One Day with Caleb
Caleb was one of the most sought-after register attendants turned managers. Every girl thought he was hot. I felt special because he would have lunch with me from time to time, and talk to me like I was a real person, unlike some of the girls he would talk to like they were just dumb but hot.
When Caleb’s grandmother was on her last legs, he actually took me to Pasadena to visit her. I met him at his house that morning. For as cool and sleek and great he seemed at the Souplantation, his home was awfully dingy, full of clutter, and he just seemed so poor. We hopped into his 1971 Chevy Camaro and headed north.
The visit with his grandmother was touching. My great-grandparents had just recently gone into a nursing home full-time. Colon cancer had attacked my great-grandfather, then attached itself to his spine and was killing his organs one by one. He opted for every single surgery to try to save his life. I was fully convinced this was not because he wasn’t ready to go. He had lived a full life, he had made his peace with God; he was ready to meet his maker. But my great-grandmother was dying one memory at a time. My family hadn’t even known she was showing signs of Alzheimer’s until we had to take my great-grandparents to the nursing home. My great-grandfather was taking such good care of my great-grandmother we just didn’t know. My great-grandparents had both been widowed in their sixties and met in their early seventies, so they were like newlyweds to the days they died.
The day I accompanied Caleb to see his grandmother, I didn’t know that my great-grandfather would die so soon. He would be the first family member I would lose. And my great-grandmother would search for him, walking in circles at the nursing home until her body finally gave up, years later.
But for that day I only cared about Caleb and his grandmother. Their love filled the room like the warm sunlight filtering through the translucent curtains in her nursing home windows. They held hands and pretended they weren’t crying.
On the way home, Caleb treated me to a hamburger at Tom’s Farms. Though I was still dating Robert, Caleb and I shared one brief, almost involuntary kiss. It was one of the scenes at the end of a romantic movie. One of those movies like Casablanca where the characters know they can’t be together, but in one short-lived moment, all is right with the world.
Later, Caleb would go on to open other Souplantation locations alongside Robert and never mention the kiss. Maybe it didn’t mean as much to Caleb as it did to me. I would eventually reflect and be glad that I did not end up with Caleb. He ended up impregnating two young women during his time as a Souplantation trainer in out-of-state cities. I would ponder that kiss in my heart for years, but remain grateful that that moment was indeed bittersweet.