When work takes me to the Green Bay, Wisconsin area, I stay downtown at a great little hotel called the St. Brendan's Inn. My company was bought by a corporation headquartered in Green Bay about three years ago, and part of my job description requires me to take care of our business up in the area. It's truly a beautiful hotel-- quaint, comfortable, unique, and authentically Irish. Using some of my "frequent stayer priveleges", I brought Leslie up here a couple of years ago for a weekend get-away. We toured Door County (a regional vacationing area-- beautiful fall-time scenery, horseback riding, wineries, quaint little shopping districts, etc...) and stayed at the hotel and relaxed. It was a wonderful weekend. Sweet memories. One of our first get-aways alone after TJ was born.
When I stay there, I eat at their Pub on the first floor. (Not only is it the best hotel around, their restaurant has about the best food around, too.) I typically go downstairs after cooling down from my evening run up and down the river trail, (which runs right by the steps of the Inn), belly up to the bar, have a Smithwick's or Guinness, and order my ribeye. Or mussels. Or lamb shank. Or maybe just the salmon salad. Or... (Always a tough decision.) (I don't like being away from home, but when duty calls, might as well make the most of it.) Anyway, I was back at my little Irish home-away-from-home for a night again, earlier this this week.
The people at the pub know me by name. In fact, I specifically remember them knowing my name on my second stay ever at St. Brendan's. Irish hospitality, I guess. They'd known my wife had been sick, and often would ask about her when I came in. They also knew it had been awhile (3-4 months, now that I think about it), since I'd been around... and probably recognized that I wasn't wearing my wedding ring... (another story, another time...) They didn't have to ask.
Barry, (the GM of the joint) came over and sat next to me as I finished my ribeye (rare, of course). We talked of baseball and football, politics and religion, and life and death... Things you don't normally talk about over a steak and a beer with casual acquaintances. (well, okay, maybe the football and baseball you do... but not the other stuff.) As it turns out, Barry lost his mother when he was 3, growing up in Ireland. It was so good to hear his perspective-- his broken but vivid memories of his mother, how his father raised him and his sister alone, etc... Barry is now a committed husband and father, and it made me feel pretty good, as he listened and related to me with his uniquely Irish charm (quiet intensity, dynamic perspective, and a delivery you typically only see in movies).
At the end of the night, he instructed Dan the head bartender (another one of my "St. Brendan's friends") to pour 4 "shots" of their finest sipping Irish Whiskey (Midleton). Dan, Barry, and I toasted Leslie and slowly sipped, enjoyed, and let the smoothe stuff warm our insides. You'll note that Dan poured 4 shots... and only 3 of us toasted... The 4th was set on the top shelf behind the bar, "in Leslie's honour".
"That's what we do in Ireland when someone special passes. That whiskey will stay right there until it evaporates. That's Leslie's." Barry explained. "But it doesn't REALLY evaporate. The angels come down from Heaven and, little by little, they'll take it up to Leslie, for her to enjoy with us. It will be gone in a few weeks."
I didn't tell him she'd probably need to have it mixed with some club soda, or something. Midleton's is just too fine a pour to do such a thing... But if she needs it, I'm sure they've got club soda and ice in Heaven, too. Anyway, it was a beautifully unique thing to do, and Leslie and I were "honoured".