Friday, June 13, 2014

Improvise, Adapt, Overcome

"I traveled to San Francisco, and I arrived with a very bad cold. A friend of mine recommended drinking a quart of whiskey every twenty-four hours, and another friend recommended exactly the same thing. That made a half a gallon." Mark Twain

I have been told that an obsession with drinking - thinking about it, planning for moments of it, obsessing - is unhealthy. Surely, the disease of alcoholism is a nasty business that destroys everyone in its wake. I am steeped in, awash in, the victims of over-consumption in my professional guise. That said....

- My father had passed away. Our daughter, miraculously, had delivered a healthy child (albeit the size of a burrito) and was herself on the mend. Our other daughter, and our son, joined us at a hotel suite in anticipation of Dad's funeral. We opened a bottle of wine, then a second. The stories flowed - he had been the Marine who orchestrated a jail break springing his pre-Iwo Jima company commander (dressed as a corporal) after his arrest for gambling. The father who led his sons onto a 100' cliff to pick blueberries, their mother screaming at all four of them from above. He was the engineer who designed many of the electronics that landed men on the Moon. He entertained his grandchildren with ribald songs, believing (as was his style) that life is best lived at full throttle. We laughed and we cried. His anger with us would have been great had we lamented his demise instead of toasting his good fortune in life.

- Under the shade of a banyan tree we shared a fabulous dinner with our daughter and her boyfriend. We'd driven to Key West and gloried in their presence. It is impossible to tell someone who has not had this experience - having an adult child move away is gut-wrenching. Being in their company once more, seeing their shining face and hearing their unamplified voice is life itself. The stories continued but the first bottle of wine did not survive them. We ordered a favorite, Kendall Jackson Chardonnay. The waiter chuckled. "Old Reliable," he said with an approving smile. Years before my wife - at the time she was my girlfriend - and I understood the inevitability of our love for each other over glasses of KJs .

- His birth had been astonishingly eventful yet nearly three year old grandson Graham sat in a chair, legs crossed and munched a burger. Beside him his mom and I sipped margaritas and gloried in his, and our, good fortune. Touching glasses we, with misty eyes, marveled at our collective blessings that this little man had gotten so big.

- Irish whisky punctuated the toast to my mother-in-law. She was a complex and remarkable woman who had been abruptly and capriciously taken from us. I am Irish and have married into an Irish family. We know only too well that life eventually breaks the heart. So we drink to the dearly departed, thank a loving God that we knew them in life and revel in the company of those still here.

- Our life is in turmoil and yet.... We have found a bar on the Royal Caribbean ship Liberty of the Seas. The drink of the day is the mango Mai Tai. For the next six days we think nothing of work, bills or the travails of being adults. We toast to sunsets, uninterrupted reading and the snorkeling to come.

Our lives are measured by the times we spend with family and friends. We remember those who have left us and celebrate them. If God did not intend us to share these moments with the fruits of vine and vat, she would have insisted that Dr. Pepper be served at the last supper.

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