The Wheeling Country Club was still where Stratford Springs restaurant is located today. I was home for just a couple of weeks from a treatment facility for alcoholism and our friends were having a brunch for the folks in the neighborhood. It was the beginning of the holiday season, and it was my social debut as a very different person.
I was nervous and frightened without the social lubricant in me and a bourbon and water to hang on to. I didn’t know where to stand, what to do with my hands, what I would say if someone asked “have you been away?” or any other innocent, meaningless question.
Out of habit, I guess, I walked over to the bar. One of my old bartender buddies came over and set a bourbon and water in front of me. Gene knew everyone in town and their favorite drink. When I said I wanted a soft drink, he made a big joke of it not knowing my circumstances and said with good nature that they were out of soft drinks. I was embarrassed and confused and would have dived into a hole if one were available. With that, a very large bartender I didn’t know came over, bumping Gene out of the way, and with a big reassuring smile showed me every bottle of soft drink and offered to make me a virgin Mary. He put me at ease.
Later, just before we sat down to eat, the big bartender walked out from behind the bar to where I was talking with a group and said, “Mr. Hogan, I just want to wish you a happy New Year.” Then he turned and returned to his position behind the bar. I never saw him again. It has been a number of years but I will never forget his kindness or stop wondering how he knew my situation.
Our guardian angels are always with us, or we wouldn’t be here. I am very lucky, I got to see one of mine.