It was 6:30 pm on a Saturday night and we weren’t dressed for it.
We’d been browsing garden stores for the afternoon and ordering Larry’s new grill for Father’s Day. After two weeks isolated at home with Covid-19, Larry, Carly and I were relishing the freedom of meandering and being around real live people (not people on screens). Our adventures had run long though and now we three were a hungry bunch.
There was little doubt our favorite restaurant would have a long wait at this time of the weekend. So, we hatched a plan. I started to call in a curbside pickup order for Larry and me, and we would warm leftovers at home for Carly. But as I dialed the restaurant and Larry pulled us out of Lowe’s parking lot, we both dreamed for a moment about dining in. It was too much to imagine the relaxation of someone else warming and serving our meals.
Such a ridiculous idea. Restaurants are never a relaxing place with our Carly. Also, her meals have become more complicated lately with special dietary and food prep needs. We didn’t have her dinner medications along either.
Still, as they say, you can’t blame a girl for trying. So, I asked. The wait was 30 minutes. That would really be pushing Carly’s limit. For that matter, I might be hangry myself soon.
Larry swung around the corner to find a parking spot after dropping me off to get us on the list. That’s when a series of mercies that started 24 hours earlier grew momentum. The hostess rechecked her board and found a table open immediately.
Larry and I have dined at this restaurant easily more than a hundred times. But we have never taken Carly to dine there with us. During the pandemic, we ordered curbside a lot though. It kept life feeling a little normal, we thought, while also helping our favorite place stay in business.
Unfortunately, Carly’s restaurant eating has been on pause for several months with the exception of a nice refried bean and guacamole treat at the Mexican place down the street. Recent progression of issues with chewing, choking, and digestion, have required that I purée most of what she’s eating. In any case, I had already started mentally scanning this familiar menu for new ideas of soft things she might manage without spending the rest of the evening suffering reflux and other gastric issues.
Our two favorite servers weren’t available but we were just glad for any table. Despite it being a busy prom night, there were a few tables both inside and outside. It was a gorgeous evening. Eating outside seemed the easier choice. Any spills or extra noise would go less noticed out there. But we hadn’t brought jackets or sweaters and it cools off quickly this time of the evening in May.
So I asked for inside seating and was escorted swiftly to a table with a white cloth. As we approached the table, I almost asked for a booth without a tablecloth. Every parent of a child with developmental challenges knows the necessity of proactively managing potentials for disaster. I imagined Carly giving that crisp cloth a good tug at some point shortly after the table was filled with drinks and plates of food. But something in me just said, “Lisa, just roll with it.”
Before Larry arrived with Carly and her backpack, there were three glasses of water set in front of me.
Carly sat down and frowned, immediately scanning the room in curiosity as if wondering where in the world we were. Never ever in our wildest dreams did we ever ever imagine ourselves here just hours before. And we still had no idea what a surprise was yet to unfold.
The woman serving us was exceedingly kind. She began asking a couple questions about Carly and explained that her son (now 31 yrs old) was born with cerebral palsy. She patiently brainstormed menu options with me (because Carly has complex dietary and food prep needs that would normally keep us from such an outing). It was at that moment it also occurred to me that it was Carly’s 24th birthday yesterday. How ironic that we were all about to receive a very memorable treat and honor.
Then that dear woman, Marilee, brought Carly a special beverage (complimentary, of course).
Again, she returned to our table just a few moments later. And that’s when Marilee went way above and beyond. She offered to feed Carly so we could relax and eat our own meals!
Our first reaction was to graciously express appreciation but brush off such kindness. But lo and behold, she came back a couple of minutes later, pulled up a chair, indicated she had only one other table of guests at the moment, and proceeded to ask for instructions about how Carly needed to be fed.
I cannot find words to adequately express how this moved us.
Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father.
God is ever faithful. These have been among the hardest several weeks we’ve lived in a long long time.
Yet, in the 24 hours culminating in that restaurant moment, God’s mercies shone so unexpectedly and beautifully. Alex, Carly’s older sister who lives nearby, had visited for her birthday and offered to put Carly to bed for us so we could go to sleep early Friday night. Then Carly’s friend, Claire, came early Saturday morning and worked for 6 hours so we could sleep late. Larry and I had the longest night of sleep we’ve had in many weeks.
And now, this dear woman at Biaggi’s Ristorante Italiano was actually feeding our daughter part of her dinner!
It was a dreamy Saturday.
Only the God of the universe could have orchestrated such grace.
1 In times of trouble, may the Lord answer your cry.
May the name of the God of Jacob keep you safe from all harm.
2 May he send you help from his sanctuary
and strengthen you from Jerusalem.
3 May he remember all your gifts
and look favorably on your burnt offerings.
4 May he grant your heart’s desires
and make all your plans succeed.
5 May we shout for joy when we hear of your victory
and raise a victory banner in the name of our God.
May the Lord answer all your prayers.
6 Now I know that the Lord rescues his anointed king.
He will answer him from his holy heaven
and rescue him by his great power.
7 Some nations boast of their chariots and horses,
but we boast in the name of the Lord our God.
8 Those nations will fall down and collapse,
but we will rise up and stand firm.
9 Give victory to our king, O Lord!
Answer our cry for help.
Lisa Jamieson is a caregiver consultant, pastoral counsellor and author of popular books and Bible studies including Finding Glory in the Thorns and Jesus, Let’s Talk. She leads a weekly online discussion group welcoming caregivers in families living with disability. Lisa and her husband, Larry, are co-founders of Walk Right In Ministries, a non-profit organization building faith and community with special needs families. They live in Minnesota with the youngest of their three grown daughters, Carly, who has Angelman Syndrome.