Kermit the Frog on Sesame Street, once said, “It’s not easy being green”. I think my parents would add, “It’s not easy being old, either”.
Technically, they’re not that old…Mom is 77 and Dad will be 83 this month, but recent years have been a little rough. Mom found out she has Crohns, not an easy disease for anyone, but Mom handles it the way Mom handles everything else…she gives herself shots and pays attention to what she eats and, though she’s sometimes in constant pain, she deals with it and continues to go to her prayer meetings and do her shopping. That’s Mom.
Dad’s story is much more tragic…
He had a couple of surgeries, one of them a single bypass for his heart. Afterwards the Cardiologist came out and told Mom and I that Dad had one of the ‘strongest hearts and the best veins he had ever seen in a man his age’. All he had to do was “re-route” what was already there. I told the surgeon, “He’ll tell you it’s because he drinks his wine every night.” The surgeon informed us that Dad was right. Good to know, but we didn’t tell Dad. We’d never hear the end of it…
He finally retired, not an easy feat for a man who has worked since he was 11 and loved every minute of it, but he was 80 and tired and felt it was time.
He decided to give up driving. Again, not an easy decision, but he made it on his own and you have to admire the strength it takes for any man to say, “I’m done.”
He now wears shoes with Velcro, or as he so eloquently puts it, “old man straps”. These are not so much a difficulty unless you’re trying to find a new pair. I think it would be fun to find him light up sneakers. These could be perfect for seniors! Sneakers to light their path…but, Dad would never go for it and so the search for the perfect “old man straps” continues.
As difficult as the above scenarios may be, none of them is the tragedy that I am referring to. Dad’s tragedy is much worse…
It appears that my old Italian father has outlived his wine.
When Dad was a little boy of 10 he began drinking wine with his father. Well, at first he was stealing wine from his father, pouring himself a little bit and replacing it with water in the wine bottle. Of course, my grandfather knew, so he began pouring my Dad a small glass and they would sit together at night after dinner and have their wine. They drank something akin to India Ink called Barberone. Dad’s been drinking it ever since.
In New Jersey Dad’s wine was fairly easy to find, lots of Italians in New Jersey. Down here in Florida, not so much. Before my parents moved here in 2001, Dad set me on my very own special ops mission to find his Barberone. None of the small liquor stores had it and most had never heard of it. My mission did not go well. When they moved down here, Dad discovered ABC Liquors and that they could order his favorite gallon bottle of Opici Barberone. A few years ago, our town got its very own ABC Liquors store and Dad was thrilled. They didn’t normally carry Opici Barberone, but they, too, ordered it for him and always had it in stock.
After Dad’s surgeries, my daughter went to ABC to buy Dad his wine. The woman at the counter told her, “Just one little old man comes in and buys this wine all the time”. She told them that was her Grandpa. Evidently, he was the only one who bought that wine from them, because after years of ‘plenty’ they are no longer stocking it. We found this out last Sunday when my brother went into the store to pick it up. He came back out to the car and told Dad the sad news. Not only were they no longer carrying it, but they were no longer stocking it in their warehouse. Dad responded with his favorite bad word and faced the sad realization that he had outlived his wine. My brother, who I thank God for everyday, drove Dad to a store 40 miles away and the only two remaining bottles in existence that are stocked in the state.
Dad made a sad statement, “The older you get, the more they seem to take away from you.” And then, he perked up with, “Well, I like Chianti!”
The end of an era, but at least it seems like it’s really ‘not that big a deal’…
I will toast your dad next time I drink a glass of chianti.
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