Sunday, September 21, 2008
Place: Atlanta, GA
There was a great deli within walking distance of my apartment called Katz’s Deli. I don't think it was any relation to the one in New York.
I was having lunch there with an old girlfriend when I noticed two older couples and a younger man walk in the door.
“Hey, that old lady looks just like my grandmother,” I said. “And the old guy with her looks just like my grandfather. Hey, that is my grandparents!”
I asked my friend to wait and went over to say hello. They were delighted to see me. I got handshakes from the men and kisses on the cheek by the women. As nice as we were to each other, there was an underlying tension.
The reason for the awkwardness between us had nothing to do with me. Zayde (Yiddish for grandfather) had remarried after his wife died. My grandmother was actually my step-grandmother. The couple with her that day was her son and his wife. They had all come down from Chattanooga to visit my step-grandmother’s grandson.
For all intents and purposes, Zayde had just come down for the ride and to keep them company.
They didn’t ask me to join them, which was fine because I was with a friend. I said goodbye and went back to my table.
My friend and I had a very pleasant lunch. I was happy that I had shown up with her the day my grandparents decided to show up, because my friend was Jewish. On most occasions I lunched with shiksas.
We were still talking and sipping coffee when I noticed that my grandparents and cousins getting up to leave. Tanta Bessie waved and headed for the door with her son, daughter-in-law and my gay step-cousin. Zayde picked up the check and instead of walking to the cash register, walked towards me instead.
When he got to my table, he moved past me and addressed my Jewish friend.
“If you knew him,” Zayde said, pointing his finger at me, “like I know him,” pointing his finger at himself, “then you wouldn’t be sitting with him,” shaking his finger at my friend.
My friend laughed and said, “Thanks for the warning, but I’ll take my chances.”
Zayde laughed and turned to me.
“Mickey, I love you, goodbye,” he said, reaching down and kissing me on the cheek.
Then he went to the cash register, paid the bill, and left.