I got up early on a late April morning knowing it was my son’s birthday. He had the day off from work and would be picking me up after I got finished with my freelance job in Covington. We would be having lunch together.
Getting ready for work, I thought back to that morning when my son was born over 25 years ago. I started to feel sentimental, something I try hard in my life to avoid. Not on that morning.
I looked at photos when he was first born and when he was little. I looked at pictures when he played baseball in grade school and pictures when he first entered high school. My mind was on the past. Where did the time go?
People at work suggested I take my son to the Anchor Grill on Pike Street in Covington. I had forgotten all about that place. It’s been there forever. I use to go late at night with friends when we were hung over and hungry. At that time, I was probably the age that my son is now.
Picking me up at 1 p.m., my son was keen on trying the Anchor Grill. Despite the fact I hadn’t been there for decades, I knew exactly where it was.
It was raining on that afternoon. Walking with a cane now, I’m a little unsteady and unsure on sidewalks and pavement I’ve never traveled before, especially when the surfaces are wet. My son helped me get to the front door of the restaurant. As he did, it occurred to me, all those years ago, that I helped him learn to walk. Now, he was helping me to walk. I fought back more sentimental thoughts.
If I said the Anchor Grill had changed a lot since the last time I was there, I’d be lying. It had the same booths, same worn floor and the same menu. I think I even recognized the waitress.
The booths still have those little jukeboxes attached to the walls.
We didn’t play any songs, so I don’t know how much a song cost there these days, but apparently the playlist hasn’t changed much since I went there 30 years ago. I heard songs by Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash and George Jones that I haven’t heard in years.
And what the hell these “things” are exactly, I don’t know, but those animated, live-action dolls that dance when the music from the jukebox starts and then stop when the music ends were still there on that same small ledge to the right in the main dining room, just like decades ago. If you’ve been there, you know what I’m talking about. It was creepy then and still creepy now.
We both ordered deluxe cheeseburgers and fries. The service was quick and as we ate my son and I talked about his house, his job, mutual friends we have and the Reds. As we talked, my mind kept drifting back to the past.
Several years divorced, my son moved in with me when he was 15 years old. In the years following, we struggled to get along and find common ground. We had shouting and shoving matches and our lives were usually in a state of upset. I wrote about this here some years back. The bottom line is we got through it, learned from it and in the process grew closer.
This is what was really on my mind as my son and I sat and talked and had lunch on his birthday. Constantly holding back tears, I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me.
We both agreed lunch tasted pretty good. I picked up the tab and my son helped me out to his car. Riding back to my apartment in Westwood, I felt like being quiet. My son didn’t say much.
Back at my place, I gave him his birthday card and gift. As he read the card, I started talking about our struggles when he first came to live with me and how it took us a while to feel our way around each other. Again, I felt my eyes watering up with tears.
I didn’t try to hold them back this time. I told him how much I miss those days and how I wish I could go back and relive them. They’re gone forever and it makes me sad. He said he knew what I was saying and that he missed those days, too.
I’m glad I opened up to him. Afterwards, I felt better, I guess, because I said what was on my mind and in my heart.
I don’t know why it has taken me so long in my life to realize it’s OK to be emotional around my children. It's fine to let them know what I’m thinking and feeling. It’s OK to have fond memories and be sentimental about them at times. Despite the fact both my son and daughter are all grown up now, they’ll always be my children, will always be the most precious things on this earth to me.
That night, I looked at more old photographs of my kids and a few more tears were shed, but I’ll consider them tears of happiness. I’m blessed to have them in my life.
As I went to sleep that night, thoughts of the Anchor Grill and those dolls dancing to County Music songs returned to my head. I wonder if my son thought this was creepy, too. Next time we get together, I’ll ask.