9.1.2022 – ask smoking or non

ask smoking or non
but wait, where does that seat us
after forty years

I was thinking about my Mom this past week.

Hard to believe that it was 9 years ago at the end of August, 2013, that she died.

It is almost more difficult to believe that she had lived the last 25 years of her life without my Dad.

Difficult to believe because in my mind, my Mom and my Dad were a couple, a couple together in my memory.

My family was lucky enough to have had a summer place on Lake Michigan.

This place played a large part in our family.

Yet when my Dad died, my Mom was ready to sell it.

To her, she told me, that was her place to be with Dad and without Dad …

This place on Lake Michigan was a cottage, or so we called it, that had to be winterized as well and prepped for summer early in the springtime.

I started going along with my Dad to close it as well as open it up so I could take over these chores.

I learned where the well was and how to turn off the pump and drain the pipes in the fall as well as prime the pump and fill the water tank in the spring.

At some point, I started taking a week off in the spring and I would stay out at the lake by myself and get the water turned on, the furnace going and do any painting or other small repairs that might be needed.

What I really did was make a pot of coffee in the morning and sat either by the water or if too cold (this would have been Michigan in May), next to the big picture windows looking out over the water and read all day.

One year in the middle of week, my Mom and Dad drove out from Grand Rapids, Michigan, where we lived to drop in on me.

There were also happy to have a cup of coffee and sit and look out over the water as we chatted about eveything and nothing.

Then my Dad suggested lunch.

I knew what that meant.

He wanted to go to local hamburg joint named Russ’.

It was bad English, but everyone called it ‘Russes’.

It had started in Holland, Michigan and we stopped there often when we were out that way and back in the 1980’s it was starting to expand and open locations in Grand Haven and Grand Rapids.

I knew my Dad wanted to order a hamburger they offered called the Big Dutchman.

Somewhere in Grand Haven there was a street sign near a school that said STOP – ALLOW CHILDREN TO CROSS.

Someone had taken a Russ’ bumper sticker and stuck it on the sign so that it read, STOP – ALLOW BIG DUTCHMAN TO CROSS.

My Dad would drive out of his way just to pass that sign and laugh and laugh.

It helps if you grew up Dutch and in West Michigan.

So off I went to Russes with my Mom and Dad.

And so the moment began.

Back in the 1980s, people smoked in public but it was popular if not required by law, that restaurants offer no smoking sections.

It didn’t matter if it was one big room, restaurants would say this side people can smoke and this side people can’t.

They all breathed the same air but there it was.

Russes tried to accommodate non smokers by building on new additions to their restaurants that would at least put smokers and non smokers in separated rooms.

My Mom liked non smoking.

My Dad liked service.

As we pulled into the parking lot of the restaurant, my Mom mentioned that she would prefer to sit in the non smoking section.

My Dad said that he had no problem with non smokers but that the location of the no smoking section at this location was down, back and around the corner from the kitchen.

“I will not sit back there.” my Dad said.

“Might as well as sit in Death Valley. No waitress goes back there.”

My Mom said that maybe things had changed and the non smoking section might have been moved to the front.

My Dad turned off the car and got out and said, “I am not sitting in Death Valley.”

Russes was the place to have lunch in Grand Haven and it was packed.

We had to wait for a bit and then the hostess called our name.


From the name we were in the Dutch Club.

We walked up and the hostess asks, “Smoking or non?”

“Non smoking, please” my Mom answered.

The hostess grabbed three menus and asked to follow her.

My Mom and I walked off but my Dad held back and watched.

We walked down a long aisle between tables to the back of the dining room and turned right to go around the kitchen back to the no smoking section.


“Lorraine!” my Dad YELLED.

We stopped and the hostess looked back.

My Dad was now running up the aisle and waving.

“Lorraine,” he said, at one of those moments where the entire restaurant went silent.

“I am 65 years old and I do not have to sit where I don’t want to sit. I will not sit back there.”

My Mom looked at him and then asked, “Where do you want to sit then?”

My Dad pointed at the first empty booth, still with some dirty dishes, and said, “Right there.”

My Mom looked at the hostess who was quick to say sure we could sit and sat my Dad did.

My Mom and I slid in the other side of the booth and the hostess removed the dirty dishes and handed out the menus.

My Dad picked up the menu and held it up high so he could read it through his bifocals.

I heard he say something about Death Valley then he said, “I think I’ll order a Big Dutchman.”

I bit my tongue to keep from saying something about stopping to allow Big Dutchman to sit where they want.

My Mom looked at me and I looked at my Mom.

She caught my glance shrugged with her eyes and held back a laugh as well.

My Mom was known for her hospitality.

My Mom was known for her laugh.

My Mom was known for her smile.

Once in Church when the Pastor was preaching about spiritual gifts and the fact that some folks had certain gifts and said something along the lines of the gift to always be smiling and happy in the way that if you SAT next to that person, you began to smile and feel happy.

Then the Pastor paused and said if you want to know HOW to do this .. go sit next to Mrs. Hoffman … and FIND OUT HOW SHES DOES IT!

My Mom sat across from Dad at Russes.

“Oh Bob,” she said.

They had been married 40 years.

My parents and sister Lisa at the lake with a cup of tea

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