red, red wine
red, red wine
A glass of wine sounded really good late last night. Watch Project Greenlight, make fun of everyone on the show, and sip wine. Except there was only red wine in the house. I haven't had red wine in many, many years. I just can't drink it. I pour it anyhow, desperate to make the day go away, and take a sip. And then I remember why I don't like it.
My grandfather was big wine drinker. A wine connoisseur, he was not. Just a drinker. He kept his wine in jugs; glass gallon sized jugs that he hid all over the house. My grandmother would snoop around each day, opening cabinets and moving books to see if she could spot the hidden wine. I think almost every fight they had, and we are talking daily, was over the wine. Grandpa drank it morning, noon and night. Befor lunch, with dinner, sitting in the yard, watching Lawrence Welk - any occasion called for a glass. Every memory I have of him, he is holding a glass in his hand. Grandma hated the drinking. She hated the singing that came with the drinking. You could hear her from outside screaming something in Italian, words that I didn't understand but my mother told me to never repeat.
Grandpa shared his love of wine with his grandchildren. From the time we were little, he would pour us small glasses with dinner, mix it with coke, and then whisper in our ears to never ever tell our grandmother that their was wine in the glass. We drank the whole glass down each time, and even though there was barely enough to get us the least bit tipsy, we would run around for the rest of the day like we were drunk.
One day, me, my sisters and a bunch of cousins were sitting at the table after dinner. Grandpa had his jug out and, per usual, poured us each a small glass. Grandma walked into the kitchen and saw us sitting there, ready to drink. She glared at grandpa, a long, evil stare and he acted quickly. Picking up the peaches he had been slicing, he dropped one slice into each of our glasses. "It's just fruit. They're just having a treat," he protested. He gave us a nod and we all dipped our fingers into the glasses, pulled out the wine-soaked peach, and ate it. Grandma went ballistic. She took his jug off the table, and while we all watched with horror, she poured his wine down the sink drain. Then she turned on us. "Now you will drink every bit of that wine in your glasses," she yelled. This was some sort of punishment, but I don't know if it was directed towards us or Grandpa, whose glass was empty, with no chance of a refill. We all drank the wine down, afraid of what grandma would do if we didn't. And then we all went into the living room, feeling a little bit drunk for real this time.
A couple of months later, after a severe dry spell of no drinking with grandpa, came over to babysit for me and my two sisters. I must have been ten at the time. Grandpa brought over his jug (what kind of parents let a man with a jug of wine babysit?) and sat down to watch tv with us. Ten minutes later, he and my youngest sister were sleeping. I don't really know what transpired after that, or whose idea it was, but family lore has it that one of us took the jug of wine and the other sister and headed for the bathroom. Several hours later, after a few unanswered phone calls to the house, my parents came home frantic. They saw grandpa sleeping on the couch, my little sister on the floor, but no site of the their two other young daughters. Finally, my father looked in the bathroom. And there we were, sprawled out on the bathroom floor with an overturned wine jug next to us. Our speech was slurry, our eyes glazed and our lips stained with wine. We spent the rest of the night alternating between throwing up and laughing hysterically. My mother says the next day was spent in bed, doses of St. Joseph's baby aspirin doled out periodically. And that is why, to this day, I cannot stand the taste of red wine.
When grandpa died in 1991 we sat around his yard after the funeral. There were gallons of very cheap wine, peaches to put in the glasses, and a round of Perry Como songs. And the story of the day grandpa babysat. A family legacy that lives to this day, in the form of my aversion to red, red wine.
(this story inspired by a conversation with jonno)