A Love Story

Seven months and seven days of  living with a new love, a newly discovered man of depth and richness.  The discovery, layered in moments of that breathless ache, threatened to consume.

When a partner is unwell the shared days and nights become lessons in management, in make-do, in setting priorities, in hiding truth.  Things like house and property upkeep silently slip to the bottom of the list.  Promises to clear out the accumulations of a life time are forgotten.

No more excuses.  The time was mine and I set an auction date, clueless as to what was ahead. Manic with energy  to mask the grief, my mission was clean up, clear out, match the emptiness.

Here, in the clutter of bags and boxes, some dating to 1972, was this man–this man rich in talents and diverse interests.

Dog tags from his time in The United States Army, trophies won for cribbage and dominoes, pilot licenses both private and commercial, helicopter and plane,  log books teaching others to fly, mounds of hand drawn schematics, books to identify birds, wild animals, plants, hunting, fishing, tying flies, building fly rods, wood carving, tools designed and created to match a need, mementos of his friendship with Jack and Russ.  The collection of Heritage House books brought a memory of how he held a book,  any book,  with a kind of reverence.

In a chapter of our personal once upon a time, we made beer and wine.  His records were meticulous right down to the important detail of how long the brew lasted–the truest measure of quality.  Next to that box, I found his collection of daily missals and his letter sweater dating back to Bishop Ward High School days.  Family pictures were in every drawer tucked where he kept reminders.

And then there were the things he collected simply because they were beautiful.  Glassware, pottery, tools, pictures, antiques— all holding the magic of  what came before.

The list of discoveries is a rediscovery of a man I had lost in the passage through  health issues.  Deterioration pushed from all sides.   How very sorry and ashamed I am for letting that man slip away from me, for not always remembering and honoring all that he was.

Robert N. Antonopoulos, 1935 – 2010    I love you.

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Napa We Are Not!

Some years ago, we traveled to California and toured the wine country.  Odd destination for us as Bob’s beverage of choice was ice-cold beer. I drank a glass of wine every other leap year preferring to hold out for  that single shot of Wild Turkey or that thick  Greek liquor squirted from an animal skin and offered to guests at certain ethnic weddings.  Our opportunities to attend  those rare, but always exciting, marriages were dwindling as children of friends finished their round of passage.  Of course, sipping wasn’t allowed,  but a little sleight of hand gave an ounce to last the evening.  That was just right…not too much, not too little.

Still, the wine tours were fun and Greeks were famous for stomping grapes into battered pulp.  The guides did complicate the process,  making fermentation sound like rocket science.  We wondered how a bunch of grapes could create subtle hints of clove,vanilla, an infusion of flowers and memories of oak.  A grape remembers?

While in the tasting rooms, we felt a creeping inferiority as connoisseurs adjusted their faces to match the taste.  We were clueless, but those little palette cleansing oyster crackers were good. Besides, we discovered that a creation called honey wine was a delicious as  dessert and went well with any styrofoam carry-out we enjoyed at the motel.

Along the way, we bought a few books about wine-making as souvenirs, not resources.  Little did we realize that  the seed had sprouted.   We knew the jargon.  We learned by watching and we had ceramic crocks seasoned by years of autumn pickle making.  If a porous oak keg was good, a tight ceramic crock had to better.

A cherry tree and a plum tree provided the ‘stomp’ for our first two batches of home-brew.  Pits came close to our undoing, so we purchased a gallon of white grape starter for the third of our Antonopoulos Backyard Fromage.    Corks, bottles, yeast, sugar,  hydro-thingies, thermometers and some other stuff I cannot remember made a $20.00 bottle of RedX wine look pretty good.  This was starting to be funny, but not so much fun.

Moving right along, the juice morphed.  We permanently stained the kitchen floor as we sip-siphoned from crock to green bottle effectively hiding the white to pink to rose-colored wine.  The smell was pretty overwhelming and I vowed never to taste the stuff again.

We were clever enough to set the varieties apart, giving me time to hand print perfect little labels, vintage, date and birth fruit.  Adding to the homey feel of our product, we punched holes in the labels and tied them to the necks with rough twine–way cuter than either of us.

Living in Tornado Alley proved to be  a decided advantage.  We have an earth cellar on this old place and have actually used it a time or two when the dark clouds and tree shaking winds proved threatening.  But now it had a more important job–our wine cellar.

Painstakingly built wine racks were in place and we proudly stocked them with over 60 bottles of something that neither of us had ever actually enjoyed that much.  I kept thinking of truck stop diesel.

Time passed.  A holiday table seemed the perfect setting for serving our white wine with turkey.  Besides, most guests would refrain from negative reactions in honor of eating our food.  Bob and I pulled back the cellar door , switched on the dim bulb and prepared to choose our presentation white.

How can I describe my ‘gasp’ to you, Gentle Reader?  A gasp of disbelief is definitely not adequate.  I was staring at naked wine bottles—– and a lovely Martha Stewart mouse nest created with the comfort of my hand printed labels!

The crowd was large that holiday so several bottles of surprise wine complimented the meal, and no one complained if they got rose( not white) from the green bottle at their table.  And you know what?  Most of those bottle are still down there waiting for the Champagne Fairy to give them a sprinkle of sugar and  another chance to sparkle.  I suppose if we got thirsty while surviving a tornado…..