After work yesterday, my husband and I decided to walk down to a neighborhood spot for dinner. This is a place we haven’t made a favorite yet, but their happy hour menu has several items that looked good to us, so we bundled up and headed over.

Not only were we greeted by a hostess who’s also our neighbor (I talked to her in the elevator last week), we were particularly well-taken-care-of by the manager. He went out of his way to ask our names and bring us an extra he overheard us talking about. Our food was delicious (especially the unexpected flavors in the mac & cheese) and our drinks were refreshing. But all these wonderful things weren’t what made our evening most memorable.

It was meeting Walter.

He came in from the cold wearing a cozy plaid flannel, his white hair combed, and his glasses perched on his nose. Although an older gentleman for sure, he moved nimbly though the restaurant to the bar and claimed a spot on a barstool one seat away from us. He ordered an IPA and a burger and sat quietly waiting for his dinner.

I noticed him chat briefly with the woman to his left, and then he tucked into his beer and burger. Our insanely good bananas foster a la mode arrived shortly after, and after hearing us exclaim its deliciousness, he looked our way, and asked, “Is it good?”

As our eyes rolled back in our heads in ecstasy, we both said, “Oh yeah! It’s amazing!”

He proceeded to tell us that he lives in a retirement community up the hill and goes to all sorts of breweries and restaurants all the time with other people who live there. One of our greatest pleasures is food, so we listened intently to his recommendations. We shared some of our own as well.

We learned that Walter sold his home last spring just like we did. We learned he rides a recumbent bike on the trail for exercise. We learned he’s lived here for 51 years and has seen massive changes in our city. We learned he is 93-years-old and enjoys good beer and excellent food.

It was truly a pleasure to chat with him. I loved that he was out on a cold evening treating himself to said good beer and excellent food and being friendly enough to strike up a conversation with strangers at a bar. Things like this give our little downtown a neighborhood vibe that we just love.

I’d like to think I would have always talked with Walter regardless of my own age, but I’m not sure I would have when I was younger. I might have wanted to stay in the bubble of my own dining partner. Getting older myself and experiencing my own elderly parents’ aging process has given me a grace, patience, and curiosity I don’t think I had 30 years ago.

Walter was truly a breath of fresh air, reminding us that, even at 93, we could be out there riding our bikes and striking up conversations with interesting people at the bar while we eat good food.

We shook his hand and gave him our names as we left, telling him we hoped to see him again sometime. The twinkle in his eye as we said goodnight told me he hopes to see us again too.

Fingers crossed!

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