Just a thought prompted by a conversation I had with a lovely friend a few days ago…
A restaurant can be so much more than a place to eat a favourite dish, or grab a few drinks with friends. It can be a sanctuary, a refuge, a source of warmth.
Three and a half years ago, my husband Dave was very ill in hospital with heart and kidney failure. Everyone, except he, knew he would’t make it this time. And every day, I was there, for five months. And every evening, tired, drained, I would stop by one of my Yaletown haunts to grab a little something to eat before I went home to the cats and get ready to do it all over again the next day.
I had three favourites – Hapa Izakaya, where I could satisfy my nigiri fix when I felt the need to eat extra healthy; Cactus Club, where I could sit in one of their cosy little booths in the back and silently cry and no one would notice; and Society, where the staff treated me so kindly, they would stealthily take my dinner off my bill and I’d only pay for my wine. They all gave me solace when I needed it most – and I never really thanked them, or acknowledged their kindness. I regret that.
I remember one night so vividly. It had been one of those hard days, when nothing went right, nothing was good and everything looked grim. I was so tired, so sad, that all I wanted to do was grab a bite and go home. I slipped into Hapa, was greeted warmly, and ordered a light meal. It didn’t take me long to notice that the young man sitting beside me was ordering some interesting dishes.
Naturally, I thought he must have been a food writer (I know a few!). But when I asked him, he laughed and said no. He just knew the chef and was a kind of guinea pig. Then he asked me if I lived in the area and if this was one of my local places. So, I told him that this was one of my go-to places on the way home.
He was still well into his meal when I finished, so I said good night and called for my bill. And he laid his hand on mine, and told me to go home. He was taking care of the bill.
I almost fell to the ground in gratitude. And I hugged him, in tears. I’ve never forgotten.
Why is this memory so strong this week? Because I’ve again been blessed with kindness from a variety of people, and again, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude.
I think we forget sometimes how fantastic humans can be to each other.
Let’s not forget.