Today is Tuesday, July 24th. It has been exactly nineteen months since my father and I sat down at a table together to have a meal for the last time. I’m at the same restaurant, sitting in the same booth, about to enjoy the same meal he did. This is going to be the only time I’ll be able to do this, as the Blue Dome Diner closes in less than a week.
Dad came down the day before Christmas Eve in 2010 to visit and go see the new Coen Brothers film ‘True Grit’ with me. We went to Brewburger for lunch, went to the movie, and relaxed in my one room apartment afterwards. We ended up watching Zombieland (Dad hadn’t seen that, either, and loved it!) that night and Dad slept in the overstuffed easy chair that made up 100% of my living room seating. The next morning, Dad expressed an interest in breakfast.
Breakfast is the meal that always brought us together as a family. It sounds silly and cliché, but it’s the truth. It’s the one meal the four of us could come together and chip in. Nobody will ever be able to make eggs like he used to. Anyway, Dad had recently started on a new diet. His kidneys were having some serious problems and he hadn’t taken stellar care of his diabetes. For some reason, he could have waffles but he couldn’t have pancakes. I wanted to introduce him to a new place I’d discovered downtown and suggested we drive down to the Blue Dome to have breakfast; surely they’d have waffles.
Well, they didn’t. I could tell Dad was a little disappointed, but he ordered a half order of pancakes anyway. We sat in the corner and talked of many things, shared memories of Christmas past. My wife and I had recently separated and he encouraged me to save my marriage if I could; he told me that his divorce was the hardest thing he’d ever endured and he didn’t want me going through the same heartache. As breakfast wrapped, Dad paid for my meal and was sure to tell me how much he enjoyed his food and coffee. We walked back to the truck and drove home. On the way back, I got to talking about something and nearly ran a red light. My momentary panic as I slammed the brakes cracked him up tremendously. We got home, Dad packed his overnight back, we hugged, and he headed home to Pawhuska. That was Christmas Eve. Less than a month before he was gone for good.
Sitting here in the same seat after what feels like a decade is at once comforting and wrenching. The fact that he’s gone is foregone knowledge. When my brother and I get together, we tell stories and laugh about him. When I scroll past his picture in my phone, I don’t pause to contemplate his image. His chapter is closed. But I still have times when a memory surfaces unexpectedly or my mind settles on the memories I’ve made since he passed that would otherwise include him. It’s like looking into a deep chasm; I get that same stomach-clenching feeling and know that I could make quick decision and plummet to the bottom. But I haven’t fallen in a long time.
Today is my farewell to the Blue Dome Diner and not only the memory of my father here, but the meet-ups with my friends that have taken place here. I know something new will open up here, but it won’t be the same. Blue Dome will open somewhere else, I'm told, but that won't be the same either. The memory embedded in these walls will stay here. Just the same, though, nothing lasts forever/ I’m thankful for one last hurrah.
As my food arrived, Deep Purple’s “Hush” came on the radio. It was one of Dad’s favorites and one I selected to play at his services. I choose to live in a world where this isn't a coincidence. Miss you too, Dad.