Working in a neighborhood restaurant/bar means that I wait on my fair share of regulars. Since I started there, I grew to be particularly fond of a certain regular named Ralph.
This 80 something year old man came in a few times a week and ordered the exact same thing every time: a burger, medium rare, no bun, swiss cheese, and chips on the side instead of fries. Ralph would order a glass of red wine first and say "put my order in when I have a sip of wine left". I began to look forward to his warm smile and the way he said "Hi, honey!" he said it more like 'hawney' and he always left a big tip. He looked like he could have been Robin Williams' dad, he had the same big grin. We got to talking one day and discovered that we were actually neighbors. I'd see him out and about when I was walking to the store or sitting in the park and we'd talk about our days and how the weather was.
A man that I'd never met came into the restaurant 2 nights ago and told us that Ralph had passed away. I was pretty torn up at first, I never like hearing that people have died and this man...was so nice and so pleasant...it was hard to imagine that being snuffed out. The man who lives in the same building where Ralph did said that he heard him playing the piano on the night that he died and that they found him looking restful in his bed. As if he'd just fallen asleep.
The more I think about it, the more beautiful the whole thing seems. I barely know anything about Ralph, other than his favorite places in the neighborhood and what he liked to eat when he came in but...it's nice to know that even though there is violence and brutality and evil in the world, this man left the earth in the quiet safety of his own bed, after playing his piano one last time.
Thanks, Ralph, for being so nice to me. I wish I could have known you better.
He was kind and charming and genuinely friendly. I don't think I'll ever forget him.