In the Suburbs: Remembering Angel, who touched so many lives
Thousands of people cross our paths over the course of a lifetime, but very few leave their indelible mark on our lives.
Angel, one of my favorite waiters at Circle Diner and a very special person, was one of those few unforgettable human beings. And learning after Circle had reopened for inside dining that Angel was one of the early, senseless victims taken by the Coronavirus, left me with a void that will never be filled.
Angel wasn’t only a waiter. Over the past eight-plus years that I knew him, Angel really became a diner friend.
We shared our hopes for the future achievements of his kids and my grandkids — he always wanted to see pictures. And we chuckled over our ongoing battles with weight control. He always made a point of stopping at my booth or table even if he wasn’t waiting on me that day.
In the early days, I came to the diner very early in the morning, sometimes to meet my friend Hojo for a quick breakfast before I went to school and other times on weekends. Angel was right there when I sat down, my half decaf/half caf coffee was right in front of me and he knew what I wanted most of the time, unless I surprised him with a different entree.
His warm smile and friendly attitude always reassured me that an already bad day would have to get better and a good day would get even better. That may seem hard to explain, but some people — Angel was one of them — just have a way of making you feel so upbeat.
The morning I found out that Angel had passed away from COVID-19 the diner had just reopened inside and I had looked for him.
Karen, another of my favorites, now also a friend, said, “Oh, I guess you didn’t know. From what we learned, he became ill with the virus sometime in April.”
She was told he was admitted to Bridgeport Hospital and then moved to Yale where he remained on a respirator.
“So young,” Karen said. “He was in his 40s and just had that little baby, along with his daughter in high school and a son in middle school.”
Karen also mentioned a Go Fund me Page that Gus and Maria, partners at the diner, had set up for funeral arrangements and other family expenses. The fund raised almost $10,000.
At first, I was too stunned to speak. I just looked at Karen, my tears welling up.
“Such a waste,” I said, choking up. “He talked with such pride about his kids, especially the baby, who couldn’t be more than a year old. And he told me with such pride that his daughter in high school had gone to Europe a couple of summers ago on a special program. He never said much about his son in middle school, but I knew he was proud of him too.
“Meanwhile, I kept giving him Weight Watcher’s tips for keeping his weight in line so he’d live a long and healthy life. How ironic is that, given that his life was cut so short?”
Karen said that everyone at the diner was like family and people still couldn’t believe Angel, a valued member of that family, was gone. “Early in the morning, we still look for him,” she added.
Gus, one of the partners at the Circle Diner, told me that “Angel was a real multi-dimensional guy. He was here over 10 years and he could do anything. You could always rely on Angel. He was one of those great waiters who always opened in the morning, remembered the regulars and never lost his temper. He was always smiling.”
Gus added that the customers loved Angel and many shared remembrances when they donated on the Go Fund Me page.
“I was frozen when I heard the news.” Gus said. “By then, everyone was aware of the dangers from this virus and what it was doing to families, but until it takes someone close to you, like Angel, the impact doesn’t sink in. Angel was a valuable part of our Circle Family and we’ll really miss him.”
I totally agree with what Gus had to say. Even now, on early mornings when I come into the diner, I can still see Angel walking toward me with my piping hot cup of half decaf/half caf, plenty of Sweet and Low and a small glass of water.
He will always hold a special place for me among the real people I’ve come to know in this life and I have to believe that if there’s a diner someplace in Heaven, Angel has to be opening early. Rest in Peace, my friend.
Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his “In the Suburbs” appears each Friday. He can be reached at email@example.com.