I knew the powers that be were trying to convince him it was time but as he told me more than once, “After 53 years I’m just not ready.” Despite seeing their side of it, I knew exactly what he meant. It was home to him and he couldn’t bring himself to leave it quite yet;
maybe in another 50 plus years.
I sat numbly in a corner taking this news in. The new bartender, though perfectly nice, was still a stranger. I missed Tommy’s Irish banter and admitted failings such as asking me if I paid yet.
“Wouldn’t want to charge ya twice,” he’d say with a wink.
I also knew the type of clientele the Carlyle gets wasn’t always as tolerant as me. That’s not to say he didn’t annoy me once in a while but he was kind of like a relative that you couldn’t ever stay too mad at.
So he made mistakes, who doesn’t?
Did I ever mention how cute Tommy is? He has that twinkle in his eye many Irishmen have, especially one of the old guard. I can only equate it to a determined happiness that came from years of honing the skill.
His wife Elizabeth after being sick in a nursing home for a long time passed away a few years ago. Tommy, every day after work, would visit her till the day she died. He would tell me about it, how hard it was for him to see her that way while wiping tears away with his bar towel.
I also recall the day he announced he had a lady friend, as he called her. “You know I had the love of my life,” he said as though I’d disapprove, “she’s just nice company because even someone like me gets lonely sometimes.”
It was sweet and honest and that’s what Bemelman’s will lack without him because the younger set doesn’t come with that kind of heart. It’s more like ship shape service with an impersonal smile. (fuck that)
As I resentfully reminisced, I thought how from now on it would feel as if I was in any other hotel bar where they kind of know your face but not your name, and even though Tommy would forget mine once in a while it always came back to him mid drink when he’d rush over and say, “IT’S SUSANNAH, RIGHT?”
I think what upsets me the most is now when I ask for potato chips I’ll never again hear the history of the potato.
Sadly, all things end in one way or another so Tommy, I bid you a fond farewell and will always remember…
the sweet, funny guy…
with the twinkle in his eye…
that would sometimes give me gin instead of vodka.
Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-rah, hush now don’t you cry…
Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-rah, that’s an Irish lullaby.
Take good care pal.