In what seemed a lifetime ago, I remember watching her as she waved through the window. It was one of many departures that would torment our life together. Business called; Puerto Rico and a meeting, or Cincinnati and a convention. The seconds away from each other were millions of sharp pins jabbing at the bubble of our affection.
As the years progressed, we spent more time with each other, but other things would conspire to separate us. A stumble in the clear daylight, a numbing of the legs, a blurring of the vision. Something was always trying to pry us apart.
In better days, there would be dinners outside under the portico that I had built for her. I remember her crying as I drove a nail through my arm when I was bulilding it, and she took me to the emergency room. Her affliction was usually to blame for a mishap, and now I was stealing thunder from the disease from which there was no cure.
I remember back when the doctor took us in a room and told us that he had good news and bad news. The bad news was that what she had was incurable. The good news was that it wouldn’t kill her. The good doctor was wrong about the good news.
I have been thinking about the wine we loved. One I remember so well was on a summer day in Rome. We were sitting in a little trattoria near the Vatican, drinking wine from a carafe. It was yellow. It was cool. And it was from the hills surrounding Rome. A sweet memory that wine and Italy played a minor part in.
When her eyesight would fail her, she would walk with me, holding me, with complete trust that I was taking her where she would find no harm. On a porch on Victoria Island we would dangle our legs together as we sipped on Chenin Blanc from the Loire. We were taking a break from the onslaught that was heading in our direction, aiming to level us, pulverize us and tear us away from each other, forever. In time it did, but for that evening one summer many moons ago, we sipped without care, gently lapping the sweetness up.
She loved to cook. Squash casserole, pork loin, red eye gravy, she didn’t consider herself a cook. But the simple things she did, I loved. And the wines we loved with them were from a time that was so much simpler than now. A lovely Verdicchio from Matelica. Or a Pinot Grigio from Friuli, before such a wine would be spoiled by its own success. And the aperitif from France, Lillet, that she loved so much.
When I met her, she was a martini gal. She loved her gin. The Italians loved her for it. At a hotel we were staying at in Rome, where the Italian President had a penthouse, the bar had every kind of spirit. They would make her a dry martini, with the proper proportion of vermouth. It made her very happy.
When she reached the autumn of her very young life, wine ceased to have the appeal for her that it did in our earlier years. She would have a glass with me, but I could tell that wine wasn’t going to cure what was taking her apart, day by day. So, what we loved we left in the wine closet as she and we made one last stab at fighting the Goliath that was blocking our light.
Our last wine together, a few weeks before she died, during Christmas, was a Dolcetto. I don’t remember how we came to decide upon that as our last wine to love together, but from a not so sweet several years of doing battle, this one last glass of red, raised to our lips, was so very sweet and moving.
To this day I remember all of the wines we loved in our life of love with great affection and melancholy.