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Morning Coffee

Standing in line at Starbucks, where I go out of desperation for my morning coffee, I watch the elderly gentleman ahead of me placing his order. He has a bright purple baseball cap on, and a yellow cloth mask that has fallen off his generous nose and continues to creep down as he talks, until almost his entire mouth is exposed. He is small and thin and I imagine he was once inches taller. He wears several layers of clothes presumably to stay warm. He reminds me of you.


He asks the server “What’s a frapaccino?” And I smile because I appreciate that he doesn't yet know what a frapaccino is. When he hears the description he says brightly “Ok! I’ll have that!” He seems delighted by the order and it is so charming and disarming that I am captivated by his sweet openness and enthusiasm. His demeanor is so like yours, his ability to engage strangers and make them feel appreciated. It is what I see as I watch his interaction with the Barista. At a time when many people are brusk, rude, and unfriendly, or perhaps they try a smile but it is lost behind a mask, this old man with his exposed mouth is warm and smiling and for a moment I forget about what is happening in the world and just feel your presence as I watch him.


I wonder what you would make of the world right now. It has changed a bit since you left it just over 5 years ago. On the bright side you totally missed the Trump years. If you hadn’t already been dead, I’m pretty sure that would have killed you. The two years of the pandemic have left behind countless changes and casualties that are still evolving. It is hard to think about really, and when I do there is an ache in me that feels boundless and unnameable. One day I will be able to look back and name it, talk about it, but for now I am simply aware that it exists. And I know you would be outraged at what is happening in Ukraine. You would feel this deeply as someone who lived through and served during WW2 and as a Jew whose family was forced from their country long ago. It's funny how we seem to see these experiences when we are alive as if they are unique and unprecedented, but in many ways, they either mirror past times in history, like wars and pandemics, or they are predictable and sometimes avoidable but we simply don't avoid them because we fail to change the behaviors needed to escape the calamity. It is a cycle we seem destined to repeat.


There is something comforting in talking to you about all this on paper. Putting the words down that I would try to articulate, sitting across from you at my kitchen table, your cap in place, your eyes fixed on mine, talking it through. I expect there'd be some swearing but there would be pleasure in the interaction. I place my order and take my coffee back to work. My day is a little sunnier despite the cold and the war and the pandemic and the climate.




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