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Laugh With Lisa: Orange Marmalade

The wonderful Lisa DeMarco tells a story which will warm your heart and restore your faith in human nature.

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Lloyd would have to be my all time favorite customer at the Diner. Not only because he has faithfully dined in my section the longest, but because I also have a little crush on him.

When I first started working at the Diner, he and his wife would come in every morning for the early-bird breakfast special. From 5:0am to 7:00am each week day, you could get: “Two eggs, toast and coffee for $2.10.”

They would share one and rotate who got the coffee – odd man out drank water. They did this 4-5 days a week. Sure, they could afford to order more, but that was enough to fill them up and it was their morning routine. One would think that after a lifetime of waking up early every day to go to work and raise their family that when they finally did get the chance to retired they would have slowed down a little bit. But no, not these two. They had to be nearly 100, yet they were two of the most active people I had ever met. Plus, who am I to judge them if they choose to wake up before the rooster crowed just to come visit me. I didn’t mind.

They were friendly and easy, and they brought me new jokes, and even though their daily tab only totaled $2.25 with tax, they always left me 5 bucks. Not to mention, they were the cutest and coolest couple I had ever met!

They were quite the picture too, this adorable couple that had already spent over 60-years together. She was a elegant Southern lady, who always matched from head to toe. She even had purses and shoes to match every outfit. Yes ma’am, right down to her eye glasses, she would match.

Lloyd, however, was a mess. He was a lanky man, tall and thin. He wore round, wire-framed eye glasses and odd hats. An avid golfer, he was known for his wild shoes and crazy colored pants. The bad part about Lloyd’s wardrobe was he liked to pair these funky pants up with crazy shirts, which never matched. Then – to top it all off – even though we live in the Sunshine State, where the average temperature is above 80-degrees, he would add a heavy, hand-knitted vest on top, which also did not match his ensemble.

I thought he was cute, and his dear little misses didn’t seem to mind the attention her husband drew. Carol Ann and I – my partner in crime at the Diner – LOVED them both, because they gave us something to talk about for the rest of our day.

They were the kind of couple that you couldn’t help but fall in love with. They were HAPPY and deeply in LOVE. They inspired me and made me hope that I could share half as many wonderful years with my husband as they had all ready shared together- especially seeing they had been married longer than either of us had even been alive. WOW!

Over the years, we shared our stories. They got to hear all my tales and meet my family during their occasional run ins with them at the Diner, and I learned all about their fascinating adventures. How they both came from large families, sharing 16 siblings combined – seven on his side and nine on hers – with few on either side still living. Then, how they both worked hard in rough times, when “Modern Technology” was still considered “Science Fiction.”

Not to mention, they raised 7 children of their own, which started a family tree that now branches out to: 23 grandchildren, 19 great-grandchildren and 4 great-great-grandchildren.

*

The first time I met the couple, they had come into the Diner, but they weren’t sitting in my section. They were my co-worker Carol Ann’s regulars, because they liked to sit against the window and look out into the early morning darkness. As I walked passed their table from my section, she called out “Janice.”

I didn’t respond. I had no idea she was even speaking to me. My name’s not Janice. So I kept going on my way. A little while later when the couple was leaving, again we crossed paths, but this time, she reached out and touched my arm before saying, “Janice.”

“Sweety, are you asking me if my name is Janice?” I asked.

“No, sugar pie. But you look a lot like my Janice,” she said.

“Your Janice,” I repeated.

“My Janice,” she said again as she reached for a large, gold locket that hung from a chain around her neck. Inside the beautiful charm was a rather old photograph of a young woman that very much resembled me – her baby sister that had passed a very long time ago. And from that moment on, she was my new BFF! Unfortunately, making best friends with very old woman can end up very sad.

One day, Lloyd came in on a Monday morning and he was all alone. I joked with him about not having a half order of the Early Bird Special, before asking where was the little misses? Although I had never served him alone, I didn’t think much about it. Until all of a sudden I saw the terror in his face and his eyes began to swell up quickly. I felt the biggest lump begin to swell up I my own throat, as I mustarded up enough courage to say, “Is momma sleeping in today?”

To which he replied without hesitation, “No, sweetie, she passed over the weekend.”

Shocked, tears just poured down my cheeks. I felt so bad. I had to walk away. I politely excuse myself and ran towards the bathroom. But not before motioning Carol Ann to follow me.“Oh, my God,” I cried. “His wife died. She died over the weekend and now he is here – without her. Please go check on him while I try to get myself together?”

She tried to comfort me and promised to go take care of him for me. She too was fond of them. They were her regular customers way before I ever started serving them. She just wasn’t as emotional as I am, so she thought she could handle it better. She was wrong, though. Because when I finally did compose myself enough to leave the ladies room and go back to work, she too was all ready weeping. Yes, hearing our dear sweet friend refer to his dear sweet wife as his now dearly beloved, was too much for even her.

So, Carol Ann and I vowed to look after him. We both managed to hold it together long enough to give him our phone numbers, with the promise to be available if he ever needed us for anything. Luckily, though, because he did create such a large close knit family there were plenty of kin to care for him, and they all came quickly and willingly. They were also very pleased to know that their parents had so many dear friends and acquaintances.

Nearly 7 years later, at the ripe old age of 98, Lloyd still drives himself to the Diner for an occasional visit. Sure, we pray for him and everyone who has the misfortune of being on the road while he is behind the wheel, but we believe his angel is watching over. And sure, it may take him 15-minutes to walk the 15-steps it takes to get from his parking spot to the entrance of the building, but he does it on his own, and we are happy for the chance to see him. Even other regular customers at the Diner regularly ask about him and how he is doing.

We used to have a running joke at the Diner about how, if we really wanted to make him feel special we would serve orange marmalade with our breakfasts. (Because grape, strawberry and mixed fruit flavored jams weren’t good enough for him.) “Orange Marmalade would be wonderful with my morning toast,” he’d say.

To which I would reply, “That’s what you got mamma for, my friend.”

And then his wife would say, “I have Marmalade at home for you.”

I never will forget either of them. and since then, we’ve not only added a “One-egg-one -piece-of-toast-and-coffee-ever-other-time-I-see-you special” to the breakfast menu, but I also keep a jar of orange marmalade in the fridge, just for him, in case he needs reminding of how special he really is!

Serving is my LIFE because of men and women like these. You can’t imagine how COOL it is just to know them!

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