Thursday, December 28, 2006

Faded Love


Photo courtesy of Tony and Eva Worobiec

In the early 1960's my parents owned and operated a little cafe in a small town just northwest of Cowtown. My dad would get up around 4:00 AM to bake coconut, chocolate, and lemon meringue pies and to get the early crew ready for the first customers of the day; ranchers, blue-collared workers, and gaunt old men with rheumy eyes and tobacco-stained fingers.

Old man Bradshaw ("Stick" to his friends and enemies alike) would always be perched on a certain stool with the morning paper opened across the counter, his skinny legs turned to one side and crossed so you could see his white socks and scrawny shins poking out from his khaki trouser legs. In the summer he wore short-sleeved cotton shirts; in the winter only the sleeves lengthened with no change to the forever uniform of plaid. He would always order black coffee, pour out some in his saucer, blow on it, then sip it with a noisy sucking sound. After that first saucer serving he finished drinking his morning joe from the cup poured with a smile and a wisecrack from Maude or Dorothy, the first shift waitresses.

If I was lucky and Mom wasn't watching, Dad would scoop up a big spoonful of the coconut custard filling for me with a conspiratorial wink. Usually, breakfast was a hamburger made fresh by Dad, of course. No tomatoes, though. Sometimes it was a grilled cheese sandwich. The only hateful constant was the glass of cold goat's milk stirred up with chalky lumpy Ovaltine. I can still conjure up the taste of that morning elixir...musky and watery, not rich like "real" milk.

I was a thin pale-faced little six year-old and Dad was assured by a local farmwoman that what I needed to put pink in my cheeks was goat's milk. Fix me right up she said. I had to hold my nose, shut my eyes and gulp the tonic down. Never saw "Kitten" on Father Knows Best having to drink this stuff.

Our old cafe was torn down several years ago. A modern "Stop 'N Go" with self-service gas pumps sits in its place. No charm, no jukebox, just a garish green and yellow painted concrete facade with cardboard tasting prepackaged donuts and Texas scratch-off tickets behind the counter. People come and go hurrying to unknown destinations; the swipe of a plastic card at the pump and no need to interact with any human at all.

Stick Bradshaw's old black and white spotted dog no longer waits outside the front glass doors, getting leftover scraps from patrons' plates and a nice scratch behind his ear as he keeps vigil in the parking lot waiting for his master to finish the morning with a walk to the post office. No more domino games in the back dining room on Saturday nights, no gang of teenagers at the booths after a Friday night game, nor a vending machine man with stacks of shiny 45's to slip into the steel slots of the Wurlitzer:

As I look at the letters that you wrote to me
It's you that I am thinking of
As I read the lines that to me were so sweet
I remember our faded love

I miss you darling more and more every day
As heaven would miss the stars above
With every heartbeat I still think of you
And remember our faded love

As I think of the past and all the pleasures we had
As I watch the mating of the dove
It was in the springtime when you said goodbye
I remember our faded love

I miss you darling more and more every day
As heaven would miss the stars above
With every heartbeat I still think of you
And remember our faded love

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