Monday, August 26, 2013

And On A Rare Personal Note: Grace Vs Vigor

Dear Reader,

Though the standard fare on these pages is wine reviews occasionally interspersed with other vinous commentary, I hope you'll allow me this indulgence in sharing a personal story.  Wine does play a role in it, albeit a small, allegorical one.

We'll return to the standard fare once respite and recovery have passed.  In the meantime, thanks for continuing to check back.



For the last couple of weeks my siblings and I, along with many selfless extended family and friends, have been caring for my dying father.  While his body is a threadbare shadow of its former self, his life has been extended by a soul unready to quit.  The days are long and the nights longer.  Sleep has been in short supply and stress in abundance.  Still, as happens in the face of adversity, this family has grown, finding new sources of compassion, reserves of patience, and a resolve clearly passed down to us by our father. 

For each of us participating in Dad's care giving, there have been many moments of despair, exhaustion, and helplessness.  But these are mercifully short-lived thanks to two strong forces: a shared and indefatigable sense of humor, and the simple routine of family dinners.  These not only reinforce our belief in ourselves and each other, but keep us anchored at a time when gravity seems intent on unmooring us completely.  The humor - pervasive and unapologetically irreverent - has become part of the fabric of our days, serving as an important release.  The dinners are an equally important highlight of each day.

Dinner is when we give ourselves permission to laugh out loud, to tell stories Dad would otherwise halfheartedly admonish us for, and to recharge our own souls for the long night ahead.  We eat at my parents' table, ten feet from where my father's hospice bed is set up and where his rhythmic breath can be heard in the background.  Whether he can comprehend anything we're saying or not, he can't avoid hearing our toasts and laughter.  It feels good to have him with us for the meal, even if only for a short while longer.

When gripped by uncertainty, we humans clutch at whatever tokens of normalcy are available to us.  Routines and familiar things are comforting and give us a sense of control. No matter how fleeting or narrow, it's important.

As the defacto chef in the house, grocery shopping and food preparation fall to me.  Built in to this responsibility is a daily field trip on which produce, cuts of meat, and fresh herbs offer transportation to a place of blissful, if temporary, diversion.  Luckily, the market close to my parents also has a few aisles of well-chosen wine.  Here I linger in companionable silence among Bordeaux and Amarones, debating the merits of grace versus vigor. 

Tonight or tomorrow or the day after that, the rise and fall of Dad's chest will cease and peace will fall on this restless soul.  But long after then his resolve and humor will live on over countless more dinners and toasts and generations.


  1. Thinking of you and your family, Steve. Thank you for sharing those touching thoughts.

  2. Nicole HamptonAugust 27, 2013

    This is lovely, Steve. My best to you and your family during this trying time.

  3. One of the most complex and profound events in life is the vigil that precedes the death of a family member. Thank you for reminding us of the power of family, humor and meal-sharing in this most difficult and reflective time. Love to all of the McIntosh family.

  4. Hermano,
    Thank you for sharing this with us all.
    You have given me a reason to call home and talk to my aging folks.
    Our best to you and your whole family in these trying times.

  5. Well said, Steve -- a resonant metaphor. We think of you.

  6. Beth and Bill EyreAugust 28, 2013

    The measure of a man is the friends and family who gather at his table. Your dad is a great success. Peace to you all.

  7. Maryellen McGrathAugust 29, 2013

    How beautiful!

    May God grant you many years to live,
    For sure he must be knowing.
    The earth has angels all too few.
    And heaven is overflowing.

    I'm sure he is looking down on all of you with a glass of wine in his hand and a big, huge smile on his face.

    With love, light and laughter to you all!

  8. Steve and Teresa CoreAugust 29, 2013

    A very beautiful and poignant epitaph, thanks for sharing that with us all.
    Our hearts go out to you and your family. Take comfort in the strong family ties your father's legacy has helped to create. He would want you to continue to live with the joy of family, friends, travel, and of course, wine.

  9. Peeps - Thank you all for your kind, supportive thoughts. I am humbled by your generous outpouring of honor for Dad. He passed away a couple of days ago. At the risk of employing a cliche, we are grateful that he is at peace.

    A memorial will take place on Wednesday, September 4th at St. Joan of Arc Church in Chagrin Falls, OH. Visitation will start at 9:30 am followed by a mass at 11:00.

    Whether you are able to attend or not, perhaps you will honor Dad again by uncorking something red, strong, and cheap this week. He wouldn't have it any other way.


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