We’re on vacation a few days before the IANDS conference in DC later this week. Our friends, Tywana and I went out for a casual dinner at Bimini’s Oyster Bar in Myrtle Beach. It’s a trendy seafood restaurant that we couldn’t even get into when we were here last May.
The wait for a table was forty-five minutes to an hour. So, we decided to drink at the bar while waiting. We happened upon the last four seats at the bar, all together at one end of the horseshoe-shaped bar. Tywana wore a lovely dress, and Amy and Tom dressed nicely. I was feeling lazy and pulled a Bengals t-shirt out of my bag. I remember packing the shirt, thinking it was not something I would typically take along for vacation. But I thought I might wear it to the beach for a walk. Amy, Tom, and Ty complemented each other on their outfits. I was left out of the round of compliments. I wasn’t dressed like I usually would to go out to dinner.
As we were drinking, I looked across the room to the other side of the bar and spotted a man wearing a Cleveland Browns t-shirt. The shirt read, “If being a Browns fan was easy, it would be called your mom.” That’s a pretty snarky t-shirt. I had to respond. I lifted the front of my shirt between my thumbs and forefingers and displayed it to the man across from me, “Bengals, AFC.”
The bartender then showed me his Baltimore Ravens bottle opener. I told him, “Get out.” But, then, I smiled and told him I respect the Ravens. The Bengals, Browns, and Ravens are rivals, all in the AFC North. We all agreed, Browns fans, Ravens fans, and me that at least there weren’t any Pittsburgh fans there. Those people are the lowlifes of the conference.
Meanwhile, the Browns fan across the bar and his buddy hastily made their way to our side of the room. I watched them walk, with purpose around the end of the bar. When they came down our side of the bar, Tywana wondered where they were going because there were no more seats, and we were seated in a dead end with me at the end of the bar and a wall behind us.
The man came up to me and told me he was from Cleveland. We exchanged names. He and his buddy come to Myrtle Beach every year and have been for 40 years. They had made the three-day trip with their wives. When he asked where we were staying and how long we would be here, I told him I was leaving on Tuesday to drive to DC to speak at a conference. He remarked that I must be a big deal and asked me what conference. I told him IANDS and what IANDS stands for. I was going to speak at an afterlife conference.
He then got very serious and looked deep into my eyes, “Do you really believe that? I’d like to.” He pointed to the tattoo on his forearm. “What goes around comes around,” I told him that is the principle of karma, and I believe in it, and many people in IANDS say they learned it in their experience. I told him about Shayna. His eyes misted over. He then said to me, “I had a little girl. She was born in 1980. She only lived a few hours. I’d like to believe that I will see her again. I’m too old to lift my leg up so that you can see it. But, if I could, I’d show you the tattoo on my leg.”
“You will see her again.”, I said confidently. He said he’d like to believe that and tries to live a good life based on the phrase tattooed on his arm. I told him about my podcast and website and told him to look me up. Soon, he said, “Enough about grief.” So, I asked him how he thought the Browns would do this year, and he said it rests on Deshaun Watson. I bit my tongue and held back my contempt for the sexual predator who is their quarterback. We talked some more about football and gold. Then, he repeated Grief 2 Growth back to me. I heard him tell the waitress to put the next round of our drinks on his tab.
Our meals came, and we began eating. I heard his wife, my wife, and Amy talking as they sat beside each other.
After we finished eating, we had to walk past them to leave. We shook hands. We embraced. He repeated “Grief 2 Growth” to me one more time, making sure he remembered so he could learn more and bolster his hope of seeing his baby girl again.
We joked about almost getting into my first bar fight as we left the bar. I told Tom it was on my bucket list, and I figured a 69-year-old guy would be an excellent place to start. Amy accused me of wearing the t-shirt to start trouble.
It was odd that I would even bring the T-shirt with me. And I certainly had no plans to wear it to dinner. But it was just the fitting shirt for my not-so-chance encounter with the man who wanted to know where his daughter was.
p.s.- As I completed writing this post and jumped over to Facebook, I saw that Natalie Sudman had posted the featured picture used in this post.
p.p.s- After I wrote this blog, I had to go to Food Lion to get rice for tonight’s meal. As I pulled out of the lot, I spotted this banner. The only team in the AFC North not present in last night’s escapade was the Steelers.