Tuesday, November 10, 2020

A Cup of Coffee


As a civilian in Germany, I worked for the 29th Area Support Group.  One of my colleagues was a crusty Army Senior NCO.  While he liked to complain and at times used such “blue” language that one of the German women in the office once pulled him by the ear into the restroom and washed his mouth out with soap, we all knew deep down that he was really an “Oscar the Grouch” with a heart of gold.  In fact, we once wrote a poem about him and called him Oscar the Grouch in it.  When I first started working with him, he was divorced, with his ex-wife and daughter living in the States.


To our surprise, he came back from a trip to the States married to his ex-wife who had returned to Germany with him along with their teenage daughter.  After a few days of settling in, he was suddenly very upset.  Turned out that, as a Divorced Parent with no dependents in country,  he hadn’t paid any attention to the fact that the BX (even though we had the 2 largest BXs in Europe in our area), had a very limited supply of school supplies or for that matter other items (ie clothes) that teenage girls wanted.  In this case, it was a prom dress. It was hard enough that she had moved to Europe in the middle of the school year, but it was extremely hard to find out that she was invited to the prom and the BX didn’t have any dresses left and ordering one from the states would take too long to get there.


I asked him how big his daughter was, then told him I could solve his problem.  I had cocktail dresses and formals left from college as well as ones that as an officer and an officer’s wife, I had for the more formal base functions I had to attend and his daughter was welcome to borrow what she needed for the prom. 


A few days later, the Sgt and his wife and daughter showed up at my home.  We left the Sgt sitting in my living room, while we women went upstairs to “shop” in my wardrobes.  Unbeknownst to me, while we were upstairs finding the right dress, and the right accessories, my young son, Nathan, who had also been banished from the upstairs, decided that he should be the host and entertain the Sgt.  I only found that out later, when, after I bid them goodby,  (the daughter and wife happily carrying out a dress, shawl, purse and matching jewelry), I went into the kitchen and found quite a mess.


Now, Mike and I don’t drink coffee, but we kept instant coffee on hand for those infrequent times when someone was over who wanted a cup of coffee.  In the kitchen, I found a coffee cup with a Very THICK, layer of coffee sludge on the bottom of the cup.  It seemed, after talking to Nathan, that he had made the Sgt a cup of coffee.  Only since he had no clue what the correct proportions were, he put in most of the jar of instant coffee.  Plus, he had no way of heating the water, so he used warm water from the tap.  He proudly told me the Sgt drank it all and told him how good it was! 


The next day, I apologized to the Sgt, who told me that after I saved his skin with the dress, the least he could do was drink the coffee my son had made.


Less than 2 years later, after his daughter had graduated from High School, moved back to the states and started college, she died from meningitis. 


Whenever I see a jar of instant coffee now, I think of her.  Of all the promise that her life had held.  And her father, who, like all fathers had wanted the world for her. And how, for a short time, I had been able to help him give it to her.  A simple act of sharing that tied two families together.  And a cup of inedible coffee that he drank anyway to not hurt a small child’s feelings.

Dale Weir

Shared in Writer's Life which meets 1st and 3rd Tuesdays via Zoom

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