By Abe Villarreal
Every Sunday morning, I enjoy a traditional breakfast of comfort food at the Drifter Restaurant. It’s the kind of place where the décor hasn’t been updated in decades, and the seat coverings tell the history of a small diner-style eatery that has fed generations of families. The dishes are big, the personalities bigger.
I sit at the bar where adult drinks aren’t served, but a small group of regulars sit side-by-side and get caught up with the week’s happenings. The small talk is usually short and after the usual chitter chatter about the weather, the stories of old times begin rolling.
For the past several weeks, my dining buddies Julio and George kept asking about Frank Carey. He was one of our fellow regulars who helped form a colorful line-up of personalities you could see as you first walked into the Drifter. Come to think of it, Frank was kind of a drifter himself.
Like many small towns, Silver City has its cast of characters we all know and love. The guys and gals you see walking down the street and always wonder where they are headed, but you convince yourself that you’re too busy to ever stop and find out.
We don’t get to know each other anymore. We recognize faces but don’t know the people behind them. We need to go back to forming relations with the people that make up a community.
Frank, George, Julio, and I have had the opportunity to learn about each other each week. Credit to the hearty dishes at the Drifter that have brought us together. Frank was usually the first one to arrive. He walked over a few blocks from his apartment. A tall, thin man, with a taller and thinner beard that made him look like a skinny Santa Claus, Frank always wore shorts, sandals, and a cheery personality.
I would arrive second, and inevitably we would be joined by Julio and George. Julio is related to everyone in town, and George is a traveling minister originally from the Deep South. We are all different which makes us like and appreciate each other quite a bit.
When we noticed that Frank was absent for a few weeks, George, being a man of the cloth, took it upon himself to treat his neighbor like he would like to be treated. He visited Frank, called him regularly, and sometimes ordered a Drifter breakfast to go so that Frank would not miss out on our shared eating tradition.
And when George told us a week ago that Frank was upset about how often he would call him, we knew that the tide was turning. Illness can change a man more than physically, but also emotionally.
On Monday, we learned that Frank left us the night before. He was 67 years old. He did his best to join us on Sunday mornings, never complaining, and always enjoying our company.
Now we are one man short, but we will continue meeting, and eating. Talking about old times and sharing stories. And we’ll remember that Frank was one of the reasons that we looked forward to having breakfast at the Drifter Lounge come rain or come shine. He helped bring our small community of friends together.
Rest In Peace, breakfast buddy.