You Never Know Whom You’ll Meet in the Morning

Dad was an early riser. Even on the road, he was up at 5 a.m. in search of a nicotine-and-caffeine breakfast, a 25-year daily habit too hard to break.

Milwaukee, July 1989. My dad, mom, and I were staying at Milwaukee’s nicest hotel, the Pfister, in search of Minnesota Twins. We were baseball nuts. Our yearly vacations took us to Major League Midwestern ballparks. We always stayed in the same hotel as the Twins, and Dad and I collected autographs. I rode in elevators with Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek, Frank Viola. But they are not the celebrities of this story.

Dad was an early riser. Even on the road, he was up at 5 a.m. in search of a nicotine-and-caffeine breakfast, a 25-year daily habit too hard to break. In Milwaukee, it was no different.

One morning, he quietly slips out of the room while Mom and I sleep. He heads to the hotel coffee shop. He sits at the counter, taps a Kool out of his pack, and orders coffee, black. Few others are up at this hour. But a guy sits near him at the counter. Dad, always affable, strikes up a conversation with questions like, “What do you think of this weather?” and, “Where are you from?”

The conversation turns to work. The well-dressed man, a steaming cup of coffee in front of him, asks Dad what he does for a living.

“I’m a gravedigger,” Dad says. The guy’s eyes widen, and he laughs. “They call me Digger.” Dad offers his hand, and they shake. They talk for a while more about gravedigging; the guy’s interested.

After a few moments, Dad turns the conversation away from himself.

“So, what do you do?” he asks the stranger.

“I’m a singer,” the guy says.

Dad finds out the man is in town for a concert, then puts it all together: Expensive hotel, the guy’s performing in town—he’s probably someone famous.

“Are you anyone I might have heard of?” Dad asks.

“I’m Neil Diamond,” the man says quietly.

Dad’s musical tastes did not stretch far. He tuned in only polka music on his truck’s AM radio. At home, he watched Lawrence Welk and _Hee-Haw._ But Dad was well read and knew about the world around him. He did not recognize Neil Diamond, but he knew the name. He knew enough to get his autograph, which Neil penned on the back of a ten-percent Happy Chef coffee discount card. “Digger—Good Luck!—Neil Diamond.”

Dad would be dead one year later. But whenever I see Neil Diamond, I think of that morning at the Pfister. I wonder if he thinks back to that day, an early morning when, for just a few minutes, he was a regular guy, a nameless singer, chatting about the world and the weather with another regular guy.

Comments

No comments yet, why not leave one of your own?



Leave a Comment or Share Your Story

Please Sign In. Only community members can comment.


 
SMITH Magazine

SMITH Magazine is a home for storytelling.
We believe everyone has a story, and everyone
should have a place to tell it.
We're the creators and home of the
Six-Word Memoir® project.