She fell forward, pencil in hand, on top of a customer in the little restaurant. It was sudden, unexpected, and even welcome. Age 86 she was a waitress at the same little diner on Cape Cod for nearly 40 years.
Her daughter is the owner, the cook, and normally faces away from the dining area, instead letting her Mom waltz around the tables, taking orders, barking some too. Irascible, that’s what they called her, a woman who took no guff and gave a lot.
Her death came quickly, just as she fell. There was a time with the rescue squad, a revival, but no electrical brain activity, and she was given a chance to sleep forever less than 12 hours after the fall.
Like her husband she died doing what she loved best. He had come from a baseball game, the sport he loved as much as horseshoes, and sat down, not feeling well, only to die in the little house he’d owner forever.
I remember the year before his death. We’d marched in the town parade, made up as clowns. Sullie was getting the oysters shucked and Anita wanted to show me something inside the sweltering living room.
She pulled out one of those black cardboard covered photo albums, the kind that have the pictures in with little black sticky corners. Carefully she turned past snaps of family taken too far away to a single eight by ten, a glossy black and white of her standing tall against a sea of electronic equipment. She was wearing some kind of uniform I didn’t recognize, but she told me she’d been one of the women in the Coast Guard, the SPARs they called them. Stationed at Chatham, she worked in a top secret program. The photo was one that she got after the war, and after the program, LORAN, was declassified.
Her fresh face was stern, probably because the photographer told her that this was an official military photo. Another shot showed her holding three pistols, each askew, and was obviously not as serious a shot.
Anita, the lady who died, was a person who helped save the world. If you went into the diner where she worked you might be put off by her gruff manner, her forgetfulness, her stern disregard for giving you what you ordered. But, aside from all that. She was a woman I was pleased to know, and who I mourn now as we approach another veteran's day.