and turns, unique as their fingerprints. To think that everybody you see every day could be a whole book that you will never know the depths of, that just strikes me as wonderful. But, of course, things don't stay that way.
That man left. A new customer finally came in, and he apparently knew the older couple. They got to talking, eventually turning to grandkids.* Everybody the older couple brought up, the new customer would respond with "They're good," or some variation thereof. I was smiling to myself about when he blindsided me with a "you know, she's been through so much." My ears perked a little more at that. I wanted to know what the crisis was, but I wasn't sure if I would ever know. I did find out, though. Cancer. In good news, the girl in question had been released from the care of her doctors and termed a cancer survivor. Almost immediately, the XKCD comic posted at the top popped into mind. I urge you to click it so you can see the full size version. Make sure you hover your mouse over it while you're there to get the alt-text.
*I think it was grandkids, anyway. They were talking about high school cross country, and these folks all seemed old to have high school kids. I was surprised they would have grandkids that old, though.
I connected with this, too. A year after my great-grandpa died, I was back in the same church for another funeral. My mind tells me it was much closer than a year, but the newspaper tells me otherwise. My cousin Jessica died after a long battle with cancer. For reasons I don't really know, I wasn't terribly close with Jessica or that side of my family. I think my family was so big with just my immediate cousins, it was impossible to know everybody. But I did constantly hear the updates, even if I didn't know her like I should have. She had her encouraging moments and her disappointments like I suppose anybody would a prolonged bout of cancer. There was a point, not long before her end came, where it was clear her exit was coming up, to use XKCD's imagery. All she wanted was one last party before she went. We did the best we could, but all the chemo left her weak. She did her best, but she was too tired and sick to really get out and enjoy the party like she wanted. We had a good time, but looking back on it, it was such a sad thing that the sickness couldn't just give her one last blow out, to go out on her terms.
Now, maybe it's because I'm a selfish prick, maybe it's natural, I don't know. But I do tend to turn these things back to me. I think it's because I've never been in these sorts of situations myself, so my brain doesn't know how to comprehend it except to try to put myself at the end of my life. And for reasons I really can't explain, a news story popped into my head.
I might have made a jump here, but I started thinking about what drives me to write. I've written a lot all through my life. In more formative years, I think it was more about being known. I don't think that's really the case any more. I think now it's more about being remembered. It won't be too far in the future I'll start having kids, and they'll start having kids, and God-willing, I'll get to see those kids have kids. I might be a relic then, so out of touch it would kill the 2011 edition of me. But, hopefully, through things like Facebook, this blog, books, and God knows what the future holds, but there will be a way for my ancestors and other interested folks to get a feel of what my life was like, the kind of person I am, was, and will be.
I don't know what happens after this life. The dead don't really write postcards, you know? But, I can write about this life, what I've seen and experienced, what I've gleaned from it. What good will any of that do, other than to provide some sort of comfort that I won't be forgotten? I don't know. Just as I'm sure many writers of letters and journals in wars past didn't really think of what historians and the like might get from their writings. I just want to ensure that it's here. If nothing else, maybe the 50-year-old or 80-year-old versions of me can take a look back at this and get a chuckle out of the memories.