It was another rough Sunday for us. I guess that’s how it’ll be for a while. Nate had a strong presence with all of us every Sunday, devoting his day to family. After Adult Sunday School and the worship service, we’d always go out for brunch. Nate’s preference was a breakfast restaurant that served omelets, preferably a Denver or his favorite, a salsa omelet with extra salsa on the side. Since family members took turns choosing where to eat, he didn’t always get his omelet but willingly ate (and paid for) ribs at Chile’s, orange chicken at Panda Express or lasagna at The Olive Garden.
More often than not, there were extra kid-pals around the restaurant table every week. His answer when our kids asked was always, “Sure, they can all come.”
During the meal, we’d chat about the morning sermon and sometimes end up in a deep theological discussion. Other times it was sports or school stuff or vacation plans. Talk was never dull as all of us competed for “the floor,” and laughter was the punctuation in every conversation.
Nate’s favorite Sunday brunch/lunch spot was a restaurant in Wheeling we always called “Grannie Annie’s.” Its real name is “The Original Grannie’s,” and I think our name for it came from the former owners thirty years ago. Nate became good friends with the current owner and couldn’t praise the staff enough. “They always keep our coffee cups full,” he’d say. Nate loved coffee, whether high priced or generic, and drank it without reserve. During one brunch at “Grannie’s” I counted. He put away 12 cups even before his omelet arrived. “But they’re such small cups,” he said.
When Nate got his first cell phone, he loved using it to call “Grannie’s” and tell them we were coming. Like many restaurants, they didn’t take reservations, but we were frequent visitors with many eaters, so they did it for Nate. “Hi, George. It’s Nate Nyman. We’re bringing 13 today, and we’ll be there in 15 minutes.” Usually our table was waiting, a gift to a large family that usually has to wait to be seated.
All the waitresses, every one of them efficient and professional, got to know Nate and his generous tipping. “They’re trying to support their families,” he’d say, “and a little extra can’t hurt.”
Today after church it was just Louisa, Birgitta and me. “Can we go to Panera?” they asked.
Even that question brought a pang of sadness as I thought of how far we were from “Grannie Annie’s” now that we’re in Michigan, and also how far from Nate, who hosted us there literally hundreds of times. But the Lord knew we needed a boost today and provided it by way of a meaningful conversation the girls and I had at Panera. We talked about eternal security.
Of course Nate was at the center of the conversation, and today’s punctuation was tears rather than laughter, but it was good to get our thoughts out on the table. The girls, at 19 and 21, are thinking deeply about life and death issues, an important undertaking most of their friends have not had to consider. The process doesn’t come without pain.
The three of us talked about how much we miss Nate. I think one of the reasons Sundays are difficult is because of his strong leadership as brunch/lunch director. To sit in a restaurant without him is like hearing an orchestra play without its conductor. The symphony is familiar but the rhythm is off.
“Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusts in you: yes, in the shadow of your wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast.” (Psalm 57:1)
“Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye who hope in the Lord.” (Psalm 31:24)