Bob, Bruce, Grant, Zum, Moto, HaroldAfter reliving the good ol' days of my dad's shop, (I am only 28 and, yes, I can have good ol days) my "old men" were brought up. I haven't talked about them because I have held them so near and dear to my heart. They were my voice of reason in my early 20s. I was a faithful member of coffee break every morning and some days the lunch group too. The main group was made up of Harold (the unofficial leader), Grant (the side kick), Bob (the rock), and Zum (the "quiet" one). There were a few others along the way (Lee, Bruce, and Jerry), but those were the main people that came around every week. It was like having 5 different uncles/grandpas that you respected and loved. Their antidotes were the things that kept me awake at 8:00 in the morning while drinking a cup of mediocre coffee. Harold had great stories about stealing rations of beets (or some veggie) and getting into trouble. He was the king of Trouble. Any time I picture any cute little proud veteran I immediately think of Harold and his proud cap that had embroidered on it, "3 War Veteran". Grant was a lifelong "Railroad" man. After he retired he ended up selling real estate. Bob was the lifelong bachelor. He had lived on his own his whole life (when I started coming to break he was well into his 80's). He was the one that took care of the garden my dad had around the back of his shop. I wish I had video of his strut... you could tell in his hey day, he was probably a ladies man. And Zum was the so called quiet one. He was a car-guy like my dad. He wasn't ever the center of attention, but he always at least one good zinger that made every body bust up laughing. Every morning, they met up at 8:00 at the same restaurant. If one of them couldn't make it because of a doctor's appointment or some other pressing matter, there was a short discussion to pay respect to the missing member, but coffee break would move on to other topics of the day.
Of course there were stories of the good-ol' days and who was sick/dying/dead from the area, but they also were the a great window into the "old school" way of thinking. At our breakfast joint there were a few lesbians that worked there. I can not tell you how many times I was told (in a not very quiet tone because some of them were hard of hearing) that they were "LESS-BEE-ANS and how they couldn't understand how someone so cute could be a "LESS-BEE-AN. They told me I just needed to find a husband and settle down (even though they knew that i wouldn't be the quiet wife type).
They were also my mirror for any situation I was in. The reflection I got from being at that table when I presented anything helped me realize what the correct answer was. Any boyfriend (including my future husband) during that time, had to meet my old men and "pass" the unofficial test. Whenever I decided to move out of state, which was often, I had to run it past the guys. Not many 20 year olds have such a great support system.
It all eventually came to an end. After I got married, I had one more great year with them, and then they all passed away rather quickly with in about 7 months of each other. While they have been gone for almost 5 years, not a day goes by where I don't hear them all in my head laughing about a decision I have made or shouting out advice to guide me in my every day life. And when I go to coffee now (admittedly more rarely now) the players in the coffee break 2.0 pale in comparison to the men that once occupied those seats.