You could almost call it springy, so Meredith and I sat outside at the burger joint, having a bite and a milkshake. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a dad and his son, a kid of about ten years old, sit down at a nearby table. Meredith and I were having a fairly animated conversation of our own, but out of the corner of my eye I see the dad head back inside, presumably to pick up their food order. And then I see this kid begin to cry. I mean awash in tears. Big gulping sobs. Face in the crook of his elbow, up-only-for-air crying. Wash the tears and snot away and repeat.
What could be wrong — had his dad refused him an order of French fries? Had he just told his father he was going to stay back in school a year? Did something happen to his mom? I kept up my end of the banter over at my table, but finally excused myself: I had to go check on this kid. So I popped over and got down on my haunches next to him. “Hey, buddy,” I began. “Is everything OK?” Buddy quickly wipes off his face with his sleeve, gives me a quick look of abject terror, and bolts into the restaurant.
So OK, perhaps I didn’t dry the tears of a tiny child — but I like to think I drove him into the arms of a loving father.
Sometimes you’re just the instrument of fate.
What was it all about? Who knows? Eventually they both came back to the table, more crying, the dad makes a call and hands his phone over to the kid, residual tear-shedding, and then, the silence of hamburger-eating. A lot I know about kids.