Fortunately I have a job with some versatile hours. A couple of days a week I work a later shift and it allows me some flexibility during my work week. Today I’m taking advantage of it and will be driving to meet Nod for lunch at Hickory Park.
- Hickory Park
Being the eternal optimist that sunny days seem to force me to be, I smile as I think about Nod and his variety of experiences. Being a paramedic, he surely has some tales to tell. Hearing those kind of stories over lunch might gross out some people, but those things don’t seem to phase me in the least. As I pull off the interstate there seems to be a great deal of traffic. I suppose because its heading for the noon hour and everyone is out to grab a bite. Iowa State University makes it’s place in Ames. They have engineering and veterinary programs here along with several others. In fact my sister is an alumni. I remember coming to visit her on campus a few times. My sister is a very prim and proper kind of girl. She never swore or smoked or drank. So when she called me to tell me she and her roommate were hosting a kegger one Friday night, I couldn’t believe it! Of course I came down for the weekend.
My mind switched gears as I approached my turn off. I was only a few blocks from the restaurant now. And although I don’t feel particularly scared about meeting someone new, I do notice a little nervousness creeping up. I pulled into a parking space toward the far end of the parking lot. Hickory Park is a favorite in town. Shortly there won’t be a free space in the whole lot. I checked my make-up in the visor mirror and headed inside. I didn’t see Nod waiting at the meeting place we’d agreed on so I visited the ladies room. When I went back to the entry, I got a call from Nod, he was still on the road and was verifying which exit to take. I began pacing outside along the sidewalk as I talked to Nod. This focused conversation with Nod was dissipating the earlier nervousness. I asked what he was driving and began watching for him to turn into the parking lot. Within a few minutes he had arrived. I tried not to stare even though I was curious to see him in real life.
My first impression is.. oh dear. “Is this my brother?” He looks strikingly familiar as he’s crossing the parking lot. Except that my brother never wears sweat pants outside of the gym. (Yes, I said sweat pants. But the t-shirt matches.) What does it say about a man who comes to make his first impression in sweat pants? That he’s an athlete? Well, Nod is very slowly limping across the parking lot. He’s smiling. A lot.
Let’s recap… so far, he’s almost 30 minutes late getting here and he’s wearing sweat pants and a t-shirt. Do you really wanna hear the rest? (Oh of course you do!)
The greeting hug was nice, but it took a very long time to walk to our table. Apparently Nod has had his knee replaced and the other one is scheduled as soon as he can walk better on this one. The waitress got to our table about 3 minutes before we did. Nod says he’s already having a great time.
Once we were seated and were looking over the menus Nod thanked me for coming today. He shared that he hadn’t had a date in 8 years. His birthday was in a few weeks and he asked me to spend the day with him. I seriously wasn’t sure what to do here. I felt sorry for the guy. He really doesn’t have a lot going for him right now. But I wasn’t thinking a birthday pity date was going to help him feel any better.
The waitress brought our beverages, and Nod began pouring packet after packet of artificial sweetener into his iced tea. He shared that he’s diabetic and has to be careful about his food choices. After the waitress left, we chatted about his years as a paramedic and shared a variety of work experiences with each other. It didn’t become apparent until our meals were served, but Nod’s hands were shaking terribly. I wondered if he was that nervous. But as our lunch continued, so did his symptoms. Nod would scoop up a fork full of food and begin lifting it to his mouth. Then in mid-sentence, he’d stop. He stopped everything… talking, lifting the fork, and keeping his eyes open. Yes.. his eyes would close. The first time it happened, I wasn’t sure what was wrong. I thought maybe he’d taken something so that he wouldn’t be so nervous. I tinged my glass with my fork and Nod immediately began talking… about a completely different topic than when he’d nodded off.
I was stunned. I asked him how his food was and he said he hadn’t eaten here before but was having such a wonderful time with me. (Seriously? Because I was totally confused.) Nod began talking about his pet cat (flash backs to Winkin did occur!), and he again loaded his fork and promptly fell asleep. The waitress had apparently noticed that something was wrong too because she stopped by to see if I needed anything. Nod opened his eyes and began talking again. New topic!
The third time he fell asleep, I left him be. No glass tinging.. (I wanted to pay my bill and leave. He’d never notice.) I quietly finished my lunch. Even used the restroom. (In all honestly I considered leaving without a word, but I just couldn’t do it.) Instead, I asked the waitress for a couple of boxes for his food. I dished it all up and then woke him up. I told him the afternoon had gotten away from us and I needed to head back. His reply, “It feels like we just got here.” (it was the longest hour and a half of my life.) As we neared the door I thanked him for driving here to meet me. That’s when he said he’d walk me to my car. (Oh will this never end?) I had parked at the opposite end of the lot from where he was parked. I wondered if he’d be able to walk that far.
He made it, but was breathing heavy by the time I unlocked the door. That’s when he wanted to see all of the features my car has. I said I was sorry but I was really needing to head back. I got in my car and closed the door. He knocked on the window, so I rolled it down. (I was soo close too.) He asked me again about his birthday. I told him that I’d checked my planner at the table and I have to work on Wednesdays so I’d be unable to meet him. He said he’d call me later to make sure I got home alright. I waved goodbye as I drove out of the lot.
So this is dating at middle age? OMG! And the meet and greets have been with the better options that I’m finding. Maybe I need to re-think dating all together. After hearing about my experiences, both Tammy and Michele are singing the praises of their 30-year marriages. Compared to what my dates have been like.. their husbands are princes!