Yesterday I shared the story of Frank the Deer. Today I’m introducing you to the other Frank who made a short but significant impression on my life. Frank the man was so incredible, that twenty years later I still swoon at the thought of him.
Frank was old when I met him. He remained a regular customer during my five year stint at China Garden Restaurant, coming in like clockwork every Saturday for lunch. Frank wore thick black-framed glasses and silver hairs thinly veiled his head. His body was shaped like Humpty Dumpty, and he shuffled his thick bottomed black shoes a half-foot length at a time. He would lean into his walker with heaviness, tiring by the time he arrived at the lone table in the front.
His preferred seat next to the waitress station was no accident. He socialized with us, as his wife had become too ill to join him. He remained her sole care-taker, and this was his break from duty. A retired teacher from Frenchtown, Frank was rich not in material goods, but in wisdom, sensibility, and sensitivity. He cared about people.
Frank insisted on giving me a $1 tip every Saturday. Despite the fact that I was a hostess and did nothing to earn a tip from him, and despite the fact that he was living on Social Security and retirement funds, he mandated I accept it. He reasoned his offer by stating I wouldn’t be working if I didn’t need money. I had recently returned to the University for my teaching certification, which left me with no argument to deny him. He was proud of the fact that I would become a teacher.
I graciously accepted his $1 every Saturday for years. Listening to his stories about life, I learned about his wife and her health, teaching, and any other subject that would come up. A particular issue held sway which affected his relationship with his wife: the acceptance of their lesbian daughter. It grieved him that his wife wouldn’t accept her the way she was. Despite this disagreement, he tended to his wife’s every need.
Once every few months Frank’s daughter joined him for lunch at China Garden. She travelled for work and was usually gone on Saturdays. Frank loved spending time with her, and of course, she was equally fond of him. A lovely person, she always helped him with a smile on her face.
Frank passed away during a busy time in my life. I was married, had Big Dipper, and was studying for my Educator’s License. I didn’t take the time to attend his funeral, a regret I can’t change. However, I’m comforted knowing he would understand and that he would be proud of who I have become.
I once had a dream of entering Frank’s house. In it, a large window shed light into a room full of beautiful statues sitting atop pedestals. Knowing his means wouldn’t allow for such extravagance, I accept this beauty as a symbol of the graces he exuded. Frank was a beautiful soul, radiating light and beauty to the people in his world.
RIP Frank- I will never forget you.