Updated: Sep 27, 2018
Our first night in Donegal City we had dinner at the Abbey Hotel Bar, great place to eat but a little stuffy for us. So we headed out in search of a local pub. That is how we came upon The Reel Inn.
This was truly a little hole in the wall bar but it had atmosphere. We were only going to stop in for one drink but the place was so warm and inviting and we kept on meeting people from the US and other countries. Sheila connected with a couple from Germany and spent a great deal of the time socializing with them.
I met Charlie! In every local bar in every town there is a Charlie. That is the old man who probably goes in as soon as they open and staggers out when they close. I am guessing at this pub that person is Charlie.
When we arrived we saw two empty seats at the bar but there was an empty glass at one of them. I asked the girl manning the bar if anyone was sitting there and she said oh that's Charlie but he is over there talking to the girls from Sweden. So we sat.
I looked over and saw that these girls were uncomfortable and trying to get away as they left I could tell they were making fun of Charlie. I turn back and there is the most beautiful blue eyes staring at me, from the face of a white haired grisly old man. He was just staring at me, so I said hi Charlie, are we in your seat?
Well Charlie is very soft spoken and speaks with a very thick brogue I could barely understand him but I believe he said " I have no seat". He just kept on staring at us. He said something else but honestly I couldn't understand a thing he said. I just smiled and offered to buy him a drink.
Charlie got his drink and wandered off so I just talked to the German couple Sheila had connected with and then met a wonderful couple from Montana, we just started talking about everything. It is funny how people just get comfortable and talk about their lives while sharing a pint. Well for me it was still Corona and Lime.
People would come up to the bar and I would hear them talking about Charlie, they were laughing. I don't know what it was but when I looked at Charlie I saw loneliness and pain in those beautiful blue eyes.
Up walks Charlie just as I was telling Sheila I was going out for a cigarette. Charlie showed me his pack as if in sign language and motioned me to follow him. He pointed to the back door as where we could smoke, so I looked at everyone and said come on Charlie, let's go have a smoke.
I stood outside with that old man and did my best to understand what he was saying, it was difficult but I learned he was one of ten children, he had four brothers, all gone now. I asked about his sisters and he just shook his head. There was so much pain in those eyes. I patted his hand and said I understand, we have all lost and it is very difficult. It looked as if he had tears in his eyes. People came and went and I just sat there doing my best to have a conversation as it just seemed like he needed someone to talk to,
I eventually went back in side and Charlie wandered around, while everyone listened to music. Awhile later I went back outside, and here comes Charlie. We talked some more and knowing we were leaving soon, I gave that old man a big hug, and a kiss on the cheek and said it was so nice meeting you Charlie. This time I did see tears in his eyes, he held onto my hand for a few moments just staring at me with those beautiful blue eyes. My heart broke, that such a small act of human kindness meant so much to this man. I had to walk away or I think I would have cried.
I went back in to finish my drink and before I left Charlie came over took my hand in his to labor worn hands, and just stared at me. I swear I caught just a glimmer of a smile on his lips. He said something but I couldn't understand it. I wrapped my hands in his, gave him a goodbye kiss on the cheek and walked out the door.
We did try to go back the next night and I was hoping to see Charlie but the pub was packed and standing room only. I did see Charlie over in his seat across the bar and smiled. There was no way we could stay there or that I could easily get to him and say hi. Maybe I should have tried instead of turning and walking out of the pub. Life is always full of "I should haves", I would like to think that just maybe Charlie will remember that just for a little while someone cared about him and showed him some kindness.