OK, so I think I have been channeling my Grandmother this weekend.
Some people called her Terry (Theresa) while others called her Agnes my whole life. To this day, I have to admit I am not even sure if her true name was Agnes Theresa or Theresa Agnes….or maybe something else. But I do know –she had two daughters, Mary and Ann.
So…Saturday was St. Theresa’s and St. Ann’s (with the story of Mary’s mom) and this morning I picked St. Agnes simply because it had an 8:30 Mass! Kind of Cool!!
St. Agnes church was kind of different. I think it was a converted house in the woods of Greenwich. When I walked in, it felt like I was in someone’s living room. So cozy and comfortable. There were no stained glass windows. The windows were almost ceiling to floor, but plain glass. I could see right out into the woods! It was very different and very calming. I enjoyed it!
Again, the message of the day was “Do what’s right in Christ. Everything else will fall into place.” In some way this message also reminded me of my Grandma Gavin – Terry/Agnes!
I think she lived her life believing that what she had was “enough” and things would work out and fall into place as they should. She never seemed to need or want things beyond what she had. She was never envious of what others had…she had what she needed. Perhaps in her own way she was another role model of being Christ-like in her own way. A couple of years ago I wrote a piece about her just for fun. I thought of that piece while I sat in the Living Room of St. Agnes Church.
With our mother’s warning to be polite and use our manners, my siblings and I burst through the metal door of Foley’s Lounge on Memorial Highway in New Rochelle. It always looked the same; a dark narrow hallway where someone long ago had put a bar complete with a lighted glass wall holding a myriad of colored bottles to the left and a 1970’s jukebox to the right. The musty smell of drying dish towels greeted us as the brilliant daylight collided with the dreary smoke-filled darkness inside the lounge. Straight ahead was the bowed pool table with a slightly torn felt surface. Beyond the pool table, the familiar Pabst Blue Ribbon clock welcomed us from the wall four feet above the edge of the pool rack with its warm yellowed glow. The pool rack always held the same two sticks, the wooden triangle, and two blue squares of chalk. Waiting for us with open arms stood “Wee Terry”. Jesse, her five foot nine Mexican boyfriend had affectionately nicknamed our tiny Irish Grandmother; it was a title that perfectly fit her four foot eleven frame.
Wee Terry stood with outstretched arms behind the dimly lit bar ready to serve the two customers sitting there on that particular Saturday afternoon. It was 2pm and they were already three drinks into their evening routine. These two customers swiveled in their bar stools to watch the welcome. Her warm “Hello” rose above the beat of Tony Orlando’s “Knock Three Times on the Ceiling If You Want Me” from the flashing jukebox.
After coming around to the front of the bar and following a fond embrace for each of us, including my parents, Grandma quickly returned to her barmaid position to pour our drinks. Serving her grandchildren Diet Cokes while they shot pool would be a highlight of her day; only second to catching up on any news from her daughter and favorite son-in-law.
Just as Leslie started racking up the pool balls as the others of us picked out our cue sticks, two African American men walked in. “Hello Terry”, the tall man said to my grandmother.
“I knew you’d be here soon,” she responded and without asking, she grabbed too short glasses and ran them through the ice box scooping them full of ice chips. Her fragile hands, cruelly bent with arthritis, reached for a bottle. Without missing a beat in the conversation with her daughter, she poured two drinks for the regulars; one scotch on the rocks and a vodka and orange. Our four Diet Cokes sat in front of the four empty barstools, next to the two new men, lined up on the edge of the dark wooden bar, each rimmed with a slice of lime. I reached up to the bar to grab my soda.
“Hey Lenny” my grandmother said to the gentleman with the scotch. “This is my granddaughter, Debi, and those are her sisters, Leslie and Lisa, and her brother, Danny.” Then pointing to my parents, “And my daughter, Mary, and my son-in-law, Charlie.” Grandma smiled as she rubbed her sore hands.
“How do you do, all?” Larry answered and tipped his head as he reached over and waved at my parents. “They are beautiful kids, Terry. They take after you.”
Grandma smiled as she moved to wipe down the bar with a rag. “Thanks Lenny” and she turned her attention back to my parents. Replacing my glass on the bar, I went back to the pool table. It was Lisa’s turn to shoot.
Not five minutes later a young woman pulling a rolling shopping cart behind her entered with two men. The same flash of daylight shot across the dark space of the narrow lounge lighting the pool table for just a small moment. “Hola Terry,” one of the men called to Grandma as he reached around the divider in the bar to give her tiny frame a tight hug.
“Oh, hello, Juan. The usual?” she asked as he released the hug.
“Absolutely. Gracias. Same for my friends here.” He turned to his two guests and within minutes we were all being introduced to Juan, Luis, and Maria. The two beers and an orange soda being passed between the span of a one foot wide bar told the story that after one visit to Foley’s Lounge no one was a stranger. It was clear that everyone was a regular at Foley’s Lounge. In fact, it was a place where the hospitality of a bartending grandmother of four would never allow anyone to ever feel like a stranger. Terry, Wee Terry, or Grandma, was known and loved by all, but even more obvious was that she knew and had grown fond of each of the stories of her customers. These were her people; her extended family.
Leaving Foley’s Lounge that Saturday afternoon following several games of pool and too many glasses of Diet Coke, it struck me that something special lived within the walls of a dark and musty 30 x 20 bar tucked along a side street in New Rochelle. Every day, a tiny four foot eleven Irish Immigrant knew how to show love to others and bring a little bit of world peace to the people she served.
I believe Grandma Gavin knew what it meant to be Christ-like to every person she met. She served others in so many unexpected ways! Thanks Grandma!