I just had my 1st Harvey Wallbanger. I watched my attentive host, Santiago, go about the task of preparing it in a diligent manner. He began by pouring Grey Goose vodka into tall glasses from an upside down rack and pour bottle system.
As Santiago ensured the 3 drinks he was preparing had similar amounts of vodka, my sights pulled back to a full view of the corner of his living room. Numerous vacation memorabilia plates fastidiously lined the walls, past the curved bar and stools, behind the ‘Santi’s Bar’ sign, testaments to apparent trips taken.
It would be tempting to describe the setup as a man cave. But man caves evoke images of people who’d like some privacy, even if just for televised games. If I would have dared asked and the elderly Santiago would have been magically able to respond in the vernacular of the day, I feel certain the response would be, “Brother, privacy is overrated.”
As Santiago reached for the sweet herbal liqueur Galliano, which he assured me was the key ingredient, my sights wandered across the room. Pictures of weddings and family adorned the opposite walls. Most prominent was a large portrait of his lovely wife named Nora–Santiago and I have that in common. Although Nora was in the room, her Alzheimer’s prevented us from being able to enjoy her company. She sat silently staring ahead, her trademark makeup impeccably applied courtesy of Santiago that morning. To not have done so would have been unthinkable, given that company was expected.
While Nora is nine years into her illness, its the last four have been really bad Santiago confided. The company they were expecting was the surviving wife of his life-long friend who passed a couple of years ago. I brought her, along with her life-long friend, my Mom.
Soon after I was served the brightly-colored Harvey and imbibed, my ‘that’s polite enough’ internal clock went off in my head. I get up to leave. Santiago asks, “Do you have to leave so soon?” I do, I explain, due to work. While it was true that I had work to do, there was no urgency requiring me to leave that soon.
I wish I could say that I realized that only after I left. That the opportunity to alleviate someone’s loneliness only occurred to me when Harry Chapin’s ‘Cats in the Cradle’ began streaming in the car afterwards. Nope, I felt something right at the moment he asked me to stay, and then left.
The irony of one day facing a similar scenario as Santiago and wondering why people can’t just give a little more of their time in moments like that, that haunting thought did come later. At Mass tomorrow, the Penitential Act will get my full attention:
I confess to almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do …