We’ve shared a lot of lighthearted moments here in café and there will be many more. But sometimes life takes us into darker places.
The Last Chance Democracy Cafe
Episode 52: Death visits after midnight
by Steven C. Day
Memory can be a funny thing: What our minds keep and what they throw away. In the case of our earliest childhood experiences, of course, almost everything gets tossed, victimized by what experts call childhood amnesia. But out of this blanket of early darkness, most of us retain at least one small pinprick of light in the form of our earliest memory. Often it’s nothing particularly noteworthy; an everyday event seemingly picked at random, almost like the reward given to the millionth person to drive across a bridge.
Donald, one of our Tuesday night regulars at The Last Chance Democracy Café, told me once that his first memory is of the coast of Maine. He was three years old, on the only extended vacation his family would ever take.
While walking along one of the rare bits of sandy beach to be found on the rocky coast of Maine, they came across a large piece of driftwood, probably from the main trunk of the tree. It had been run aground by the incoming tide. Donald and his sister both sat on it with one leg on each side like they were riding a horse, and their father pushed it back into the water, only to have the next large wave send them crashing back onto the sand. They did this again and again, laughing and generally having the time of their lives.
It was the only entirely unadulterated happy memory Donald would ever have of his father.
* * *
Donald had called me a couple of hours earlier. He sounded shaken.
“Steve,” he began, “tonight . . . well, actually tomorrow, right after midnight. My dad . . .”
I didn’t want to force him say the words. “I know,” I broke in quickly. “I heard.”
“Yeah, well, anyway, I had Cindy and the kids go to her parents for awhile. I thought it would be easier on them that way. And I was wondering . . . would it be okay if I came to the lounge tonight? I don’t want to be a downer or turn the place into a circus, but reporters will be calling and . . . I’d rather be out of the house when it happens.”
“Of course, we’d love to see you.”
I quickly called Horace, Tom, and Winston. Donald liked them, I knew, and, maybe more importantly under the circumstances, respected them. I figured he could use the support. I called Zach, our young college friend, too. I thought he might learn something.