About seven years ago my mother entered the nursing home. At first it was just for rehab from a fall she had taken. The hospital sent her there when they couldn’t do anything else for her. She was there for weeks. My brother and our family would go visit her on Sunday afternoons all together. But, before we went to see her every week, we all went to have dinner at TGIF. And one day we met Jamal, our server.
From the day we met him, Jamal always made sure we were seated at his table every week. He was funny, friendly and pleasant. He was gay. He took damn good care of us. He brought us extra of everything. Why would anyone want another server? Every time I left there I was full and happy. One day we walked in and asked to be seated in his section. The host told us all his tables were full…no surprise. We were disappointed. But Jamal got wind of it and asked another server if he could seat us at his station and serve us. I guess they had swapped tables to accommodate us. We looked forward to eating there every week. He even would tell us if he had the next Sunday off so we wouldn’t be disappointed. He was so entertaining and good at his job that we always left him an extra big tip.
But, for one reason or another, we didn’t go to TGIF for maybe 3 or 4 weeks. Maybe it was the weather or some other reason. A lot was going on at the time in our family. Then, one Sunday, things had gotten back to normal and we decided to go back to having dinner at TGIF. We parked and walked into the door as usual and were greeted by the host. I didn’t see Jamal around and figured he was in the kitchen picking up orders, so I asked the host if we could be seated at Jamal’s table. There was a dreaded look that came on her face and she told us to wait a minute. She went to whisper in a couple of people’s ears and after several minutes she came back with the manager. The manager told us that Jamal has passed away just a couple of days ago and they didn’t know what happened to him. He said he was sorry. My heart sunk in my chest, he was only 20 years old, what could have happened to him? I never found out. We stayed and had our dinner, but it wasn’t the same. The mood was somber, my appetite was gone. We finished and left and never went back.
I still think about Jamal whenever we pass a TGIF’s or even eat in a similar type restaurant like Chilis or Applebees. He had a sweet soul and loved people and left this world too soon.