A couple of years ago, I was having dinner at a dive on Gallatin road that I’d never been to. I thought I would read and have some spicy Mexican food before I went home, but couldn’t concentrate. That’s when a man and his daughter I knew from the dog park showed up with his parents.
Sloan had just come from a program at her school and was celebrating with her family, but quickly grew bored with the grownup conversation at the table. She kept looking my way.
I asked her if she had an imaginary friend, I knew she did, I could see him sitting with her. Barely, but he was there.
Her dad gave me a bewildered look, then nodded and laughed. Her grandparents stopped talking and looked at each other.
Sloan got up and came over to my table. She whispered his name in my ear, Sparky, then pulled up a chair from the table between us.
Her grandmother apologized and told Sloan to come back and let me read my book and finish my dinner.
I told her I was enjoying her grandaughter’s company, so they ordered a round of margaritas and continued their conversation, Sloan scooted closer to me.
We talked about Sparky just for a minute. He’s five, Sloan told me. “I’m seven, going on eight, but Sparky will always be five.”
She said he didn’t like it when she talked about him. So Sloan and I talked about school, her friends, her favorite books, and her dog until it was time to for me to leave.
I was so glad I went there for dinner. I needed her that night. One of my favorite patients had passed away that morning and her dad had asked if I’d write the obituary.
I wasn’t ready to do it yet, it was too raw. I needed a minute and Sloan was a gift.
The next night the gift came in the form of a fireball shooting nun celebrating her retirement from St. Bernard’s at Lipstick Lounge.
I had stopped there for a beer to clear my mind and write my first obituary and was grateful for the laughs coming from the table next to mine. The newly retired nun asked what I was writing and when I told her, she ordered a shot for me-then asked to read what I’d written.
When she was finished she gave a toast to Rylee, then said a prayer for her parents. Then she gave me a hug.
Somehow the universe always knows.