FOR JOE! What? I stood there with my coffee in one hand, my croissant in the other and my cell phone burning a hole in my back pocket, staring incredulously at the sign in the chair. Who on earth would presume to reserve a seat in a busy coffee shop like this! AUGH! HELLO … this is Grandma/granddaughter day and I need a nice place to wait out a few hours til little bit is finished with Preschool! With an internal huff I turned and marched out of the shop to wait out those hours in my car. That sign still stuck in my craw. I am a good customer … a paying customer … my brain ranted … certainly I deserved a seat. My mood was NOT helped by the fact that I was now covered in croissant crumbs and was parked just outside of the free wifi signal!
The following week the sign was still there. Since there were more open tables and chairs today the empty chair did not taunt me as badly this time. I did note that at no time during my 2 hour coffee and cell phone marathon did Joe show up nor did anyone violate the sanctity of his seat. A month passed and no Joe. I had decided this must be a joke or the chair was broken.
Then it happened! I stepped into the shop and immediately saw that THE chair was filled. Seated in it was an older smiling man relaxing with a cup of coffee. My curiosity was piqued. Gaped mouth I thought, is that JOE?? That homeless guy? Averting my eyes I grabbed my coffee and croissant and looked around for a seat. OH NO .. aargh .. the ONLY table and chair was right beside him. As I tried to walk very nonchalantly to the table I regretted having eyeballed him a bit too hard. His smiling eyes caught mine as he chirped out, “Well hello there little missy.” Freezing in place, I choked back that bite of humble pie that was stuck in my throat and weakly returned his greeting. “My name is Hank but ’round here they call me Joe,” he chuckled. Over the next few months I would come to know and learn much more about this kindly man.
“I met Gracie in 1957. She was a beauty I tell ya and I fell in love with her from the moment I saw her. Do you believe in love at first sight Missy? I never thought so … at least till I saw her.” He paused, lingering a moment to absorb his recollection and take a long drink from his coffee … smiling at a long ago memory.
“We married within the year and bought our home. OHHH she had such a sense of style my Gracie. We all grew up and grew old there.” Joe’s eyes sparkled as he spoke of their home, Gracie and of the 2 boys, Charlie and Ben, that they had raised there in that little house. Shaking his head he chuckled, “Between the three of them that house was always in a kerfuffle.”
“My boys are all grown now with successful careers. They married lovely gals and together they gave me 3 grandkids. 2 fine boys and a girl … Hank Jr, Max and Alice … my sweet angel with hair the color of a Pacific Northwest Sunset.” He beamed with pride as showed me a grimy picture of he and his family gathered around a Christmas tree. Staring at a far off unseen place he sighed, “That is the last time I saw them. I miss them … I miss them so much.” We did not talk much more that morning. Just drank our coffee in silence. The ache of a Grandpa’s heart is probably best left unspoken.
“Fifty two wonderful years I spent with Gracie. Side by side we had jumped many of life’s hurdles and so when she got sick I thought surely we would beat it together. She fought hard and I battled alongside of her everyday but this was a battle that we would not win. She left me 4 years ago in the spring.
I wandered around that house by myself for a year. Now I do love my boys, Missy! But they are too busy to attend to me. So, I decided to go on a tramp. I have always been a fan of old Boxcar Willie,” he guffawed. “I sold the house and bought me a bicycle, a tent and a good pair of boots. Ahh Missy, the adventures I have had these past 3 years. I have lost track of how many tires I have put on that old bike of mine!”
I must have had a doleful look on my face because he quickly added, “Don’t feel sad for me Missy. I am never alone … sometimes at night I know she is right there beside me.”
“I had heard the coffee was good up in these parts. I have always enjoyed a good cup of coffee. I mean after all that is why I have my nickname Joe,” he said smiling broadly at his wisecrack! “So I ended up in this place. The wonderful baristas here see to me. They make sure I eat and always give me a hot cup of joe and a warm place to rest my bones!” The tears stung in my eyes as I remembered my own selfish attitude regarding his reserved chair and the kindness shown to this wayfarer by the young people who worked here.
It was a sunny summer day and Joe did not come to the coffee shop. Being a gorgeous day I thought perhaps he is out getting a bit of folding money. The next week and the next week and the next week went by and no Joe. My heart was heavy with concern. I saw Officer Jaredin was having a break so I sat down and asked her to check police logs to see if he had gotten sick or something. She assured me she would.
A week later she called me to say that his body had been found. He passed away in his tent near the Rhodie Gardens he loved so much. I was very sad over the loss of my friend .. but I know somewhere he and his Gracie are together again.
<<< next short story Grandma’s House >>>
Much thanks to my wonderful friend Simsomnia1 for building the lovely house for this story.
(Her youtube is awesome 🙂
TY Abby K (aka CanadianSimmer) for “Joe’s chair” 🙂
(she does great speed builds on youtube as well … https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3qC0r-fU2zQ&feature=youtu.be )
TY to the fabulous Virtualee for his (Joe’s) wonderful nickname and the inspiration to write this story! ❤ u tons Lee!
(She is also a fab youtuber – check her out at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dbOwLET4FMQ&feature=youtu.be )