When I was a teenager I had a fallout with my dad. Much like when he was a young man (my father had been estranged from his dad for years) things came to a boiling point. I found myself out of the house with little more than a bag of clothes and my old car.
I got a job pumping gas, dropped out of school and rented a tiny trailer. Though I tried to enjoy my first taste of freedom I mostly felt lonely and a bit guilty.
An old man lived next door. Les and I didn't have much in common but we both loved Tim Hortons coffee.
Les didn't drive, I did. Before I had been in the park a week we had fallen into a routine of going to Tim's every day after my shift. I guess he put up with me for the ride, but that doesn't matter now.
One day at work a van packed with teenagers pulled in. I went to the window to find my cousin driving, he and his friends were on their way out of town for a tournament.
“Say hi to your folks,” he said with a wave, pulling away. There was no time to explain that we weren't on speaking terms, that I hadn't even told them where I was living. I was too embarrassed to tell him anyway, so I managed a smile and waved back.
“I will,” I lied.
I got off work that night feeling pretty blue. With a heavy heart I pulled up to Les' trailer and honked the horn. He ambled down the stairs and into the car. The silence was heavy as we drove to Tim's, Les sensed my mood right away.
We grabbed coffee and a table like always and Les let the silence build. Once I started talking I couldn't stop, I needed to let it all out and an old man I had known for a few weeks was my sounding board.
I poured my heart out. I told Les about the fights with my dad, my mom crying when I left. I admitted I had dropped out of school just to spite my father, and now I'd never see him again.
Les sat there as I raved. “It's all his fault. He hasn't even spoken to his own father since I was born.”
When I ran out of words I looked up. Les was staring at me.
“What's your last name, son?”
It's funny to think of it now, but at that stage in our relationship we hadn't gotten to last names. I told him and without a word he stood and held out his hand.
“Todd,” uttered the old man. “I'm your grandfather.”
I must have stood because I fell back into my chair.
We stayed at Tim's all night and when morning came everything looked different. I was soon back home, in school, and the three generations have shared many Tim Hortons coffee since.