When I went home to see my parents after ten years away, I was amazed that my father wasn’t drinking. He was never a drunk, not an alcoholic, just a normal every day, drink or two before dinner, and a few or sometimes more than a few beers on a Sunday afternoon. Consistent, year in year out, winter, spring, summer, fall. My father drank, never in a damaging, scary way, but in a significant, predictable way.
But late afternoon came and went that first day and he made no sign of getting the glass teacup out of the cupboard next to the sink and making his customary martini, 9 parts gin with the fly over of vermouth and two or three tiny cocktail onions he fished out of the jar.
There was no beer in the refrigerator.
There were other things in the refrigerator. It’s not as if he had neglected to shop. He had shopped alright, bought all the things he was comfortable fixing for guests since my mother’s Alzheimer’s disease had taken her off the cooking rotation. So there were eggs and sausage, a canned ham, and his signature dish, already made, a cheesecake out of a box, its luminous cherry topping lighting up the whole bottom shelf. He had outdone himself.
So after pretending for twenty or thirty minutes that I hadn’t noticed the complete lack of alcohol in his house, I jokingly asked him, “So, Dad, you’re not drinking anymore?”
“No, but if you want something to drink, there’s those little bottles of wine that come in those Christmas packages your sister sends me. They’re in the basement on the shelf with all the canned goods.”
Ah, little bottles of Christmas wine, like plum and currant, syrupy, the bottles with wee wreaths with Santa charms around the necks, would I stoop to unscrewing their little tops and imbibing?
I puzzled about this. Had his doctor told him to stop drinking? Did he think he had a drinking problem? I puzzled, but I didn’t ask. One didn’t question my father about his choices. It never occurred to me.
Now, a visitor to my house will find a half-full bottle of Two Buck Chuck on the kitchen counter. The rum, the gin, the vodka, the insane blood orange liqueur I loved so much, the tequila, the brandy, bourbon, whiskey, and all the lesser-known half-filled mixes and concoctions, the Kahlua, the liquid balm for my terrible sad times when I was a single mom, the new chocolate chili liqueur that guests just recently brought us, all of it is packed away, gone, the shelves of the liquor cabinet vacant and dusty because I fear that, like my father before me, we have inexplicably moved on beyond alcohol.
This started because my husband unexpectedly decided to stop drinking – except for football games and the other rare ‘once in a whiles’ – around the first of the year. I was taken aback and annoyed, knowing right away that pouring my fat two fingers of rum into a short glass and doing my own flyover of Diet Coke was going to look insensitive and gloating to my life partner sipping a diet ginger ale across the kitchen. Pouring a glass or two of Two Buck Chuck doesn’t have quite the same in your eye quality so I pretty much do that every night and then I switch to coffee or tea. It’s a big change and, as one result of it, I’ve lost 17 pounds. No kidding. It’s all from alcohol reduction and the elimination of fruitcake eating (not actual fruitcake but nutty) that goes on when one is half in the bag and doesn’t give a shit about the cumulative Oreo impact on one’s frame.
I don’t miss it. The excess. The beer buzz, the deep wine mellowness, the Sunday morning Bloody Mary that would knock me in the head before the day even started. Somehow, for some reason I can’t explain but probably lines up with my father’s reasoning, I’ve fallen out of love with alcohol.
Oh, we meet and talk sometimes. But it’s just not the same.
You know how that is.
#67/100: 67th in a series of 100 in 100 (I have some catching up to do!)