Coffee cup like that in blog post by DC widow Marjorie Brimley

The Girl at the Coffee Shop

Is there anything better than writing on a beautiful day at an outdoor coffee shop?

Not for me. I love it. And I finally had a few free hours to do it the other day. I sipped my tea slowly and listened to the wind in the trees.

The silence was broken abruptly by the woman sitting next to me. She was young – probably a college student – and she was talking really loudly. I went to put on my headphones. But then I paused.

“I guess she posted the photo of her dad in hospital because she wanted everyone to know what was going on,” the young woman said into the phone, “but I would never have posted a photo like that of mom. She would have hated for the world to see her that way.”

She continued to talk loudly and I could hear the emotion in her voice. Everyone around us ignored her, but I couldn’t.

“I know,” she said a few times in reply to whomever was on the other end.

“I think it just reminded me of when mom was sick,” the young woman continued, softly this time. Then she listened to what the person on the other end of the line was saying.

By the end of the call, her voice was much more steady. “I love you,” she said, and then hung up and went back to working on her computer.

I felt like I’d just spied on her. But she was sitting just four feet from me, and clearly she didn’t feel the need to hide her emotions. So I decided to start talking to her.

I introduced myself and told her I wrote a blog about grief. “I heard you talking,” I said, and she nodded. “Did your mom die?”

“Yes,” she said, “about three months ago.”

“That’s so hard,” I said. “My mom died when I was 19 and it always helped to call my family when things were hard. It seems like you have someone on the other end of that phone who’s really supportive.”

“Oh, yes,” she said, “that’s my dad. He says I can call him anytime, so I do. Honestly, I call him all the time. Sometimes I wake up with anxiety at 4 am and I call him. He always answers.”

“You’re lucky to have him,” I said. “That’s how my dad was too.”

We chatted a bit more, and then both went back to our own work. I tried to write something else but I couldn’t – I just kept thinking about this girl and her father. I can’t remember the conversations I had with my dad in those early months after my mom died, but I remember this – talking to him made me feel better. Always.

He held my emotions in a way that I couldn’t. And God, that must have been hard for him to do, especially since he was dealing with his own grief.

I wish I knew this girl’s father, so I could reach out and tell him that no matter what, he’s doing a really good job helping his daughter through this time period. I know, because that’s what my dad did for me. Maybe this girl’s father feels lost in his own grief, and maybe he feels like he doesn’t know how to fully support his daughter.

But she knows she can call him at 4 am. And that means he’s doing something right.