For the past two years or so, a group of angels has signed up to have dinner with J on Thursday nights. This predictably gives me a night off to go out alone with friends, and it gives J a social outlet apart from me.
So imagine my anxiety when two of the Thursday night stalwarts, T and B, asked to meet with me to discuss their experience with J. They assured me it wasn’t an emergency and that I shouldn’t worry, but I did. It took a couple of weeks to schedule and so my distress meter rose a notch or two. Had J or I done something to offend them? Was J exhibiting strange behavior of which I otherwise was unaware? We met over a glass of wine and it was sweet (the meeting, not the wine). T and B just wanted tips on how to better communicate with J.
As time has gone on, J has become more difficult to engage in conversation. J also has no problem expressing when she feels bombarded by questions. B was quite forthright that when they started going out together, she had a tendency to ask a lot of questions, and J did not respond well.
It has taken practice for me to learn to share a meal in silence together. It is quite different from early in our relationship, when dinner conversation was lively and covered everything from what was happening at work to other news of the day, including politics local and national. When we had two children at home, attendance at family dinner was required, at least until high school sports interfered, and talk was free-wheeling. These days, J and I often listen to Fresh Air on National Public Radio while we eat. It gives us entertainment and occasionally, J will have something to say about the interview we are listening to. When we go out, at least during baseball season, it’s often to sports bars. That way, I can watch the game and not feel pressure to keep up conversation. If we go to a nicer restaurant, I have us seated outside during warm weather so we can watch and comment on the parade of people going by. I otherwise focus on what we can see and hear as topics of conversation.
B and T now take J to a local Italian restaurant with an open kitchen, a chatty server and a dog. Again, there is much to see and hear and smell.
The Thursday Night Supper Club is a hodgepodge of people who go in and out of service as they are able. Among them are a friend from elementary school, more than 40 years ago; a friend from professional school, more than 25 years ago; and many friends and acquaintances from synagogue. They have such an incredible impact on the quality of our lives. They are truly angels. I hope they all know that.